UIC junior wins national honor for civic engagement
A University of Illinois at Chicago junior has been selected to receive a 2017 Newman Civic Fellowship by Campus Compact, a national nonprofit coalition of more than 1,000 colleges and universities.
Alexis Smyser, a communication major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is among 273 students honored for their efforts to find solutions for challenges facing communities throughout the country and abroad.
UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis, who nominated Smyser for the award, describes her as a “strong, vocal community activist.”
“She eagerly engages in community meetings with elected officials and contributes to dialogue regarding issues affecting Latinos in Chicago and nationwide,” Amiridis said. “Alexis is an outstanding active citizen who we are proud to have as a member of our community.”
Having grown up in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, Smyser aims to replicate the hands-on model of service and community engagement she saw practiced by her parents and neighbors, whom she observed as they tackled issues ranging from school closures to gun violence.
“My personal, academic and career plans each revolve around the passion I have for improving my city,” said Smyser, a member of the UIC Honors College.
After high school, she completed one year of service through the AmericaCorps Public Allies program. Working on behalf of the Goldin Institute, she produced a video project featuring interviews with grassroots leaders from different countries discussing leadership and creating change.
During her first semester at UIC she completed the video project, which is now part of the institute’s leadership curriculum on grassroots activism for positive community and social change.
On campus she has worked as a docent at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, where she guided tours and helped facilitate civic dialogues. As member of the LAS Dean’s Student Advisory Board, she provides input on the student experience in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Smyser, who is minoring in international studies and urban studies, is a founding member of LPODER, a Latino student urban planning organization.
“One of our main objectives is to work with high school students in the city to raise awareness about urban planning and the impact it can have on cities,” she said. “We want to help bring more diversity to the field.”
As a Newman Civic Fellow, she will have learning and networking opportunities during a one-year experience that emphasizes personal, professional and civic growth, including a national conference hosted by Campus Compact in partnership with the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate. The fellowship also offers access to exclusive scholarship and post-graduate opportunities.
Smyser will represent UIC in a national group of student leaders as part of the Newman Civic Fellows online network and will also participate in regional activities.
The Newman Civic Fellows Awards, which are named in tribute to Campus Compact co-founder Frank Newman, are made possible through support from the KPMG Foundation and the Newman’s Own Foundation.