School of Education
Whitney A. Smurr
Whitney Smurr’s passion for learning and teaching others makes her an easy choice for a President’s Medallion.
Outside the classroom, Smurr goes above and beyond as well. She’s the vice president of the Agape Christian Fellowship and a member of the Golden Key International Honor Society. And she’s also completed the Chicago Marathon as part of Team World Vision, a humanitarian organization that fights global poverty.
Here, she talks about the close friends she’s made at Loyola, all the things she’ll miss about the University, and why a Snuggie is the perfect study companion.
What’s your favorite Loyola memory?
My favorite memories from Loyola are from last fall in the now defunct Block I program in the School of Education. Sixteen of us were thrown into class together for three hours or more each day, and we attended clinicals together. Spending that much time around the same small group of people every day forces you to become friends, and we still remain a tight-knit group to this day.
Talk a little about a professor or mentor who inspired you.
Several people have inspired me along the way in my college career, so it is difficult for me to pick just one. Some particularly impactful and inspiring experiences occurred during my college summers when I was a counselor at a leadership camp for high school students. I was consistently blown away and renewed by the energy, strength, resiliency, and enthusiasm of my campers and co-counselors.
Tell us about your volunteer/service work and what it means to you.
I consider most of my “service” work to be the work I do for the classroom. This encompasses both my time spent making lesson plans and also my time actually interacting with students. Teaching, to me, means giving people skills and strategies for engaging with the world around them. So that’s what I’m trying to do—get students to think deeply and become their own people. It is a daunting career to undertake, but I am looking forward to it.
Any advice you would give students about how to get the most out of their education?
Talk to your professors outside of class. They have office hours for students, not for themselves. They are great people who would love to help you out. You are paying to attend college, so don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. Also, do the math and calculate how much each individual class costs. Seeing that number will definitely motivate you to go to class.
What do you hope to be doing 10 years from now?
I hope to become America’s first certified organic cat farmer. Hahaha, no, just kidding. Honestly, I have no idea. I try to take my life a day or a week at a time and make the best choices I can. Ask me in 10 years, and I will let you know how I’m doing.
What’s your favorite study space on campus?
I generally try to avoid the library and the Information Commons because they smell like fear and desperation and crushed dreams. If I need to do homework that isn’t very intense, I take a stroll over to Metropolis and camp out for a few hours. However, I mostly just wear my Snuggie and study at my desk in my apartment. Very exciting, I know.
What will you miss most about Loyola?
I’m going to miss seeing the traveling wise men by Mundelein every Advent season. I’ll miss waving at Sister Jean on campus and running along the lakefront. I’ll miss that fleeting moment of panic as you walk through the little gates in the IC and hope that they won’t close on you. I’ll miss walking from Corboy to Sprinkles to get a cupcake after class. I might even miss waiting in line for an elevator in Mundelein. But probably not.
About the Medallion
Leadership. Scholarship. Service.
Those three words are etched onto the President’s Medallion that Loyola awards annually to its most outstanding students. They are words that neatly summarize all that the University represents. And they also sum up the 2013–14 President’s Medallion recipients—students who excel not only in the classroom, but also in the world, and are dedicated to helping those around them.
“Each of the recipients was recommended for this award by their academic dean because they exemplify a wonderful combination of achievement in scholarship, leadership, and service,” said Dean of Students Jane Neufeld at the annual President’s Ball at the end of the fall semester.
“In addition, they are seen as persons of integrity, good reputation, and manifest leadership in serving others,” Neufeld said. “In short, they are students for which Loyola and its founders can take great pride.”