Michelle Graham-Smith had a simple reason for working with the Graduate Student Congress – someone asked. A gap on the congress needed to be filled and as a grad student herself with a wealth of work experience, she was a good candidate for the spot. Now she’s found a lot about the congress she loves – and it’s led her to a lot of success in her work with it.
Graham-Smith is the winner of the Dr. Morris Grubbs Outstanding Dedication to the Graduate Student Congress Award, which celebrates leadership and dedication to the Graduate Student Congress. The Graduate Student Congress is an organization that unites, represents and advocates for the needs of graduate students at the University of Kentucky (UK).
Last year, Graham-Smith was the chair of the external affairs committee and was involved in the awards and grants committee for the congress. She was responsible for helping handle external events that may impact UK students, including writing statements about these events, and helping get students financial assistance for things like professional development, regalia and other needs. She also worked with their mentorship program. This year, she’s been elected as the organization’s secretary. Now she’s gone from working on the awards committee to receiving awards herself.
Graham-Smith was initially asked to serve on the Graduate Student Congress simply because no one else seemed willing to do it. “I always want to be that person that helps out, I want to be that person that steps in if there is a need,” Graham-Smith said. “I’m all about being able to give back and assist the community.”
And she’s had ample opportunity to do that. As a member of the congress, she’s been able to network with much of the university. This gave her an opportunity to help find resources for her fellow graduate students and a way to advocate for their needs.
It’s especially impressive since Graham-Smith hadn’t previously done anything like this.
“Whenever I first went to school, I wasn’t involved in anything,” she said. “I wasn’t involved in sororities, groups, clubs, any of that kind of stuff. This was my opportunity to be involved in the school and be involved in my educational journey.”
Her work with the Graduate Student Congress has also given her the opportunity to serve in a lot of mentorship roles. “I have had many jobs in the past. We sometimes forget about, when we first go into a position, we think we’re supposed to know everything,” “I have made mistakes in the past, and I want to recognize those mistakes but I also want to help somebody else feel more confident in their knowledge and more confident in who they are as they transition into being a professional…I’ve had people that take the time to talk to me and be honest with me in a kind, caring way that I can still reach out to them today. I want to be that type of person for somebody else.”