Following the leader

Sharon Smith served two terms as Student Congress president and is now chair of the U.T. System Student Advisory Council. Down the road, she might consider a run for U.S. Senate.

Sharon Smith

As the Sept. 14 National Day of Prayer and Remembrance service concluded at the state Capitol, Sharon Smith noticed Gov. Rick Perry standing alone at one side of the room. So the marketing senior walked over and struck up a conversation with the state's highest official.

"Why not?" she asked. "He was elected to serve the citizens of Texas, and that includes me. He was just standing there, so I decided to talk to him."

During the past four years, Smith has talked to a lot of people, and many times the conversation has centered on UTA.

She came to the University in 1997, fresh out of Arlington High School and ready to take on the college world. Always busy with junior high and high school extracurricular activities, she "just kept going" at UTA.

"I really wanted to get involved, so I joined a few student organizations and then decided to run as a write-in candidate for Student Congress," she said. The first-semester freshman won.

By the start of her sophomore year, Smith had been elected president of Student Congress, and she was re-elected as a junior.

"I had never even really thought of running for student body president on a campus of this size," she said. "But when I finished my first term, I was so deeply involved in so many projects, I didn't want to quit."

Jeff Sorensen, director of the Office of Student Governance, cites Smith's dedication and work ethic as the hallmarks of a leader.

"Sharon's greatest attribute is her willingness to tackle any problem and work hard at it," he said. "A lot of things go into making good student leaders. They must be committed, have a capacity for hard work and the conviction to see projects through. When you combine those, you really have something."

Only the second person to serve two terms as Student Congress president, Smith left office with a long list of accomplishments. Under her leadership, course syllabi were made available to students prior to the beginning of classes, and students were permitted to check a professor's grade distribution patterns before registering. She was also a moving force behind the recent name change of West Second Street to Greek Row.

"She has a record that she and the University can be proud of," Sorensen said.

After two terms as president, for an encore Smith simply stepped into the leadership of a larger organization. As a senior, she was elected chair of the University of Texas System Student Advisory Council.

The council, with representatives from all 15 U.T. System components, meets quarterly and makes recommendations on issues of concern to the chancellor and Board of Regents.

In addition, Smith is working a dual internship with Donna Darovich, director of the UTA Office of Public Affairs, and Kate Kettles, the University's director of governmental relations.

Kettles frequently saw Smith in action last year during the long days of legislative hearings in Austin.

"Any time UTA needed someone to show student support for legislation, Sharon would gladly travel to Austin to represent the student body," she said. "With no apprehension, she would stay there all night to do so."

What's next for Smith? Probably graduate school, then a career in public service.

"I want to know that I'm working toward something that will benefit society," she said, adding that perhaps one day she'll run for the U.S. Senate.

Or maybe an eager college student will approach Smith one day when she's governor of Texas.


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