Natalie Smith is a driven student and world traveler. She shared her ISI experience with us while studying politics in Shanghai, China!
Natalie is from Elizabethtown, Kentucky, and is a rising senior at the University of Louisville with majors in English and political science, and minors in history and linguistics. She owes the major influences for her intellectual development to her education through the McConnell Scholars Program at U of L, where she read and was moved by such books as C.S. Lewis's The Abolition of Man and Mere Christianity, as well as Shakespeare, Tolkien, de Tocqueville, and Flannery O'Connor, among others. Her scholarly interests lean toward Christianity and literature, and also the study of the "moral imagination," particularly in fantasy and children's stories. Upon graduation, she hopes to obtain a Master's degree (probably in English) and become a teacher or work in education administration.
Natalie recently spoke to us about her ISI experience, Helen Keller's teacher Anne Sullivan, and her epic visit to the U.K.
- How did you find out about ISI? What drew you to ISI's programs?
I first found out about ISI from the director of the scholarship program in which I am involved at the University of Louisville, and from my mentor, Dr. Gary Gregg. He encouraged a few of his students (including me!) to apply to participate in some of ISI's conferences. I have since attended several conferences and colloquia, and last year I participated in the Honors Program. Before I discovered ISI, I was searching for something to enhance my liberal arts education outside of my college classes, and ISI has since been an enormous addition to my education. I'm very thankful to have found out about it when I did.
- If you had to choose one highlight of your undergraduate experience, what would it be?
Only a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Edinburgh, Scotland, and Oxford and London, England for two weeks, following a year's worth of study on America's British heritage. It was a mind-blowing experience to be in the UK during so many milestones: the eight-hundredth anniversary of the Magna Carta, the seventieth anniversary of VE Day, a history-making general election...and I can't leave out the birth of the new royal baby!
- What have you valued most about your ISI experience?
What I have most valued about my ISI experience is the opportunity to broaden and strengthen my network of like-minded students and professors. I am constantly humbled by what others are doing on college campuses across the nation in the name of pursuing "the good, the true, and the beautiful." My friendships with my ISI peers remind me to keep from growing complacent when it comes to what is most important.
- How have you spent your summers while in college?
I have served as a tour guide at a historical home in Kentucky, and worked as a legislative intern in Senator Mitch McConnell's Washington, DC office. I also have participated in ISI's Arguing Conservatism Debate Symposium and the Honors Program. This summer I traveled to Scotland and England and I am studying politics in China as I complete this interview!
- Whom do you admire most, and why?
I greatly admire Helen Keller's teacher, Anne Sullivan. Although she had poor eyesight herself, her composure and persistence with her student, and the results she was able to achieve through her determination, were astonishing. She truly was a miracle worker, and if I ever become a teacher, I hope I can have half the forbearance with my own students as she had with hers.
- What advice would you give to other students who want to preserve the principles of liberty?
My advice would be to not be discouraged in your fight for these principles: if you live out your beliefs and are able to explain them well, others will take notice and hopefully even be inspired by you. I think that one of the best ways young conservatives can preserve the principles of liberty is by serving as a model example to others in their ordinary, daily lives. On a liberal college campus, I've found that engaging in an open, honest dialogue with peers and friends with whom I disagree is the most beneficial way to expand on my beliefs and ideas while also learning something myself.
- What are your plans after graduation?
I intend to obtain a Master's degree in English or history and eventually pursue a career in the education field, though I'm still trying to figure out the answer to this question!