Heather Smyser Alumni Profile
- 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. In February 2014, Heather had the honor of working as an intern with NBC in Sochi, Russia, during the Olympic Games. In May 2016, she completed her PhD in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching, also at the University of Arizona. She currently works at the Defense Language Institute English Language Center as a curriculum developer where she helps create courses for English language learners. In addition, she recently published her first article on early literacy acquisition among refugees.
Heather credits her honors project for helping her achieve her goals. “My honors project was directly related to the work I did 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 the PhD 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 the honors project, 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.”