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Interview with Carol Smith: A Workforce Program Success Story

Carol Smith

Soon after Carol Adrianne Smith arrived in Portland, she took action to get involved in the community. After moving to the area with plans to apply to Oregon Health and Science University’s (OHSU) graduate program, the Long Island, NY native reached out to the local NAACP chapter to find opportunities to engage with Portland’s African American community. One such avenue for engagement was at the Urban League of Portland, where Smith has been both a volunteer and a program participant. Carol worked with Director of the Workforce Development, Debra Lindsay, as a participant of the Workforce Program’s career services. She worked with staff to polish her resume, and used Urban League’s resources to conduct job searches. The Urban League’s Workforce Program was able to connect Smith with exclusive employment listings, and give her guidance on tailoring her resume and cover letter to each industry of interest.

In June of 2013, Smith, who attended undergraduate programs at Bennett College in Greensboro, NC, and the University of California at Berkeley, was the first ever African American woman to graduate from OHSU’s Master of Science in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology program.

An Urban League of Portland Workforce Specialist guided her in obtaining her current position in the Portland Community College Faculty Internship Diversity Department, for which she was 1 of 8 chosen out of 130 applicants. She will spend her first 6 months in the program shadowing a mentor, and will go on to teach her own class in the spring as a Professor. Ms. Smith is slated to become the first African American female to teach Physical Sciences at Portland Community College. Carol Smith said of her internship:

“From the stand point of a teacher and African American woman, and in accepting this internship; it is very important because it enables me to help all persons, regardless of age, color and gender, in the community college environment. Significantly as an African American teacher, it helps me to touch base with all students. It gives me the opportunity to empower and show others that they can stand in front of a class and teach; that anything can be involved in the sciences and that there is support around them if they reach out. It is very important to me to reach out and empower the community.” – Carol Smith

Smith is determined to contribute positively to the community. She focused her graduate research on glaucoma, which disproportionately affects African Americans, and is the second-leading cause of blindness for people of color nationwide. Under her mentor, Mary Kelley, Ph.D., she conducted meaningful research that will have a lasting impact on the field, effectively combining her passion for science with her dedication to service.

Just a few weeks after receiving her Master of Science in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Smith took the time to volunteer with the Urban League’s Summer Youth Employment Program, and speak with the young participants as a mentor, to highlight the need for more diversity in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. Carol Adrianne Smith’s story is inspirational and aspirational, and the recent grad was happy to take the time to share her experiences as an adult returning student and as a female student of color in a field with very few African Americans or women.