Q&A with Johnathan Smith, undergraduate representative to the Board of Trustees

Smith, a senior majoring in English and political science, talks about how he juggles his extracurricular activities and how he wants to use his voice on the Board.

Johnathan Smith

Senior Johnathan Smith wears many hats: football player, president of a pre-law fraternity, and member of the Student-Athletic Advisory Council. He took time out of his busy schedule to talk about his newest role — Undergraduate Representative to the Board of Trustees. Smith shared his path to this role, what he hopes to achieve, and how he balances his extracurricular activities with a double major in English and political science. 

Why did you choose WashU?

I knew I wanted to continue athletics at the D3 level. I went to a football camp in New England and met WashU’s head coach at the time who encouraged me to visit campus. It was awesome — a good mix of the type of athletic program I was looking for, a solid football team on the rise, and the best academics of any school I looked at. And the people I met were excited for me to be on campus, not just because I was an athlete, but because I was interested in WashU. They made me feel like I was somebody who could fit in here.

What is the WashU Board of Trustees and how do you fit into it?

The Board of Trustees is a governing body that works with the administration to make decisions that impact the current year, as well as the overall trajectory of the university. 

The board has two undergraduate student representatives and two graduate student representatives. The trustees are interested in what students have to say and want to know how their decisions affect the student experience at WashU. They look for the input of students with a diverse array of experiences and activities. We bridge the gap between students and trustees.

Why did you want this position?

I was never in student government, but I was looking for a way to get involved. When I heard about this position, I thought it would be a way to make meaningful, lasting changes on campus. I'm a firm believer in changing whatever community you’re involved in and leaving it better than you found it.

What are you hoping to do in this position?

One of the things that’s really important to me is getting a true student perspective from everyone. So, this semester, we are holding office hours in the DUC on Mondays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. During this time, anybody can talk to us and complete a form where they share what they appreciate about WashU and what they feel could be improved. This way, in board meetings, we will have quantifiable data on what students care about.

I’m also passionate about dining options and prices on campus. As an athlete, I eat a lot; I’ve struggled with being able to balance funding my education and funding a meal plan. I’ve heard a lot of concerns in that realm from other students, so figuring out how to present that to the board and address that concern is a priority for me. 

Finally, I want to make sure people know what’s happening on campus. With the overturning of Roe v. Wade last year and the recent decision regarding affirmative action, a lot of students have concerns. I will present the board with the way students are feeling about these big, national things. We are committed to making sure that all students have their life experiences considered. 

What is your strategy for balancing this position with classes and extracurriculars?

At a meeting or event, I try to be truly present and focus on the task I’m doing to the best of my ability. That’s true in football practice, in an executive meeting for the pre-law fraternity, and in a board meeting.

I also structure time for myself. I’m a big believer in alone time and giving myself an opportunity to recharge and do my own thing. Especially at WashU, we have a ton of people who are super high-achieving and they burn themselves out. As a person who represents undergraduate students, I want to be an example of someone who can figure out how to balance that time. It’s still difficult for me, but knowing yourself and what you need is really important.