Krystal Smith ‘14 is passionate in her pursuit for intentionality. She has spent the past few years working as university engagement director and director of special projects for the Veritas Forum, an organization committed to creating opportunities for college students and faculty to engage in meaningful conversations.
A Park Scholar and Caldwell Fellow who earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work during her four years at NC State, Smith now coaches and leads groups of students from about 25 universities in the Western U.S. who host Veritas events on their respective campuses. Veritas puts the historic Christian faith in dialogue with other beliefs and invites participants from all backgrounds to pursue truth together.
“My interest in this organization and position was deeply informed by my experiences as a Caldwell and a Park, which ingrained in me the idea that college is not just about preparation for a job, but asking these really important questions and forming your own worldview,” said Smith. “Veritas is also deeply committed to gracious dialogue between people of different beliefs, and the ideological diversity in Park and Caldwell showed me how essential this is in our process of formation.”
One of Smith’s favorite Veritas projects was called “In __ We Trust: Finding where division ends and unity begins.” This event, which drew about 700 attendees on the University of Washington campus in Seattle, highlighted the relationship between religion and politics in the United States.
“It was exciting to address something that is so ‘live’ and relevant right now,” said Smith.
Smith’s work with Veritas bears a resemblance to some of her fondest memories of her time as an undergraduate. For example, as a freshman she participated in a University Scholars Program spring break trip, during which she backpacked the Rincon Mountains of Saguaro National Park and studied immigration issues on the Arizona-Mexico border. That summer, she organized volunteer project teams’ hurricane relief efforts in Haiti. As a senior facilitator for the Park Class of 2017 freshman retreat, Smith applied her leadership skills in easing the new students’ transition into college.
“I am enormously thankful for the countless ways that Park shaped my development as a leader and as a human,” said Smith. “They showed me that I am more capable than I realize and to pursue opportunities for leadership that scare me, as these are the spaces where I will grow.”
Her advice for current Park Scholars, and college students more broadly, is to make time and invest in meaningful relationships, and not to neglect those in order to accomplish more.
“I’d tell students to carve out time for that, which takes intentionality for Parks who are very driven and trying to do a lot all the time,” Smith said. “I’d also say to pursue community with people you respect deeply but have fundamentally or radically different beliefs than your own. These are some of the most rewarding relationships that I have.”
Smith currently lives in Seattle and believes it to be the most beautiful city in the world. She spends much of her free time outdoors, running, hiking, swimming, or biking. She is active in her church and an avid reader.
This fall, Smith will relocate to the San Francisco Bay Area to begin a Ph.D. program in developmental and psychological sciences at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education. She plans to focus on moral and character development in adolescents and college students, and looks forward to this next step in her journey.
Story by Caroline Taney