"Alabama Scholarships for Service, Not Just Grades"

Samantha Banks (University of Alabama)

2010You majored in What?

Smith Scholarship Senior Samm Banks Proves That You are What Makes Your Major Relevant.

The economic difficulties of recent years have adults asking college students more than ever “what are you going to do with that,” especially when it comes to less vocational degrees. Samm Banks (2010 recipient) knows this all too well. She is soon to graduate with a degree in American Studies from University of Alabama.“ I spend a lot of time shrugging when people ask what I’m going to do with it, or giving witty comebacks like ‘hang it on the wall, of course,’” says Banks. “The truth is interdisciplinary research can be applied to many jobs—it’s just up to me to show how.”

2010 Smith Scholars2It is true that many job-makers of the world care more about passion, professional competence and experience than the program of study that you chose. According to a 2013 survey by internships.com 66% of employers believe “interview performance and relevant work experience are the most important factors in hiring decisions—far more important than strong academic performance.” The challenge for students,while they are enrolled, is to make those programs of study relevant by how they use the knowledge outside of the classroom. For example, Samm recently completed an internship at the Children’s Hands-On Museum of Tuscaloosa, which melded her love for obscure facts and trivia with a desire to connect with people, in this case children. Her area of expertise during this 10-week internship became nocturnal animals. She is also employed as a work study assistant in the American Studies department.SammBanksatCHOM_large

4Samm is on track to start the master’s program next fall, where she will continue to develop expertise in pedagogy and culture. “I’m watchful of my potential career paths—I am nurturing them—at the same time, I still believe there is a place for multi-disciplinary learning. If our age has taught us anything, it’s that we need to learn to adapt our skills.” She adds “Meanwhile, the Smith Scholarship experience has also taught me that you need to embrace yourself before you can apply yourself—so, no matter what, I’ll be doing something that I care about.”

Samm attributes her proactive attitude to her close relationships with our mentor staff and her Smith siblings, who she says “encouraged me to adapt to opportunities and let my guard down about sheer survival.”

Check out Samm on the University of Alabama Department of American Studies internship page.



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