History undergrad earns Rhodes scholarship

Michèle Smith

By Neale McDevitt

Like all Rhodes Scholars, Michèle Smith – McGill’s 131st entry to that exclusive club – has a daily To Do list as long as your arm. Currently pursuing an honours degree in history, with minor concentrations in political science and economics, Smith is a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society; an editor for Hirundo, McGill’s classical studies journal; a co-founder of the Non-Governmental Organisations Committee; and one of the organizers of McGill’s Model United Nations Conference.

“My list of extra-curricular activities is quite short compared to several of my friends at McGill,” said Smith via email from Dublin, Ireland where she is visiting friends. “McGill’s campus community is so active that it’s difficult to not get involved.”

Oh yes, Smith is also a standout student. Since first walking through the Roddick Gates in 2006, she’s earned an Edward Beatty Entrance Scholarship, a Dudley and Deborah Butterfield Scholarship, the Sara and Maurice Greenblatt Scholarship for Academic Achievement and the history department’s Michael Silverthorne Book Prize.

At McGill, Smith admits to “basically falling into” McGill’s classics department where professors Hans Beck and Michael Fronda (“both great lecturers”) turned her onto ancient Mediterranean history. She says the mix of history and poli sci is a natural one. “History is the study of the past, while political science is theorizing the past in order to prescribe actions and policies in the future.”

Hailing from Bermuda’s Paget parish, Smith was named the recipient of that country’s sole Rhodes Scholarship. “When I received the news; I was almost speechless. It took me a couple of minutes to express my thanks to Mr. Collis [Secretary of the selection committee for the Bermuda Rhodes Scholarship] in a somewhat intelligible way,” she said.

Smith will begin her studies in jurisprudence (she plans on becoming a lawyer) in October 2010 at Oxford’s Pembroke College. A high achiever, even by Oxford’s lofty standards, Smith has enrolled in the Senior Status program that allows her to complete her degree in two years – one year quicker than normal.

When she finally heads across the pond, Smith says she will bring with her some important lessons learned at McGill. “The most important thing I will bring away from my experience here is that no matter how small or large your community is, one individual’s actions can make a difference,” she said “The students and community at McGill have continuously inspired me throughout my four years here, and I will try to reflect what I’ve learned here to the best of my ability at Oxford next year.”