Road to Commencement: Jenaya Smith

Jenaya Smith wearing Brandywine women's basketball jersey, number 3, spinning a basketball in her hand
Credit: Jenaya Smith

Major: Communications

Minor: Communication Arts and Sciences

Graduation Date: Dec. 16, 2023

As Jenaya Smith prepares to graduate on Dec. 16, she reflects on her time as a student at Penn State Brandywine and the unique experiences she had.

“I was recruited to a few Penn State Commonwealth Campuses for basketball, but what drew me to Brandywine specifically was the layout of the campus,” she said. “I’m very adventurous, so I enjoy taking walks in the woods behind campus too.”

Smith also noted that talking with Larry Johnson, the head coach for women’s basketball, aided in her decision to play basketball for Penn State Brandywine.

“I had a really good conversation with Coach Johnson before committing to Brandywine, and I noticed he shared a lot of the same values as my high school basketball coach,” she said. “My high school basketball coach was great; we’re still very close. I think the fact that Larry reminded me so much of my former coach is what brought me here.”

During her time at Brandywine, Smith played on the women’s basketball team and was team captain for the women’s cross-country team. She was also involved in Lion Pride, MarComm, Brandywine Athletics Live and the Student Athlete Advisory Council, as well as a teaching assistant for the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program.

The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program is an educational program that facilitates dialogue across differences, bringing together campus-based, or “outside” students with incarcerated, or “inside” students. The George W. Hill Correctional Facility houses people who either have been accused of a crime and are awaiting a court hearing or have received a sentence of less than two years, typically for a relatively minor, non-violent offense.

“Being a teaching assistant for this class was such a great experience. I hope to see this program grow in the future, and I hope to see many students taking this course next year,” she said.

Smith noted that her favorite experience during her time at Brandywine was going to the national championship for the women’s cross-country team in November.

“It was an overnight trip to Penn State Fayette, the Eberly Campus. The scene in general was just surreal because everything I worked for finally came to fruition,” she explained. “My goal was to get my 6K time under 30 minutes, and I ended up completing it in 28 minutes. It was a great feeling.”

“Being involved in many activities on campus has taught me a lot of discipline and time management,” Smith said. “A lot of these activities take place around the same time, so I have to be able to prepare myself for the day ahead of me by getting ready earlier.”

Being involved in many activities on campus has taught me a lot of discipline and time management.

—Jenaya Smith , fourth-year communications major, Penn State Brandywine

Smith said one of her greatest accomplishments during her time at Brandywine was winning third place in the PSUAC Cross Country Championships during her last semester.

“Since I placed third at the championships, the team as a whole also got first place collectively. As team captain, it meant a lot because I felt like I helped get my team there,” she said. “I also qualified for nationals at that race, which was great.”

During the same weekend, Smith also won the John Fritz Sportsmanship Award, an award given to one student-athlete on each sports team who displays good sportsmanship and demonstrates ethical, appropriate, polite and fair behavior while participating in athletic events and as a member of their team. Award recipients also exemplify the Penn State values of integrity, responsibility, excellence, respect, discovery and community.

When reflecting on her favorite memory at Penn State Brandywine, the cross-country championship came to Smith's mind.

“My favorite memory was the cross-country championship. It was such a surreal moment, especially since I worked so hard for it,” she said.

Smith noted one of the most valuable lessons she learned during her time at Brandywine is to surround herself with good people.

“Sometimes, you’re better off doing your own thing. If you get mixed up with the wrong sorts of people, you become the company you keep,” she said. “Surround yourself with the type of person you want to be.”

When advising future Brandywine students, Smith said to do things your own way and don’t care about what people think.

“Trust your own process. People are going to tell you that you’re doing things wrong, but the truth is you’re just not doing it how they would do it,” she said. “You’re just doing it your own way. As long as it gets done, I don’t think there’s any problem with that.”