Elgin alumna and clinical psychologist Roselyn Smith, PhD, of Miami, Florida, made a recent presentation before the Elgin High School student body, describing her career journey and how rural students can overcome any limitations they think they have because of growing up in a remote, rural area.
Smith is the daughter of the late Arthur and Ethel Smith of Elgin. She attended Elgin schools and in 1974 graduated from Elgin High School. Now, 45 years later, she has returned to her alma mater for the first time to share her story and encourage a new generation of rural students seeking to find their niche in the world.
Recounting her early adult years, Smith said she had wondered what she was going to do with her life after high school. She had to start somewhere with a modest goal in mind, she thought.
“So, following graduation, I enrolled at Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario,” Smith said. “After that I got a job working for the Urban Renewal Office in Salem as a secretary.”
She worked conscientiously, and then opportunity knocked when a position for an administrative assistant opened up with the City of Salem Airport and Transit Division.
“I’d never done anything like that, and the job involved supervising two women older than myself,” she said. “Although I didn’t feel confident, I told myself I could learn this job, so I applied and got it.”
With this kind of growth mindset, Smith became proficient at her new job. Her boss noticed her quality work performance and saw her potential, and he encouraged her to go back to school and “at least get your bachelor’s degree,” she recalled.
“So I went back to school, first to Chemeketa Community College in Salem and afterward to Willamette University,” Smith explained.
During this time, she visited friends in Los Angeles, where one of her friends convinced her to finish her education at University of California Los Angeles. She moved to Los Angeles, and in 1984 she graduated from UCLA with a degree in economics. This, in turn, opened up opportunities for her to work in public policy analysis and as a businesswoman before she earned a doctorate degree of philosophy in psychology from the University of Miami in 2004.
Smith pointed out to her student audience that each single event in their lives begets the next, and that they should not fear failure when trying new things.
“Even if you fail at something, it was still a learning experience, and that has value too,” she said.
Keeping an open and optimistic mind to possibilities and accepting the advice and direction of caring mentors in her life contributed greatly to Smith’s professional growth and award-winning achievements. She did not allow any perceived limitations or roadblocks stop her from accepting new opportunities. She kept telling herself, “I can learn this,” and she did.
She illustrated, “If I hadn’t taken this opportunity, then this other one would never have happened either. They are all connected to each other.”
Embracing this philosophy has paid off in larger-than-life ways for Smith, opening doors she never anticipated, and she assured her EHS student audience that this truth can be theirs as well in whatever interests them personally, whether it is developed here at home or away.
While Smith currently works as a clinical psychologist in Miami, she was in recent years accepted into the Fulbright Specialist Program and the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities as a consultant in human resilience, critical incident and disaster mental health, preparedness, response and recovery. This has been a pinnacle honor in her professional life to date, she said, and a reminder to her how rural students can achieve great things by believing in themselves and saying yes to opportunities, supportive people and education that promote their interests.
Following her presentation to the student body, Smith visited Emily Sorensen’s health class to present information about mental health intervention with a focus on loss and grieving.