Headshot of Abbey Smith

Meet Abbey Smith ’20, History

Being from St. Louis I wanted to experience a rural area for college. I was attached to a different area and environment, considering I came from a big city and everything it had to offer. This included a private school education, having my friends regularly within a five-mile radius, football games from the all-boys high schools, and many memories words can’t begin to explain.

When my sister shadowed William Woods she came home loving the campus. My sister is hard of hearing but on the verge of deaf, and she initially shadowed WWU because she wanted to be more involved with deaf education and American Sign Language. Eventually, she ended up not going to William Woods, but I’m grateful that even though she went elsewhere the university’s impact on her was, thankfully, conveyed to me.  I shadowed at WWU, but actually committed to Maryville University in the fall before I came to WWU. I changed my mind that summer, and I thought that this is where I belonged. I was right.

Aspiring lawyer

A couple of years ago, I shadowed a Federal attorney from Carbondale, Illinois. I loved the work she did.  I met with judges, paralegals, and prosecuting attorneys where I saw their different responsibilities within the legal system, how educated they were and how hard they worked. Some people have this preconceived notion that Federal attorneys don’t work as hard or put the resources into their cases like private attorneys. They are wrong. They just have to move quicker and harder to obtain the result they want.  I went in there and they were crying over their cases because they wanted to push so long. That is how I realized that this was my passion, and am forever grateful for the experience.

Choosing history

Strong women are the makeup and foundation of my family. I wouldn’t be who I am today, or where I am today without my mom and sister pushing me every step of the way. So if my mom and sister are reading this, thank you. Coming from a family with a strong female presence at its core, I never understood sexism. In fact, I thought women were the smartest and most hard-working, but perhaps that is my mother’s influence in raising me to me a successful women in today’s society. I love learning about women who were in oppressed situations in history and created a change, and while it might not have been the most ground-breaking for society- it eventually became the foundation for woman’s rights.

A couple of women who are my biggest role models, besides my mother, are Deborah Sampson, Abigail Adams, Harriet Tubman, Jada Pinkett-Smith… and Olivia Benson. Which brings me to my next social issue – racism. Its fascinating to study the history of women’s and civil rights, because decisions made centuries ago in these areas helped create the world we live in today.

That’s why I want to be a Federal defense attorney after my undergrad. I want to fight for others that cannot fight for themselves. We might not always know why an individual decides to make a decision that would be detrimental, but there was a reason. I want to be a part of researching and figuring out the reason, or motive, and help the individual grow.

Best part about WWU

I would say the close-knit community. All the History majors know each other, and we have a group chat. We are also close with our History professor, Dr. Craig Smith. He was a very big stepping stone and outlet for my internship this spring semester at the Missouri State Penitentiary (MSP). As part of my internship, I review, read and file historical documents regarding the prison. For example, one of the many newspaper articles I spent time reading was about the 1954 prison riot. I have also spent my time talking to ex-wardens, being haunted by the ghosts in MSP, and even talking to ex-con.

The professors at WWU want you to do well. I remember sitting in one’s office at the begging of the year telling him I was going to graduate a whole year early, he looked at me with a “let’s do it” attitude and we began looking through my course load. We were mapping it about when I can take the LSTAT, when it would fit in my schedule, and how I can lessen my course load in order to properly prepare. This one-on-one attention and focus on me is an example of what makes William Woods special.

All about making relationships

My advice is to make relationships. Make relationships with friends, classmates, and professors. No one will know your heart better than your friends. No one will know your assignments, the academic challenges or the work better than your classmates. Finally, no one will push you harder or believe in you more than your professors. I’m frequently in Dr. Smith’s office either freaking out about my life, the LSAT, how stressed I am, or just discussing a paper. Relationships like these are a big part of campus life at William Woods.