Heather Smyser Alumni Profile

Heather Smyser
  • Graduation Year: 2010
  • Degree: Bachelor of Arts in French

Since her 2010 graduation, Heather Smyser has continued to build on her UE education through a variety of experiences. After serving in the Peace Corps Ukraine as a TEFL volunteer, she attended the University of Arizona for her M.A. in Russian. She recently began her PhD in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching, also at the University of Arizona, where she plans to research how first-language illiteracy might affect second language acquisition and second language acquisition theories. In addition, she is teaching Russian as an adjunct instructor at Pima Community College.

In February 2014, Heather had the honor of working as an intern with NBC in Sochi, Russia, during the Olympic Games. She has also been selected as a Virtual Student Foreign Service intern to work with the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and do research with them on Human Trafficking in the Russian Federation.

Heather credits her Honors project for helping her achieve her goals. “My Honors project is directly related to the work I am doing for my doctoral studies. In my project, I explored different aspects of bilingual education in a province in China and discussed issues such as identity that are at the core of our discussions in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching. I was able to use my paper for admission into this program, and being able to explore the topic of bilingual education allowed me to realize that studies of second language acquisition are where my passions lie. Had it not been for this, I do not know if I would have realized how important this topic is to me or been willing to see if there was a program that would allow me to study it.”

Heather also appreciated the benefits of taking Honors classes. She explains, “I got to meet a lot of wonderful students and faculty as a direct result of the Honors Program. By contracting Honors courses, I was able to get a lot more out of my studies than I normally would have. It afforded me the opportunity to look deeper into issues and questions than I would have done for regular classes.” In addition, she notes, “My favorite part about the Honors Program was the variety of events we could attend for credit. It really helped me to experience different areas outside my discipline.”

Heather’s future plans include finishing her PhD, including minors in French, Language Program Administration, and Cognitive Neural Systems. She then hopes to work as a professor and continue research on the unique needs of refugees.

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