In total, because of her time abroad, Smith spent just three semesters on campus, but it was enough for Moravian to become home. “It just seemed so much longer than that,” she says. “I made such wonderful connections with professors, friends and people in the community of Bethlehem.”
In the four years since graduation, Smith hasn’t been afraid to change course when she’s found a passion and a purpose – much like her decision to transfer to Moravian in the first place. Fresh out of college, she returned to Europe, teaching English in a rural town in Spain for 10 months. She then returned to the U.S., but skipped the lower 48, working in Alaska as an AmeriCorps volunteer with a refugee resettlement agency. While in Anchorage, she taught ESL classes, as well as job readiness and orientation to life in the U.S., to refugees from Somalia, Burma, Sudan and Bhutan. The experience was very fulfilling.
Splitting her time between a formal classroom and venturing into the community, Smith helped the refugees become self-sufficient by helping them apply for jobs and prepare for interviews,
“Often times, I was the only person they trusted because I was helping them become more independent,” she says. “It was challenging emotionally, too, as they confided in me about what
“The common link between my time in Alaska
– Laura Smith ’09
Her Alaskan experience was a far cry from her academic work, where she studied urban planning. But as Smith points out, “the skills and knowledge base that I acquired at Moravian have been applicable throughout my career.”
“In college, my goal was to be a city planner, and that completely changed after I graduated,” she continues. “My motivation for working in Spain was to return to Europe, and when I came back to the U.S., my desire to help others and teaching experience led me to be an AmeriCorps volunteer in Anchorage. I took advantage of the opportunities that came my way.”
These lessons were instilled by Husic. “What I learned from her, and overall at Moravian, was that there wasn’t a single path to finding a fulfilling job,” Smith explains.
Husic, too, is fond of Smith, calling her “one of those students I really miss.” The professor recalls that in 2009 Smith – already a graduate and working in Spain – joined the College’s delegation in Copenhagen, Denmark, for the United Nations climate meetings. Smith was “a great addition not only for her perspectives on climate change and social justice, but she had studied abroad in Denmark and knew the city well,” Husic says.
Today, Smith lives in Seattle, Wash., and is closing in on her one year anniversary on assignment at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As a project coordinator, she supports an initiative involving Bill Gates and pharmaceutical companies, which uses innovation and partnerships to tackle the health challenges of the world’s poorest.
One of the initiative’s objectives is to find a new drug regimen for tuberculosis (TB). This ties directly into Smith’s experience in Alaska.
“The common link between my time in Alaska and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is that a lot of my students had TB, and I saw how their resettlement process and lives were affected by their health,” she explains. “Often times, refugees with TB were shunned by members of their own community. This opportunity with the foundation seemed perfect for me as I wanted to continue helping
This fall Smith began a graduate program in public administration at the University of Washington, but she doesn’t know where it will lead her. She does know she enjoys the work at the foundation, and looks forward to what lies ahead.
“What I really learned at Moravian is that you have to be passionate about what you are doing,” she concludes.
*This article first appeared in the fall 2013 issue of the Moravian College Magazine.
Inside Moravian is an internal newsletter produced every week during the academic year by Tommy Kopetskie, editor, and the Office of Public Relations. Send your news, comments, story ideas, etc. to firstname.lastname@example.org.