Bethany Smith
Bethany Smith. UofL photo.

When University of Louisville students and graduates have the kinds of big ideas that could change the world, they often start pursuing their dreams in the National & International Scholarships Office.

Since it was established in 2001, the office, which is housed within the University Honors Program, has helped hundreds of high-achieving students enter programs that have sent them to dozens of countries. The resources and support of the office are open to all students and alumni of UofL who are interested in pursuing nationally competitive opportunities like the Fulbright, Boren, Goldwater and Truman scholarships, among others.

Alumna Bethany Johnson Smith (A&S 2008) was one of those students, and since 2021, she has directed the office that helped her land her first scholarship as an undergraduate, a summer program at the University of Cambridge.

Originally from Harlan County, Kentucky, Smith completed her master’s degree in cultural studies at the University of Edinburgh after later winning the A&S Mary Churchill Humphrey Scholarship. She earned her PhD in English from the University of Iowa. 

In 2016, while still finishing her dissertation, she began working as an assistant in the scholarship office under former longtime director Pat Condon, who had guided her through that very first international scholarship application.

“I have thought back to our conversations so many times since then, and Dr. Condon’s advice has continued to help me through everything from comprehensive exams to job interviews,” she said.

Smith is married to Remington Smith, associate professor of film production and film studies in the A&S communication department. They met as UofL undergrads. 

“We first became friends when we lived in Threlkeld Hall and were delighted to return to campus together to work and teach,” she said. 

In her role, Bethany Smith interviews, advises, encourages and celebrates UofL students and graduates who want to continue their post-secondary education, often overseas. 

“Students and alumni are always invited to come chat with me, even if they don’t have a particular application or plan in mind. I also welcome nominations from faculty—my inbox is always open,” she said.

The Fulbrights are the most well-known international scholarships, and she has continued UofL’s dominating streak of winners (168 since 2001, more student Fulbrights than all Kentucky public higher education institutions combined).

But Smith is opening new doors. Last year, UofL students won two of the latest scholarships — the Voyager Scholarship, an Obama Foundation award for those who want to go into public service, and the Quad Fellowship, for STEM researchers who want to work together for the greater good — that are helping to define 21st century education.

“Both of those are great examples in that they seek to identify and invest in not just talented students, but young people who are bridge-builders and problem solvers with the potential to have a positive impact,” she said. “I think we’ll keep seeing awards that connect top scholars with opportunity and with one another. And UofL students will be great candidates, as they continue to excel in research, creative activity, leadership, and community and global engagement.”

Janet Cappiello covers student success for the Office of Communications and Marketing. She has more than 30 years’ experience in journalism, including working for The Associated Press and magazines such as Vegetarian Times and Sustainability: The Journal of Record. She has been at UofL since 2014.