If one were to put a lot of thought into the diverse population that is University of Findlay, it would likely be quite overwhelming. There are so many nationalities, interests, personality types, and backgrounds that the task of pondering the makeup of campus is enough to send one’s mind down a rabbit hole that would make Alice’s adventures in Wonderland seem uncomplicated.
Every new fall semester there are countless students who come to UF from proverbial small-town U.S.A. and other areas of the world having no real experience with or understanding of people outside of their demographic. Time on campus often changes their views, and that, for Dallas Smith Pharm. D. ’17, was something that molded him in a way he couldn’t have imagined.
Growing up in Ayersville, a community of around 27,000 people in rural Ohio, on a “moderate-sized cattle farm,” Smith said, meant that his life before Findlay was “sports and farming.” Subsequently, he had a fairly narrow perspective of cultures and the health of the world outside of his immediate area. A turning point, however, was when a math teacher took Smith and a few other students from his high school on a language immersion trip to the Dominican Republic. That, Smith further explained, was the start of a path that was nurtured and groomed at UF and has taken him much, much further beyond the crops and livestock that formed his youth.
Coming to UF provided an incredible opportunity for Smith to broaden the scope of what he had learned and experienced prior. “UF allowed me to experience education in a way that developed my understanding of compassion, broadened my perspectives to a more global outlook, and presented opportunities for indescribable growth,” he said. Assisting in arming him with a new global mindset and understanding, UF also equipped him with the knowledge, and more importantly, the passion and compassion to serve the global health community through the pharmacy profession. Like so many students before and since, Smith found himself blossoming into the meaningful life that he was meant to live.
Smith discovered meaning, in part, he said, through service and studying abroad. Helped along the way by the mentorship of UF’s associate vice president for international, intercultural, and service engagement Chris Sippel, as well as Chandra Sekar, Ph.D., a Findlay professor of pharmaceutical sciences and international ambassador for pharmacy education, Smith said that the most memorable stories of UF happened while serving and undergoing additional educational opportunities through UF sponsored programs. “The cross-cultural adventures that took place between UF and UCATEBA, a private university in the Dominican Republic, learning about Ayurvedic medicine in a college located in Kerala, India, and delving into the impact of the transitioning economy of Hanoi, Vietnam will forever be a few of my favorite memories I shared with fellow Oilers,” he said.
With the Orientation Service Project that takes place at the beginning of every fall semester at Findlay, Smith knew he had the opportunity to return the favor of mentorship and service back to the University and its students. On a recent Saturday in August, he did just that. Returning to the area to assist with the project, Smith said that he was “honored to encourage students to pursue various forms of service during their education to contribute to the betterment of humanity,” just as those at the Buford Center did for him. The Buford Center for Diversity and Service specializes in helping with international education, intercultural student services, and service and community engagement among other things, and Smith clearly considers it an important part of his UF experience. “The incredible staff who work there, and the service opportunities, both international and domestic, shaped my passions and perspectives into what they are today,” he said. “Each graduate should acquire [its benefits] before leaving UF and making their impact on this world – I truly believe this starts with the compassion that is developed through service, and Orientation Service Project weekend is a great starting point.”
Smith’s service doesn’t and won’t end with UF. He recently returned from serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Kingdom of Cambodia for twenty-seven months as a community health educator in a rural Cambodian health center after having left only a few months after graduation, and was recently notified that he was accepted to serve as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Blantyre, Malawi for an additional year, where he will be undertaking the position of a clinical pharmacy & pharmacognosy lecturer at the Malawi College of Medicine.
As a testament to what UF did for the “small town boy” that Smith once was, he views service and a love for the University both as a sort of badge of honor that can be passed on to future Oiler students and alumni. “As a student at UF, the experiences of accompaniment that will be accessible to you are vast, expansive, and may be a bit daunting,” he offered. “However, intensely consider undertaking them despite any doubts that may arise. I promise, the relationships and journeys that arise will have an everlasting impact on your values, perspectives, and passions.”