Jill Smith is the executive director of the University of Kentucky Alumni Association. She earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing and management in 2005 from the UK Gatton College of Business and Economics and a master’s degree in career and technical education from the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment in 2011.
Where did you grow up and where is your home now?
Paducah, Kentucky is my hometown. I now live in Lexington. I came to UK as a student in the fall of 2001 and never left!
What is your connection to UK?
I currently work at UK as the Executive Director of the UK Alumni Association. I am a two-time graduate and have been employed at UK since graduating in 2005. Most of my work has been at the UK Alumni Association, but I started my full-time career in Admissions. I also worked in UK Athletics as a student worker.
Which funded proposals for W&P have you found particularly interesting and/or worthwhile?
We have funded a professor in Education, Allan Allday, who dealt with severe behavioral issues. I remember hearing the stories and where his clients were from, and he really was looked upon as the resource to help parents across the state who have children with severe behavioral issues. I felt his research was very worthwhile in his particular field. I also am encouraged when I see collaborative efforts that engage multiple parts of the university. This may be research involved in two areas or a student experience that helps students learn how to cross-collaborate both in college but also later in the workplace.
What is the most interesting job you have had?
Executive Director of the UK Alumni Association. I took over officially on February 17, 2020, exactly one month ahead of us all heading home from the office in response to COVID. This was a challenge but also a huge growth opportunity. In my work, no two days are the same and the people I get to interact with are special and I enjoy hearing so many unique stories from our alumni.
Tell us a fun story about your time at UK.
I met my husband here! But also, I have gotten to be involved in some really unique experiences. One of my favorites as a student was being assigned to work with the ESPN College GameDay crew to get the footage they needed for the nationally-televised broadcast. I was their liaison for an afternoon, and we went all around campus and Rupp Arena to get interesting shots that could be used. It was neat to watch the work come to fruition knowing what went on behind the scenes.
Why do you think it’s important for women Under 40 to get involved with Women & Philanthropy?
I joined W&P to show an appreciation early on for the many avenues that UK opened for me and for others. By giving back, we help enable other students to have similar opportunities.