Leadership spotlight: Curt Smith, Reynolds Community College & BGCMR
In honor of Black History Month, this February we will be featuring conversations with African-American leaders and changemakers in the Richmond community.
Curt Smith is the Director of Student Affairs Operations at Reynolds Community College and sits on the board of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond. Previously, he led the continuing education department of Capitol Technology University and studied at George Washington University in Washington D.C., earning a Doctorate in Higher Education Administration.
What drew you to working in Student Affairs?
I always knew I wanted to be in higher education, but I just didn’t know how. When I came to Reynolds and became involved in student services — getting away from course development and instead working with students directly, being intricately involved in what makes them successful — that’s where I found my passion.
Why did you get involved with Boys & Girls Clubs?
I had started looking into ways I could get involved in organizations outside of my job to give back to my community. I am incredibly blessed, and so thankful for all that I have, that I want to always reach back and lift others as I climb. I also wanted to be sure I found a good fit. Right now, Boys & Girls Clubs is placing significant focus on working with teenagers, a demographic that’s often left out of youth services. It’s been fantastic because they’re working on the group of people that actually end up becoming Reynolds Community College students in many instances.
What have been your proudest professional achievements?
When someone who has been a part of Boys & Girls Clubs then goes on to college, or receives scholarships or becomes an ambassador for the organization because they’re doing wonderful things — to see that person accomplish the dreams they might have is easily among the proudest moments I have in the work that I do.
That goes along with my Reynolds students in their journeys, too. I see all of the obstacles they face, everything from homelessness to not having textbooks or transportation, or even eyeglasses. Helping them navigate all those obstacles with the resources that are out there, seeing them earn their credential and walk across the stage at graduation — those are always the best days of my year.
What has been your biggest challenge?
I lost my parents, Charles R. Smith Sr. and Yvonne Thomas Smith, unexpectedly about 18 months apart. I was about five months away from defending my dissertation when my mom passed away. She was so excited to call me doctor and see me graduate in full regalia, including the soft tam you wear. My father passed not long after.
While it was the most painful time of my life, it helped me be more empathetic in the work that I do. It helps me continue to remember that no matter your station in life, everyone will face some sort of tragedy or adversity. When I work with my students and young people at the Boys & Girls Clubs, I do my best to wear the shoes of those we serve and understand the challenges they face that may impede their progress, growth, or opportunities at success.
In your eyes, what makes a good leader?
Someone who’s a visionary and has inward inspiration, who can look at a situation or an organization and can see beyond what’s currently there and envision what’s actually possible. If you can’t dream it, you can’t achieve it. I also think a good leader has the drive and passion to complete tasks. It seems intuitive, but there are lots of talented people out there that lack drive to be effective, when they have not found their passion.
What else would you like us to know?
Anyone can make a difference. Whether it’s a small act or a large act, whether you have a small platform or a large platform, you can still make a difference in the lives of other people. And you never know who you might be inspiring to follow your lead.