Professor Kari Smith is a recipient of the 2020 Outstanding Master’s Mentor Award. This award is presented to members of the graduate faculty with an exceptional record of fostering the academic and professional development of graduate students, particularly for graduate students in the master’s degree program.
Professor Smith joined the School of Architecture and Design in 2007 and has served as the interim director of the School since 2019. She previously served as the graduate coordinator for the master of architecture program.
As graduate coordinator, she “created an inclusive and open community of graduate student scholars. Her steady, consistent, and fair leadership created a supportive environment for our emerging professional architects,” says Michael McClure, associate dean of the College of the Arts.
Her commitment to bringing in diverse voices sets her apart as a mentor.
“From community boards to professional organizations to faculty expertise across the University, Kari is committed to opening the dialogue. This gives her students a phenomenal educational experience by allowing them to see the widest possible impact and effect of how design can impact society,” McClure says.
Professor Smith’s students have participated in the UL Lafayette Graduate Research Showcase, the Campus RainWorks Challenge sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and have presented their graduate work at national conferences.
Professor Smith has been a champion of diversity efforts, and emphasizes the need to support students’ health and wellbeing while in graduate school.
“She consistently maintains accessibility to students through open lines of communication as best seen in her proactive student engagement series as recently hosted in the School on Friday mornings before studio coursework. These series have addressed imperative topics such as inequality and mental health,” says Ashlie Latiolais, assistant professor and graduate coordinator.
As interim director, she has also supported the academic and personal success of underrepresented students through faculty “Project Allies” LGBTQ+ awareness training.
Professor Smith stresses the potential for mentors to positively impact their graduate students through their consistent presence and encouragement.
“Graduate students who excel in their graduate studies need to be acknowledged for their accomplishments and need someone who will promote them for awards and recognitions. The work of a graduate student is often remarkable, so it is important to support it to be influential,” Professor Smith says.
“I believe graduate education can be enhanced by accepting a greater sense of responsibility to the mentorship of graduate students, and examining how we prepare graduate students to become influential in the world as advocates of mental wellbeing and distinction in their craft.”