Southeast Missouri State University senior Audrey Smith told the Southeast Board of Regents today that the personal support and environment at Southeast have propelled her towards what she hopes will soon be a successful business career.
Smith, a senior accounting major from Poplar Bluff, Missouri, came to Southeast after earning an Associate of Arts in business administration from Three River College in 2016. She said she wanted to continue her education and prioritize the value a four-year degree brings to her chosen career path.
She said she selected Southeast on the advice of a close friend and alumna who told her about the University’s comprehensive and dynamic academics that prepare students for success in the workplace.
“She told me she graduated from Southeast and was able to get internships and jobs because of that degree,” Smith said. “I thought that if Southeast jump-started her career as a successful certified public accountant, that sounds like the place for me too.”
She took the leap and enrolled at Southeast in fall 2016. But just as her journey was beginning that semester, Smith’s three-year-old daughter was diagnosed with cancer. With weekly trips to the hospital in St. Louis, the emotional strain from her family’s situation, and balancing part-time employment at Southern Bank in Poplar Bluff, Smith said the pressure to complete tasks and assignments while still commuting between Poplar Bluff and the Cape Girardeau campus began to take its emotional, physical and mental toll.
“I came very close to giving up on my education due to everything my family was going through,” she said. “I was missing classes because of appointments and had to be home with my daughter when she needed me. I was missing assignments due to being overwhelmed by it all, and my grades were hurting because of it.”
During this time, Smith was enrolled in a class taught by Dr. Alisha Youngblood Ortiz, interim chair of Southeast’s Department of Accounting and associate professor of accounting. When Smith reached out to Ortiz about her struggles, Ortiz became an instrumental part in helping her find personal and academic support.
“She became a monumental support and encouragement to me from that moment to this day,” she said. “Dr. Ortiz not only wanted to help me through the obstacles I experienced academically, but also reached out to me personally, and wanted to help me in any ways possible.”
Over the next two years, Smith could rely on the support and encouragement of her Southeast professors and Ortiz.
“She could see that my ambition to stay at school was getting weaker, so she was a constant solid support system for me,” Smith said. “I honestly owe my anticipated graduation this year to her.”
Her experiences at Southeast have had a lasting impact on what it means and what it takes to find success, she added.
“Through experiencing the situation my family went through, coupled with amazing professors at Southeast, I learned the much deeper meaning of having the will to do.”
That commitment and heart have contributed to her well-being in and out of the classroom.
“I do believe it spreads throughout every part of your life, inspiring you to take opportunities wherever they may be, and to inspire others to do the same,” she said. “I’ve learned so much about having the strength to continue working towards your goals and dreams through whatever hardships you can experience. I’ve learned not to undervalue myself as an individual so I don’t sell myself short of opportunities. Instead of being afraid of certain opportunities, I am learning to be excited, and work as hard as I can to be able to gain those experiences. The influence of my professors and time at Southeast has helped make this possible.”
Smith is the recipient of the Blanche Diepenbrock Fund Scholarship, the John Glenn Business Administration Scholarship, Marcia Louann Cutsinger Memorial Scholarship, the William and Evelyn Volenetz Scholarship, and the Sherri L. Jenkins Business Scholarship.
Smith plans to graduate from Southeast in December with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a major in accounting and a minor in music. She hopes to continue her education and earn a Master of Business Administration with an option in accounting.