Alumni Interviews — Rachel Smith (’01)

With each year that passes there are more and more BIC graduates doing great work all over the world. Each year we publish brief Alumni Updates where our alumni can tell us some about their post-BIC lives. In addition to these annual updates, we post interviews with our alumni. Today we are excited to post an interview with Rachel Smith (’01). We hope you enjoy, and if you are interested in being interviewed for a future blog post, email us at BIC@baylor.edu.

What year did you graduate from Baylor? What did you study?

I graduated from Baylor in May 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science.

Tell us some about your career and journey since graduating from Baylor.

After graduating from Baylor, I attended The University of Texas School of Law and graduated with a Juris Doctorate in May 2004. I passed the Texas Bar Exam that year and began practicing law in the Houston office of Baker Hostetler, an Am-Law 100 law firm in September 2004. I practiced at Baker Hostetler as an associate and then partner practicing both civil litigation and employment law for nearly 15 years. At Baker Hostetler, I litigated cases to trial, drafted policy, conducted training, and spoke regularly, on federal and state anti-discrimination and harassment law, and advised and counseled corporate clients on various aspects of workplace and employment law matters. I left the firm in June 2019 to move with my husband, Michael, and two daughters, Olivia (11) and Claire (7) to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Michael works as a Financial Manager for ExxonMobil here in Argentina.

How has your BIC education influenced your life and/or work since leaving Baylor?

BIC was in its early stages when I entered the program as a Baylor freshman in 1997. If I recall correctly, we were the first or one of the very first BIC classes. BIC began to open the world to me in a way it had not been opened to me before. Even as a freshman in college, I knew that being part of the BIC meant exposing myself to more history, to many more cultures, and to learning to be a citizen of the world and not just my own community. It was a means to pursue a well-rounded classical education beyond focused study in a singular major or department and twenty-plus years later clearly helped prepare me for living abroad today.

Do you have any favorite memories from your time in BIC?

My favorite memory has to be becoming friends with Emily Paige Lindsey through our BIC classes. Paige and I met as freshmen in the BIC program and have remained friends for more than 23 years. We very well may not have otherwise met at Baylor, had it not been for BIC which brought students together across disciplines and areas of study. We are both now mothers of two daughters and continue to keep in touch and encourage one another all of these years later.

Is there something you learned in BIC that still sticks with you today?

I will never forget our visit to a Jewish Synagogue or reading the Qur’an in class. BIC taught me that as a Christian, learning about other religions or what others believe is not a threat to my personal faith as a Christ-follower. This serves me well today, and has throughout my adult life as I’ve learned to love, work with, and to develop deep and meaningful friendships with people of many different cultures, faiths, and beliefs, and to do so as hopefully, a thoughtful, compassionate ambassador of my own faith in Jesus.

What are your goals for the future?

1 Thessalonians 4:11 says to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life. I stumbled upon this verse 5 or 6 years ago when I was in the midst of one of the busiest periods in my life. A wife, and mother of two young girls, and a civil litigator in a major U.S. law firm, my life was far from quiet, it was busy beyond measure. I wore “busyness” as a badge of honor, a false sign of importance and value. And this verse floored me because it seemed so impossible a pursuit and antithetical to society’s view of ambition and certainly for a “big law” litigator. But as I reflect back and look ahead, I see the beauty in pursuing the quiet life and the “gift of presence” it affords us whether we are taking on the demands of big careers or family priorities.

At present, my legal career is on pause as we live abroad and in this time, I’ve had the opportunity to pursue the vintage arts of antique letterpress and modern quilting. What I’ve come to love about learning these old art forms and the skills and characteristics that they are developing in me, is that they are slow, tedious, and demand time and concentrated focus on even the minutest of details–and by their very nature you cannot rush yourself through the creative process. They slow down the pace of my life in remarkably, meaningful ways. So in short, my goals involve creating meaningful work through these vintage art forms without needless busyness that keeps me from truly being present in life, in my work, and with my loved ones, and I want to encourage others to do the same whether in a fast-paced demanding career or in their work at home–because when you are more fully present, you can truly experience life.

Do you have any advice for current BIC students?

Be kind and compassionate, and remain teachable through all of life. Sometimes it feels like this world we live in is literally on fire. Try your best not to be a firestarter or excelerant. Kindness and compassion are highly underrated and go a long way not only in our everyday lives, with friends and loved ones, but also in business, in the courtroom and in the public squares. Even as passionate advocates for the causes we believe are worth fighting for, these character traits will serve you well with strangers, neighbors, in community and in life generally. Commit to being kind and showing sincere genuine compassion. And secondly, remain teachable. Be thoughtful, be a thinker, and be willing to learn not just as a young person, but always. Consider that you and those you associate with, may not have it all figured out, and be willing to be a teachable, life-long learner.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Moving abroad and settling into life in South America has been one of the greatest and most unexpected joys of my life. As BIC students are learning now in class, it has proven true through our experience in Argentina, that immersing oneself among people and cultures different from our own, expands us in ways we don’t always know we need. It reveals blind spots (which we all have) and gives us an appreciation for God’s greatest creation–the people He made in His image–and inevitably, appreciating other people, leads to a richer, fuller and more impactful life.

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