2017 CAS Woman of the Year: Lindsey Smith '18

Lindsey Smith, Her Campus American’s CAS Woman of the Year, is an undeniable inspiration. Lindsey is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, double majoring in Sociology and Religious Studies. Her perseverance through difficult times in life, academic ambition, and knowledge and passion for religious studies and sociology is a testament to her strong will and intellect. Apart from academics, Lindsey is also an active member in the AU community. She is the Photo Director and Social Media Coordinator for Spoon AU (a confirmed Foodie), part of AU’s Rude Mechanicals, and a member of Phi Mu Fraternity. Lindsey is passionate about helping people, whether that is through her work with grassroots organizations or buying the next person in line a cup of coffee because they might be having a bad day.

Sitting down with Lindsey on the comfy cushions at the Dav, her smile warm and heartfelt, it wasn’t hard to tell why this woman was picked out as one of American University’s greatest.

Her Campus American University: To start, tell us a little bit about your background. Where are you from?

Lindsey Smith: I’m from Westchester, New York. It’s the New York City suburbs but is still a very insular community, and I had a small graduating class of about 100 students.

HC AU: What was it like growing up in such a small town?

LS: Honestly, I didn’t enjoy it. I was badly bullied and it did have an impact on my life. Looking back on it now, though, I feel better about myself. You just have to keep your head up; the words people say, they hurt. They suck. But just knowing you are more than them helps you overcome it.  

HC AU: How did you get into religious studies?

LS: I originally came into college wanting to do communications - specifically, I was interested in fandom studies. I was very involved in the fandom communities like Supernatural, Dr. Who, and Sherlock back in high school and early in college. While it’s still something that I’m interested in, I ended up wanting to slightly change my course of study. My first semester I took a religion class and ended up falling in love. I officially declared my major, and haven’t looked back since.

HC AU: How does religious studies translate into the work you’ve done for grassroots organizations?

LS: Recently, I worked with the Public Religion Research Institute and the Rumi Forum where we hosted Ramadan Iftar dinners. Iftar is basically, during the month of Ramadan, the breaking the fast dinner that happened every night. We hosted dinners where dignitaries and local D.C. officials would come and talk about relevant issues facing the Muslim community.

This past semester I worked at the Public Religion Research Institute where I conducted qualitative and quantitative work, pulling of religious and political matters primarily in the United States.

HC AU: How much has your academic work impacted your outside work?

LS: More so theoretically than practically. Because I work to understand religious communities and the dynamics that exist there, I can better understand the people I am looking at. However, I’ve had occasional difficulty bridging this knowledge into my internships – which is why I want to do Ph.D work.

HC AU: What do you think that working in research after graduation would look like?

LS: What I’m looking to do in the future is take a more grassroots approach to religioius studies and study the people whose lives are actually being affected by public policy. The problem with academia is you can do a lot of research but it frequently doesn’t translate into tangible action. I want to do my part to change that. I want to craft policy and craft it in words that are actually catered toward the group the policy is targeting. Religious groups tend to be painted as monolith which is far from the case and shouldn’t be treated as such.

HC AU: What is something you are passionate about?

LS: Well first, the way that the religious studies department here works is you don’t have a specific area. However, most of us develop our own passions and areas of interest. Mine is Christian eschatology; eschatology, generally speaking, is the study of the end times. I want to look at how religious groups conceive of the end of the world. Specifically, I study American evangelical conceptions of the end times and how that impacts their thinking in other areas. For example, I look at how their views of the apocalypse affect their views on everything from the environment to immigrants.

HC AU: Do you see this translating into policy?

LS: Yes. I think people would be surprised to know how eschatologically motivated U.S. policy is. For example, the Pew Center did a study back in 2010 where they found that, 41% of Americans believe Jesus is coming back by 2050! So, if you’re looking at US policy makers, odds are that at least some of them believe this to be the case. While it’s impossible to use eschatology as a catch-all for reasons that policy makers make the choices that they do, I think that it’s a great starting point.

HC AU: Who are some of the women you have drawn inspiration from in the past?

LS: To be totally cliché, my mom. She’s just a fantastic person who has gone through so much and come out the other end stronger for it. She’s just an awesome lady. Her will to live despite dealing with a litany of health issues, for me, has been extremely inspirational.

HC AU: How do you motivate yourself?

LS: Something I have been trying to work on recently is just to be nice to myself. Sometimes getting out of your bed and doing your laundry is a good thing. Small steps help sometimes, don’t try to force yourself into anything.

HC AU: How have you overcome obstacles in your past?

LS: I truly believe there will always be obstacles in life and it’s not about overcoming them, it’s about working with them. I’ve learned to get around obstacles by accepting what I can and cannot do and always having a support system around me. It’s also about keeping yourself happy; like playing Dungeons and Dragons twice a week with some really good friends. It’s the little things in life.

HC AU: What would you like people reading this article to take away from your experience?

LS: Be kind to others. You never know what people are going through that day and sometimes doing something as small as buying coffee for the person next to you or telling someone they have pretty eyes can make their day.

HC AU: Anything to add?

LS: Be kind to yourself and others but don’t be afraid to own up to your mistakes. If you mess up, take ownership. You’ll be a better person for it.


All photos taken by Anthony Brunner.