AJ Smith is a freshman studying Economics with minors in Criminology, Psychology, and a Certificate in International Business. Smith also serves as a UISG senator, as well as four other student organizations on campus. The Iowa Challenge asks students to engage: get involved and be a leader.
How do you Engage at Iowa?
One way that I Engage at Iowa is by serving as a Senator on the University of Iowa Student Government (UISG)! As a Senator, I've had the pleasure and the distinct privilege of working with incredibly talented and dedicated people from a diverse set of backgrounds and identities to serve, represent, and empower our fellow students. I was selected to be an At-Large Senator as part of an interview process in January 2018, and since then I have assisted our Justice and Equity Committee in creating a video addressing Racist and Discriminatory Propaganda on campus, I've helped spread awareness about Bicycle Safety and Theft Prevention, I've completed a trash audit (read: dug through trash) to promote more sustainable waste disposal practices across campus, and I've participated in several other events hosted by Student Government for Undergraduate Students.
Aside from Student Government I also serve as the Fundraising Director for the University of Iowa Chapter of Habitat for Humanity, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator for the University of Iowa Environmental Coalition, I'm a pledge in the Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity and a Mentee in the BizEdge Mentorship Program (shout-out to my mentor Brenden!), and I'm looking forward to competing in my first competition for the Hawkeye Ballroom Dance Club in the coming weeks!
How has this improved your experience at Iowa?
My involvements have made a monumental difference in improving my experience here at Iowa. I've been able to participate in national marches, I've listened to world renowned speakers and lecturers, and I have met so many friends and mentors through my student orgs that it's impossible not to feel gratitude to and a new appreciation for the University for having facilitated these friendships and these experiences.
What advice would you give to new students on how to engage at Iowa?
Being very involved on campus really made the transition into college so much easier than I could have ever expected. I would encourage new students to Engage at Iowa by joining new organizations and just saying "Yes!" to as many new opportunities as possible, because it is through these new opportunities that I've discovered new ways to learn from my peers and grow as a student, a leader, and an individual.
What impact do you hope UISG has on students or the campus?
I hope to leave the University of Iowa and Iowa City better than I found it. Whether it be through volunteering at the Food Pantry with Alpha Phi Omega, building affordable housing around Iowa City and the surrounding communities with Habitat for Humanity, or in drafting legislation and lobbying the state through Student Government, my hope is that life in Iowa City - for the students here with me now and for the students well into the future – is better for my having passed through here.
Where do you want to end up after college or what is your dream job?
At this point I'm working toward graduating from the University of Iowa and getting a law degree from Harvard University to practice law regarding sex trafficking, genocide, and other crimes against humanity. I hope that my college experience here at the University of Iowa crystallizes this vision or otherwise sets me on a path where I will feel fulfilled in my line of work, but either way I am excited for the future!
About the series
The Iowa Challenge encourages students to get the most out of their college experience. We encourage all students to Excel, Stretch, Choose, Engage, and Serve during their time here at Iowa. Learn more about the Iowa Challenge here.
The Division of Student Life is creating profiles of students who have shown their work in relation to the Iowa Challenge in some way. If you know a student we should feature, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.