Presidential Award of Excellence
Vickie L. Smith
Women's Studies Program
“She has a way of making each person she works with feel valued and respected.”
Vickie Smith (foreground) is at her best when surrounded by family. Here, she enjoys a visit from her son Alexander (left), her daughter Rachael (right), and recent Women's Studies graduate Angela Borges, who holds Jonah Tafuto, son of SHARPP director Mary Mayhew, on her lap.
Vickie Smith has been connected to the University of New Hampshire for 30 years - working, teaching, taking classes, and mentoring - and it shows. Her teenaged daughter marvels every time they're in Durham together at the number of people her mother knows.
But those who know her aren't surprised. Read Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point and it's quickly evident Smith is what the author calls a connector: someone who not only knows a lot of people but also has an extraordinary knack for making friends and acquaintances. Gladwell describes Smith to a tee when he talks about the connector's ability to span many different worlds as being a function "of something intrinsic to their personality, some combination of curiosity, self-confidence, sociability, and energy."
Students and faculty in the Women's Studies Program all agree that she consistently goes above and beyond the call of duty every day, and is never without her trademark welcoming smile. Not only does she do the work required of her, but she voluntarily takes on many other roles that serve students, faculty, other staff members, and the University as a whole. When the newly-formed Queer Studies Program found itself without administrative assistance, Smith offered to help, ensuring the success of the program.
A student who graduated this year said that when she thinks of the UNH community and the goals it strives for - inclusion, diversity, overcoming challenges, determination, hard work, sense of community, support, and empowerment - she thinks of Vickie. "She has a way of making each person she works with feel valued and respected."
Smith grew up in a small town in New York during the Civil Rights movement. She saw economic segregation as well as the impact of the Vietnam War and the draft lottery on her community and in her own family. "After my consciousness was raised, I found it impossible to think about things in the same way as before."
Smith started making her UNH connections in 1976, working in Dimond Library while her husband finished his degree and then in the Registrar's Office before leaving UNH for 15 years at the Feminist Health Center. She returned to UNH as the administrative assistant, better known as the "Office Goddess," of the Women's Studies Program in 1998. But even when she was gone, she really wasn't. Smith spoke in women's studies classes at the University in her role as a director at the center, and her community continued to grow.
"One of the main attributes of a feminist is the need to connect, to create a sisterhood," Smith said. "We make jokes about it taking a village, but it really does. My strength comes from being part of a bigger community. Receiving this award is a great honor," she adds, "but knowing that these people who really know you and your work think you deserve recognition, that is the most amazing part."
- Erika Mantz