First Gen graduate

Redwine Scholar Bailey Smoot earns Woman of Year, eyes future in research

Bailey Smoot came to Midwestern State University as a recipient of the 2016 President’s Distinguished Scholarship.

As a first-generation college student, she did her best to distinguish herself during her four years at MSU Texas, where she graduated from in May 2020 with an array of honors, including Woman of the Year and Outstanding Chemistry Student, and recognition as a Redwine Scholar.

Smoot is from Wichita Falls, where she graduated from City View High School. It was a transition to a bigger school. Smoot conquered her challenges and finished with the accomplishment of completing her classes at MSU Texas and getting married in the same week.

Next up is attending Southern Methodist University’s Theoretical and Computational Chemistry program in the fall. Her research project began on June 1. She plans to become a research professor, “but plans change easily, and that’s OK. I’m just listening to my heart and seeing where this next step will take me.”

Smoot was the first in the family to graduate from college, but she wasn’t alone in her quest to succeed in higher education, she said. “Since a young age, my parents pushed me to excel academically, and I owe a lot of my personal drive and motivation to them. I grew up being very comfortable in the academic realm, and I was the valedictorian in my high school. For that reason, going to college was never really a question in anyone’s mind, and honestly, I had no idea I was labeled as a first-generation student until my sophomore year of college.”   

She said the smaller class sizes at MSU Texas were a draw to her four years ago. She’s pleased with how that choice worked out.

“My final decision was made based on scholarships, and I was one of the 10 recipients of the 2016 President’s Distinguished Scholarship,” Smoot said. “Thank you, MSU. I will forever be grateful for the time I spent here, and the woman I have become these past four years.”

That change she experienced in four years has helped prepare her for the future. She just wouldn’t have guessed how it would play out.

“My freshman year, I changed my major five times in two weeks," Smoot said. She remembers anxiety and self-doubt creeping in during that span, but “I followed my heart, and it led me to a field I never would have imagined myself in. (Looking back) I would tell myself that your freshman year will be one of the most formative years of your life, so just let it happen naturally and don’t try to have everything figured out already.”

Life improved in her sophomore year when Smoot said she made two best friends who would make the journey through the chemistry program.   

“Some of my favorite memories were made decorating Dr. (Christopher) Hansen’s door when he is gone with photos and silly posters.” 

She also loved the lip synch competition on campus. “I looked forward to that all year,” Smoot said. 

GREAT CHEMISTRY

Smoot was stumped when asked to name a favorite professor. “I can’t pick out one because all of the faculty in the chemistry department truly made such an impact on me. It was Dr. (Randal) Hallford who convinced me to change my major to chemistry, and he was the first faculty to really believe in me and my abilities. He has continued that support as my research advisor. As my academic advisor, Dr. (Christopher) Hansen was always there with an open door to help me navigate the program and just college in general. It would be a shame to not mention Sheila Tucker, the chemistry secretary, who is the literal glue that holds the department together. The chemistry faculty always had an open ear to give advice and share their knowledge and experiences. They shared our successes and helped us in our struggles, and we really felt like a family. There are not enough words to explain how much these past four years as a chemistry student meant to me, but I will always cherish the third floor of Bolin Hall.”

She not only survived, but she thrived. “I am most proud of conquering the Physical Chemistry sequence, and I think the rest of my classmates would agree with me,” she added.   

EXPANDING HER VISION

Smoot said she did not know biophysics as a field until she and Hallford were approached with an idea to study cancer cell growth from a physics perspective. “I have always loved math, but I was never sure how to incorporate it heavily into my career. I was immediately fascinated by the idea of applying mathematical constructs to study biological systems.”

Another eye-opener for Smoot was participating in Study Abroad in Grenada, which she said was the first time she was confident enough to “say yes to new but scary opportunities.” And later came presenting and speaking at conferences, an experience she said made all the difference when it came to her grad school application.

“I will always remember the biophysics conference my research group hosted here at MSU,” Smoot said. “After the conference, all of the invited faculty went out to dinner with our research group. We got to spend hours talking and hearing about their experiences in the academic world, and we just became friends. That was an unforgettable experience.” 

SPRING FORWARD

Smoot had a very busy 2020 spring planned and said a key to getting through the COVID-19 challenge was solid study habits. “It didn’t affect my classes that much. However, it was gut-wrenching to have these final two months taken away. My friends and I had been planning a graduation celebration and talked about how sad it would be on that final day to say goodbye to the professors who have made such a difference and the friends who felt like family. I was really involved at MSU, especially in my sorority and academic department, so not getting all of those ‘last times’ was devastating. But I also know that nothing would have made saying goodbye to this place and these people any easier, so I’m just thankful for everyone’s health and wellbeing, and I can’t wait to have a reunion in December.”

   

 

2020 Redwine Honors Program Student Awards

Hardin Scholar & Alumni Association Outstanding Honors Student — Amanda Threlkeld

Clark Scholar & MSU Texas Student Regent — Montes Martinez,

Woman of the Year & Outstanding Chemistry Student — Bailey Smoot

Outstanding Senior Man — Kaushik Shah

Outstanding Junior Woman — Kristen Longo

Outstanding Sophomore Man — DanLee Duncan

Outstanding Sophomore Woman — Lillian Adams

Outstanding Freshman Man — Hunter Ordner

Outstanding Freshman Woman — Braelyn Ringwald

Howard Farrell Community Excellence Award — Andrew Wolf

Outstanding Accounting Student — Kervell Maxine Guiste

Outstanding Marketing Student — Lexis Anne Brickhouse

Outstanding Elementary Education Student — Brooke Nicole Schreiber

Outstanding English Student — Grace Tsichlis

Outstanding Computer Science Student — Mai Trinh

Passing it on

TIPS FROM A FIRST GEN GRAD

Bailey Smoot, a 2020 MSU Texas and First Generation graduate, said a key to success at MSU Texas is preparation and persistence.

“One example that portrays this explicitly was when my research partner and I, Sal Capotosto, co-founded the NonLinear Science research group. We didn’t have a basic understanding of the mathematics to begin understanding the research we were taking on; however, for an entire summer we met with our research advisors 2-3 times a week and had them explain the concepts to us over and over.” A year of wrestling with research and she and Capotosto were confident to share at conferences. “Whether it is a new class, project, organization, etc., the task at hand will always seem daunting and impossible, but with a constant perseverance and taking steps day by day, I promise you will get there.”

Smoot finished her tips by encouraging students to “talk to your professors. They truly have your best interest at heart, and they are there to help you. Also, say yes to new things even they scare you. The best growth comes out of uncomfortable situations.”

A quote that helped this First Gen graduate was, “Knock on doors until your knuckles bleed and if they get slammed back in your face, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and knock again. That has been some of my motivation these past four years, and an example I tried to live out daily.”

Bailey Smoot at MSU Texas