With over 5,000 active alumni, Proctor’s Alumni Association is a powerful network that spans the globe. Helping facilitate connection with Proctor’s Alumni Association is Proctor’s new Director Alumni Relations, Lauren Smith. Lauren joined the Proctor team in November and has hit the ground running at local alumni events and connecting virtually with alums. Read more about Lauren’s journey to Proctor and what she has already learned during her short time in the Proctor community!
Tell us a little about your journey to Proctor - previous experiences, education, why Proctor?
It's been a winding road to get to Proctor (literally and figuratively)! I was born in New York, but grew up in a suburban town between Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio. Playing collegiate soccer was always a goal of mine, and I was able to compete for one year at a small university outside of Columbus before a series of concussions forced me to hang up the cleats. I then transferred to Miami University (OH) and completed internships in PR and public affairs while pursuing a double major in speech communication and journalism and serving on the executive teams of the local dance marathon and PRSSA chapters. After graduating, I moved to Washington, DC to work in donor relations and communications for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.
While I loved my time in DC, I left to go backpacking for nearly half a year. (This experience and close connection to Wilderness Orientation is another reason I already love Proctor!) Following that journey, I traded in the mountains for the ocean and accepted a position as the communications specialist and girls junior varsity soccer coach at Norfolk Academy. I eventually moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where I worked as an editor for a digital health and fitness start-up before venturing back into freelancing and, ultimately, working with a start-up that focuses on mental health in high school and collegiate student-athletes.
So, how did all of this lead me to Proctor? I am good friends with (former coach and faculty member) Maggie Kennedy and her wife, Lindsay, and I visited them in Ives House in 2018. Their love for this community and the unique offerings of campus drew me in, and I began to keep an eye on the Careers page of the website. When I saw the alumni relations posting this summer, I jumped at the opportunity. Visiting campus for the second time solidified my initial thoughts three years ago — Proctor is a special place, and I feel lucky to be a part of it.
You hiked the entire Appalachian Trail in 2016; what were the three most important lessons you learned during that adventure?
My hike concluded over five years ago, yet lessons from the trail continue to unfold. If I were to isolate three important takeaways, however, I would suggest resiliency, camaraderie, and perspective. Resiliency is vital when every day consists of unknowns. (It wasn't all sunshine and rainbows out there!) From pop-up thunderstorms to wildlife encounters and waterborne illnesses, it's detrimental to find the grit to continue toward your goal. But the biggest challenge through it all was the mental game. To hike alone with your thoughts can be especially difficult. But giving yourself the grace to have bad days and relying on your support system to help you through it is the key to reaching your goals.
The importance of camaraderie and connecting with individuals is another lesson I learned. We are inherently social creatures, regardless of whether or not you're extroverted or introverted. So, developing relationships with others on a similar journey to yours, and staying connected to your established support system, will help you stay grounded while enjoying the ride.
Lastly, it all boiled down to perspective. Knowing that it won't always be smooth sailing while understanding that it's impossible to remain positive at all times is essential. However, it's easy to get trapped in a negative mindset, and it's even easier to remain stuck there. Finding a balance and using that as a reference point is a fluid measurement I still carry with me to this day.
What have you already learned from the Proctor Alumni with whom you have interacted thus far?
At the first assembly I attended, Brian (Thomas) spoke about two key attributes that are visible in everyday life at Proctor: kindness and community. I've found that these transcend campus and remain with alumni long after they graduate. Whether it's been in person, over email, or on a call, every Proctor alum I've spoken with has shown kindness and demonstrated visible ties to their local community.
What do you most look forward to in this new role in the year ahead?
There are so many alums, and I can't wait to eventually connect with everyone. I'm most excited by the prospect of hearing everyone's Proctor story. This is a special place, and I want to help promote it by giving voice to those who have already lived it. My role allows me to engage with thousands of individuals with the shared connection of being a Proctor Alum. There are so many opportunities for alumni to engage with Proctor, be it reconnecting with former classmates, faculty, and staff; donating their time or resources; or sharing Proctor with a larger audience. And I'm psyched to help facilitate that narrative.
A Few Bonus "Fun" Facts About Lauren
1) Self-proclaimed ice cream connoisseur.
2) Big believer in the Oxford comma.
3) Set a new goal to join the Four Thousand Footer Club.
4) More afraid of spiders than bears.
5) First car accident actually involved a golf cart.
Connect with Lauren via email at email@example.com