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Alumni Spotlight: Ciara Smith

Posted on October 08, 2019

For Ciara Smith, attending Tyler has been a family affair. Smith is the youngest of four siblings, and all four chose Tyler after being homeschooled.

Smith had very specific goals for her education, and she knew Tyler could deliver. “Tyler allowed me to get used to the structure of learning under a professor, rather than being self-taught and to conform to deadlines, both of which would make the transition to a four-year school easier,” she said. 

Smith has always been passionate about science and envisioned herself in a STEM career, but Tyler gave her the chance to explore a wide variety of subjects and discover new interests like math and engineering without breaking the bank. It also allowed her to come into her own socially. “I was very young and quite shy when I started at Tyler; through my classes I’ve been able to interact with different types of people from a variety of backgrounds and understand their perspectives,” she said.

But the most formative part of her Tyler experience was her time as a tutor in the Academic Resource Center (ARC). “I grew up in a very scientifically minded family, so the scientific concepts I was learning in class came easily to me,” she said. “But I realized that if I can understand a topic well enough to explain it to someone else as a tutor, I know I understand it pretty thoroughly.” She also gained experience in adapting to different styles of learning. “When you are tutoring, you are translating an idea to many different types of brains; no one style of learning is better than the other. That was a valuable lesson for me,” she said. “It helped me build empathy and understanding, which will help me in my career; I know I have to be patient when communicating with others.”

The ARC also helped Smith find a community of like-minded peers. “I found people who are striving for success and are here to learn because they love learning,” she said. “The coordinators have created a supportive and constructive environment for both students and tutors, and I’m grateful to have been a part of it.”

Outside of Tyler, Smith spent her time working toward earning the Congressional Award Gold Medal for Service, which she received earlier this summer. The award recognizes outstanding young people who volunteer in their community and better themselves through personal development, physical fitness and cultural exploration activities. “Going to Washington, D.C. to receive the award and meet my congresswoman was awesome,” Smith said. “I met kids from all over the country who are incredibly motivated and doing amazing things; it was so interesting to hear their stories.”

Smith completed her associate degree in General Studies - Science Specialization in May and began at the University of Virginia this fall, studying chemical engineering, an interest she developed as a Tyler student. “Through my classes I discovered an aptitude in math, and I really want to work hands-on and out in the field solving problems; chemical engineering will allow me to do that,” she said. She hopes to work in the field of medical research and development or to work on environmental sustainability issues. “I’m a Type 1 diabetic, so I use a lot of technologies that were developed by chemical and biomedical engineers,” she said. “I think it would be awesome to contribute to that field and pay it forward.”

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