Dribbling Between the Court and Classroom

PROVO, Utah – Mar 04, 2022 – The combination of 15 hours of practice and two games a week, 18 team members, 13.5 credit hours, and numerous dance and basketball videos shared with her 29,000 followers on TikTok add up to the everyday life of Kaylee Smiler. As a member of the BYU women’s basketball team and a senior in the human resource management (HRM) program at the BYU Marriott School of Business, Smiler does it all without breaking a sweat.

After she arrived at BYU on a basketball scholarship, Smiler decided to apply to the HRM program at BYU Marriott. “I wanted a degree that would help me and other people,” she explains. “I’m from New Zealand, born and raised, so I wanted a degree I could take wherever I go. That's why I chose human resources, because everybody needs an HR department.”

Finding balance between the rigors of school and basketball, with a little recreation on the side, has been easy thanks to a plan and a few assists from the faculty in the HRM program. “Before the semester starts, I talk to my professors to make sure we’re on the same page,” she explains. “All of my professors are incredibly understanding. I love that everyone at BYU Marriott understands my situation and is supportive of my efforts. My professors and their teaching assistants always offer to help, which I definitely appreciate.”

After her junior year, Smiler took the lessons she learned in the HRM program to Hawaii for an internship with the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC). As an intern, her main project at the PCC was creating and distributing an employee satisfaction survey. “My job was to compile the survey results and present them to the PCC president to say, ‘This is how your employees feel.’”

Many of the employee satisfaction surveys Smiler collected from her coworkers commented on the PCC being understaffed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to staff shortages, Smiler and her coworkers created a recruitment video and organized career fairs with local high schools. “Recruiting people was important to let our employees know we heard what they were saying and we wanted to fix the problem,” she says.

In addition to her human resources work at the PCC, Smiler was also a dance performer at the on-site Māori village. “I grew up Polynesian dancing,” explains Smiler. “I loved being able to perform and share my culture while I was at the PCC.” Smiler is Māori, part of the indigenous people of mainland New Zealand.

Since her internship, Smiler has continued to fit dancing into her busy schedule. “Multicultural Student Services hosted a luau at BYU that I performed in during the fall 2021 semester,” she says. “That performance was special because my entire team came to watch and support me. Everyone was there—the managers, my coaches, their spouses, their families, and all my teammates. Seeing that kind of support was probably the coolest thing that's ever happened to me, because I realized that no matter what any of my teammates do, we’ll be there for each other.”

Like a well-practiced drill, Smiler and her teammates are there at the right place and right time to support each other both on and off the court. “My team is incredibly close,” says Smiler. Smiler’s popular TikTok channel, which is awash in blue and white BYU jerseys, showcases that closeness as she and her teammates dance and show off their basketball skills.

The friendships Smiler has made through basketball and at BYU Marriott have made her packed schedule all the more manageable. Smiler shares that her experiences at BYU have taught her countless lessons. “I’ve learned that it’s okay to take a break and breathe every now and then," she says.  “No matter how busy I get, I just remember that I’m allowed to have fun.”

Kaylee Smiler. Photo courtesy of BYU Photo.
Kaylee Smiler. Photo courtesy of BYU Photo.
Kaylee Smiler (middle) with her coworkers at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Photo courtesy of Kaylee Smiler.
Kaylee Smiler (middle) with her coworkers at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Photo courtesy of Kaylee Smiler.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Liesel Allen