Name: Shelby Smith
Major and current year at UCI: 2nd year social policy and public service major
Award: Alice B. Macy Outstanding Undergraduate Paper Award and 2nd Place Middle East Studies Paper Prize
Hometown: Fremont, CA; attended high school in Mountain View, CA
Role model: My mother is a hard-working woman who has shown me how to find happiness in myself through continuously working toward self-enrichment.


Why did you decide to come to UCI?

The diversity of programs at UC Irvine led me to come to this university in conjunction with the plethora of opportunities off campus in the wonderful SoCal location.

I came as a history major intending to go into teaching, but when I took social policy and public service classes, I gained a passion for the policy aspect of education. I continued to pursue this major instead because of the great opportunities to do community service and outreach as a part of my classes.

What has been your most impactful experience at UCI thus far?

Beginning my internship at the Freedom Writers Foundation on January 7, 2019 was a major milestone in my life. Erin Gruwell had been a role model of mine since I was about 12-years-old and not only meeting her, but also contributing to her meaningful work meant and means the world to me. This internship has opened my eyes to a greater worldview of the global difficulties and benefits of education.

The outreach I have been able to do to my community around UCI has been my greatest accomplishment during college. I have truly enjoyed my community outreach as an intern, tutor, political canvasser, and researcher.

What other activities have you been and are you currently involved?

I am a student diplomat with the Olive Tree Initiative, studying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in preparation for an experiential learning trip to the Middle East this summer. I will come back in the fall to be Internal President of the campus chapter. 

I’m also an intern with UC Irvine’s Upward Bound. At this internship I assist in providing academic advising and tutoring to students in Anaheim. Through this internship I have conducted qualitative research – under the supervision of Jeanett Castellanos - for the paper that was awarded the Alice B Macy award. For this research I have been observing and collecting qualitative data in three Anaheim high schools through UC Irvine’s Upward Bound. This data has contributed to my paper “Low-Socioeconomic, First Generation, Latina/o High School Students’ College Aspirations.”

What challenges have you have faced in getting to where you are today?

As a first-generation college student, it has been difficult to navigate the path to and through college, however, the mentors I have found in my academic settings have allowed me to find a way to my goals.

Where can you most often be found on campus?

SBSG 1511 – the room where the Olive Tree Initiative meetings are held.

What are your plans after graduation?

I plan to graduate in June 2021 and continue on to a graduate program in educational policy. I hope to one day pursue a career in educational policymaking or administration to help equalize the opportunities given to all students.


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