LaRae Smith (BA/BEd '21) initially chose the University of Lethbridge for its excellent teaching program. She stayed here for her master's because of the fantastic support and mentorship she received from Dr. Kristine Alexander from the Department of History, who is now her grad studies supervisor.

My plans have changed so much! Never in a million years did I think I would eventually be a graduate student when I started my path toward becoming a teacher. Continuing my studies has meant a massive career pivot, and I am excited to see where I end up.

Meet LaRae | Scattered. Excited. Creative.
Program: Master of Arts | Major: History

What is your research based on? What unique opportunities do you get by taking part in this research?

My thesis topic is the environmental and economic challenges for southern Alberta family farms during the Great Depression. I have been able to host oral history interviews, had many speaking opportunities, designed a simulation board game program on the topic, and am planning on designing another board game as part of my thesis project. My biggest takeaway from being involved in this research is that the connections I made during my time at the University of Lethbridge have completely shaped my experience. It is worth going the extra mile to work hard and make connections, as you never know what opportunities might open up from that.

What is your most memorable ULethbridge experience?

Giving a TEDx talk!

How have your professors impacted your education?

I cannot overstate how much my professors, especially Dr. Kristine Alexander, have impacted my life and education. I would not have even thought of graduate studies in history as an option if Kristine hadn't brought it to my attention. I have made some money and have had children while being a full-time MA history student, and I am excited about my career path. I would not have dreamed that all of that was possible, and I only knew about it because of Kristine. She has changed my life completely.

LaRae Smith's many achievements at the University of Lethbridge are a testament to the power of hard work and a supportive university environment. Just as importantly, her work designing research-based board games is a powerful reminder that studying history can be fun! – Dr. Kristine Alexander, Department of History, nominated LaRae as a Shining Student.

Is there someone else who had an important influence on your ULethbridge experience?

I met my best friend in the entire world while studying at ULethbridge. We became friends through a mutual love of rock climbing, and I can't imagine my life without her. We wouldn't have ever met if it weren't for the rock climbing club and the Everest challenge!

Stacey Gaudette-Sharp in the Career Bridge office went above and beyond when I was in my undergrad and doing applied study experiences between the history department and the Galt Museum & Archives. She was so supportive in setting up my studies, and she even came to a talk I gave at a history symposium after one of the applied studies. My undergrad would have been so different without her support and the applied studies program — I don't think that I would be doing a master’s if I hadn't had the experiences of those two applied studies.

Have you received any scholarships and awards? If so, please tell us a bit about how they helped you throughout your studies.

The scholarships, fellowships, bursaries, and grants I received while at the University of Lethbridge have changed my life! I have been so fortunate in the financial support I have gotten while at the University. I am currently an SSHRC fellowship holder, and in my first year as a master’s student, I received the Alberta Graduate Student Excellence scholarship. Both scholarships have changed my life over the last two years and allow me to focus while at school.

As an undergraduate, I was the recipient of several different scholarships and awards; three that really shaped my studies and had a very memorable impact on my school experience were the Bruce McKillop Agility Leaders of Tomorrow Award, the Cor Van Raay Agility Award in Agriculture and the George Ellis Research Scholarship. These three awards and scholarships represent my hard work and validate my efforts as a student. I remember feeling so amazed to be recognized in a monetary way and the amount of stress they each took off of me as I was able to focus more on my studies. I am so grateful for the people involved in setting up those scholarships at the University; they changed my life!

What is the most important lesson you have learned so far at ULethbridge?

Be kind; you never know how far that can take you.

What are your hopes/plans for the future?

I hope to find work as a researcher! I didn't know that you could make money with a master’s in history, but there are many options, and I’m incredibly excited about my future.

What advice would you like to give those who are about to begin their journey at ULethbridge?

Get involved! There are so many different ways to make connections, and you never know which of those connections could have a lasting impact on you. I would recommend looking into doing an applied study! Everyone wins when students take the initiative to do an applied study, and you never know where those studies might take you.

Quick Answers

Favourite class: History of Stuff with Chris Churchill

Favourite social activity at ULethbridge: Rock climbing!

Favourite place to study: Library by the windows with the sun

About Shining Students

Shining Students engage inside and outside of the classroom. What makes a student shine may differ from person to person, but they all share a passion for learning. They may be top students, involved in an innovative project, participating in ground-breaking research, playing Pronghorn athletics, fighting for social issues or all of the above! When students find something they enjoy and combine it with what they are good at, they shine.

Each year, the Faculty of Arts & Science's faculty and staff nominate students who exemplify the ULethbridge student spirit. Congratulations LaRae!