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Employee Spotlight

Connecting Students Across Borders

As a child, Elizabeth Smith developed a lifelong passion for building connections across borders when she befriended a refugee from Libya.

Elizabeth Smith is the program coordinator for the Whitmore Global Business Center at BYU Marriott.
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Smith.

Now that same passion fuels Smith in her position as a program coordinator for the Whitmore Global Business Center (GBC) at the BYU Marriott School of Business, where she helps students take steps across borders.

“When I was growing up in Greeley, Colorado, my best friend was a girl from Libya,” Smith recalls. “She was a Muslim girl, and I was a ‘Mormon’ girl. We had a lot in common and formed a connection by having religions that were important to us in a place where being devout in any faith was not the norm.

“Her mother's family had been part of the government that Muammar Gaddafi toppled, so they had to flee their country,” Smith continues. “Seeing the world through a refugee’s eyes was such an eye-opening experience. Having a friend from such a faraway place—with a rich language, culture, and religion that differed from my own life experiences—was endlessly fascinating to me.”

Smith’s experiences through this friendship contributed to her decision to major in international relations when she came to BYU in 1994. While in the program, she completed a study abroad at the BYU Jerusalem Center, which she describes as a “pivotal time in her life.” She views her semester in Jerusalem as a broadening and enriching experience that helped her expand her worldview even further. “I was visiting places where events in the Bible took place. These spots are so sacred to many religions, including my own, so getting to live nearby felt so special,” she says.

Smith and her husband, Mark, in England.
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Smith.

After her graduation in 1998, Smith continued to have impactful experiences abroad. She moved to England in 2000 with her husband as he completed a semester of his law degree at the University of Oxford. While in England, Smith worked at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology. Working at this museum was both interesting and informative. However, one of the most valuable things that came from Smith’s time in England was a better understanding of student exchange programs.

“My husband was an exchange student at Oxford, which directly relates to my current responsibilities at the Global Business Center,” says Smith. "I help arrange bilateral exchanges. We have an agreement with various universities so our students can study at other colleges abroad and students from foreign universities can study at BYU. I work with students to help them with their visa applications, housing, and class schedules, which helps make our semester abroad programs possible.”

Smith with her children in front of the National Gallery museum in London.
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Smith.

In addition to helping with student exchanges, Smith also pitches in during events hosted by the GBC. “I love the nexus of business and academia present at the GBC, which happens through all the opportunities we provide for students,” she says. She helps with annual events such as the High School Language Competition and the Business Language Case Competition. Smith is always willing to lend a hand during such events because she loves being surrounded by students.

“After years of being a stay-at-home mom with my four kids, I have had a wonderful reentry into the workplace at BYU Marriott. I love the energy here,” she says. “Our students are so intelligent and motivated and have such bright futures. Interacting with the students is so much fun. As staff members, we try to help prepare students for careers in international business, and being part of that effort is awesome.”


Writer: Sarah Calvert