Brandywine Student Spotlight: Makayla Smith

makayla smith

Makayla Smith is a first-year student studying criminal justice at Penn State Brandywine.

Credit: Penn State

Year: First

Major: Criminal Justice

Involvement: Member, Brandywine Music Association; member, Latinx Club; student-worker, Blue Apple Café

Brandywine: What was your deciding factor in coming to Penn State Brandywine?

Smith: I liked the size of the campus. I’m from a small town in North Carolina, so I’m used to things being really small. I didn’t think I was prepared to go to a large university, so I thought Brandywine would be a great fit. Also, my family is originally from New Jersey, so I wanted to go to college up north, and Penn State has a great criminal justice program.

Brandywine: How did you choose your major?

Smith: I’ve always been interested in the criminal justice and forensic science fields. I originally wanted to go to college for forensic science, but then I took a criminal law class, and it made me want to pursue criminology even further.

Brandywine: What challenges have you faced at Brandywine, if any?

Smith: I’m an introvert, so the hardest thing for me was getting out of my shell and talking to people. During my first month here, I didn’t talk to anyone but my roommates; I mostly stayed in my room in the residence hall. After that first month, I realized I had to put myself out there and get involved so I could meet people.

Brandywine: Who at Brandywine has supported you, and how?

Smith: My roommates have supported me both socially and academically. I live in a triple-bed room in the residence hall. They were my first friends on campus. They also make sure I’m on top of my work. If I’m relaxing in our room, my roommates will tell me, “Before you lie down, make sure you check Canvas and your email.” We all do that for each other.

Academically, my professors have been really nice and supportive. If I’m struggling in a class, they’ll tell me ways I can improve. I feel like I can essentially go to anybody and ask for help if I need it.

Academically, my professors have been really nice and supportive. If I’m struggling in a class, they’ll tell me ways I can improve. I feel like I can essentially go to anybody and ask for help if I need it.

—Makayla Smith , first-year criminal justice major, Penn State Brandywine

Brandywine: As a first-year student, how have you been adjusting to college life?

Smith: I’ve actually been adjusting well in terms of academics. I was already acclimated to the workload since I took college courses in high school. The hard part was moving away from home.

Brandywine: What made you interested in joining the Brandywine Music Association? What do you enjoy most about it?

Smith: I’m a very musical person; I love music and the arts. I actually play the tuba and bass guitar. I figured joining the Brandywine Music Association would be a great fit for me since I would be with a group of people who share similar interests as me.

Brandywine: With your involvement at Brandywine, how has your time on campus been impacted?

Smith: I spend a lot more time outside the residence hall than I thought I would. I’m always somewhere else on campus. One time, I stayed in the dining hall until late at night because I was talking with a group of friends. It was just great having a group of friends I could have conversations with about anything. 

Brandywine: What’s your favorite memory you’ve made at Brandywine?

Smith: My favorite memory so far was the Latinx Dance Night last semester. The Latinx Club members taught everyone different Latin dances like the Bachata. It was so much fun because I got to see how different cultures interact with each other and see how people intake cultural information that is different from their own.

Brandywine: What’s been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned at Brandywine?

Smith: The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is that it’s better to work in a community and have people rooting for you than to single yourself out. It was a really eye-opening lesson because I originally wanted to work on my own, and I realized sometimes you have to reach out and ask for help. It makes things a lot easier in the end.