Timothy M. Smith Award Recipient: Noah K. Oakley

Noah K. Oakley presenting at his symposium on January 27th, 2019

Timothy M. Smith lived his life yearning for the next horizon, always visiting new places and experiencing new cultures. His namesake award allows UT students to do just that: visit any place of their heart’s desire and research their passions. Noah Oakley was one such recipient and used his grant to travel to Lisbon, Portugal. He recently presented a symposium on his findings. See his statement below:

Portugal was not only full of myths and legends I had previous experience with, but full of stories surrounding our current issues of human rights. My initial research question going over to Portugal was to look at LGBTQIA+ culture. While I was there a law was actually passed for Gender Determination, meaning that individuals over 18 don’t have to have doctor or guardian approval to legally change their gender. What an amazing law for transgender individuals! While there, I talked with volunteers at Centro LGBT, a community center dedicated to providing resources and a safe space to members of the LGBTQIA+ community. As a queer person, it is always amazing for me to hear how other people around the world are fighting for our right to exist.

I also had plans to study gay Portuguese poets, however, I had a huge difficulty finding the texts I wanted. This was due to the Estado Novo, a fascist regime controlling Portugal from 1933 to 1974. During the regime, many aspects of life were censored, including works by the authors I had planned to study. Discovering this, a majority of my time in Portugal ended up being spent looking into this dictatorship. At the Aljube Museum of Resistance and Freedom, I learned all about the oppressive tactics the state and it’s police force instituted, and how fear was bred in the citizens. Eventually, citizens led a coup that overthrew the government. Learning about how people rose up against the regime was truly inspiring, especially when coupled with my talks with those people at Centro LGBT. These stories are ones that don’t always get told, and that’s why I wanted to focus on these items for my symposium. Stories are so important, and it’s up to us to always try and find out more stories so that way we can each rise up and provide a better future, for us and those to come. I can’t thank Lisbon enough for showing me this.

Honors Symposium – Victoria Sunseri

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On April 13th, Victoria Sunseri gave an Honors Symposium where she discussed her travel as the recipient of the Timothy M. Smith Inspiration Through Exploration Award. Victoria traveled to Sri Lanka where she volunteered with a non-profit that helps women who have been part of human trafficking operations. She spent close to a month working with the organization then spent some time traveling in the area.

Timothy M. Smith Award – Victoria Sunseri

Victoria on top of Sigiriya rock in Sri Lanka
Victoria on top of Sigiriya rock in Sri Lanka

The recipient of the 2017-2018 Timothy M. Smith Award, Victoria Sunseri, was recently highlighted on UT’s website for her award trip. Victoria used the award money to volunteer with the nonprofit Community Concern in Sri Lanka, learning about human trafficking.

Honors Symposia – Faith Taylor, Recipient of the Timothy M. Smith Award

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On Friday, April 28th, Faith Taylor presented on her travels as the recipient of the Timothy M. Smith Award for the 2016-2017 academic year.  Faith traveled to the Bahamas with Professor Michael Slattery of The University of Tampa to study a coral reef that was documented nearly 50 years earlier.  They spent several days snorkeling in the reef, taking photos, and gathering data.  This initial visit provided enough information to allow Faith and Dr. Slattery to develop a research program that will continue to investigate the reef.

Timothy M. Smith Award – Kaushal Vaddiraj

(Photo courtesy of Anton Croos.)
(Sri Lankan elephants. Photo courtesy of Anton Croos.)

Seven years ago, I arrived at UT as a freshman international student, having made the decision to come to an unfamiliar country and a vastly different educational setting without so much as even setting foot on campus. That decision was made easier in no small part due to the opportunities available through the Honors Program. The experiences available through the Honors Program – meeting highly motivated peers, being part of engaging organizations such as the Honors Council, peer reviewing scholarly work through Respondez!, and presenting my research at collegiate honors conferences – represent the best of what is available at The University of Tampa. These experiences have been pivotal in what opportunities I received once out of UT and what choices I have been able make since.

In my sophomore year, I applied for the Timothy M. Smith ‘Inspiration through Exploration’ award in the hopes of traveling to Sri Lanka to work with elephants and teach underprivileged children. I was able to do just that and immerse myself in Sri Lankan culture. The month long trip taught me so many valuable lessons in community building, leadership, conservation, and a myriad of life lessons from the Sri Lankan families who hosted me around the country.