April 23, 2020

SLS Awards 2020 - Outstanding Undergraduate Student

Hope Smothers is the recipient of this year’s Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award, given to an continuing student (non-senior) who has excelled at leadership and service this year.
  • Hope Smothers is on the right facing another person on the left, whose back is to the camera. The person on the left is wearing a camouflage hoodie and a white safety hat. Hope is wearing a black t-shirt with white graphics.

Hope Smothers BA ’22 is the recipient of this year’s Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award, given to an continuing student (non-senior) who has excelled at leadership and service this year. A Student Leadership and Service (SLS) student staff member caught up with Hope recently to discuss her accomplishments.

SLS: What is your year and major?

Hope: I’m a rising junior with a double major in International Affairs and Religious Studies.

SLS: What does service and leadership mean to you?

Hope: “The servant-leader is servant first. Becoming a servant-leader begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first. The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and the most difficult to administer, is this: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?” —Robert Greenleaf

SLS: Could you talk about what you have done this year regarding service and leadership?

Hope: Within the Disabled Student Union, I advocated for and organized people for a campaign to get a pass/fail grading option for L&C students impacted by COVID-19. I also co-chaired ASLC’s COVID-19 task force, helping administer the emergency fund and resource pantry. On the Speech and Debate team, I competed in and won national tournaments. In the SLS office, I served as a project leader, organized and running regular service-learning trips to support afterschool programs run by Hacienda CDC, Latinx housing and social service organization.

SLS: How and why did you become involved in the work you do?

Hope: We’re creatures of contact regardless of whether we embrace or we wound. David Rakoff once stated, “Altruism is innate, but it’s not instinctual. Everybody’s wired for it, but a switch has to be flipped.” I’ve seen that switch flipped more times through service-learning than anything else I’ve been a part of. Service-Learning is relevant, rigorous, and engaging. At its core is student voice. A well-designed service experience enables students to become active participants in their learning process and gives them choices about how they reach their service objectives. This learning format is especially empowering for students from historically marginalized socioeconomic groups as the service-learning approach empowers students’ personal experiences to help address the very issues that might impede or foster their personal success. Though my work may be menial in the grand scale of things, I can perform it with dignity and offer it with unselfishness, and hopefully will flip some switches in the process.

SLS: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Hope: Everyone can serve. Everyone can make that choice.