“Helping people is my passion,” says MBA student Shannon Smith. “If I could volunteer for a living I would do it.”
Shannon isn’t just talking the talk but is actually walking the walk. In August, she spent two weeks in Uganda on a mission trip with the Ugandan Lambs Association USA, a nonprofit organization that provides orphaned and HIV/AIDS children with a safe and nurturing environment by facilitating and monitoring their education, promoting their health and well-being, and giving them a foundation on which to build a successful life and become leaders in their community.
As executive secretary, Shannon’s responsibilities included data gathering and marketing, photographing and video recording the children, assessing their progress and capturing recent achievements, and investigating a possible new building site for a school.
“I did a site assessment for land that was purchased for a school but quickly realized it wasn’t going to work,” said Shannon, who has a bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering from California State Polytechnic University. “The land was more suitable for farmland than building a school so my recommendation was to trade it for flatter land.”
Shannon is leveraging her environmental engineering knowledge and skills to benefit communities in need. Along the way, she’s learning all there is to know about running a nonprofit.
Shannon got her first taste of humanitarian work as a community development volunteer with African Impact. After graduating from Cal Poly, she spent three months in Zambia providing medical supplies to local clinics and teaching students the fundamentals of math, science and English. She also created a proposal for a local community to address poor living conditions by implementing environmentally sustainable solutions such as eco-brick housing, alternative energy from solar power and erosion control measures.
After her life-changing experience in Zambia, Shannon was certain she wanted to pursue a career as a consultant for the nonprofit industry, but she was missing a key requirement.
“The majority of big nonprofits require a graduate degree and international experience so I started looking into MBA programs,” said Shannon. “I loved that LMU offered an emphasis in international business and the CMS Program really sold me. I also wanted to improve my management skills.”
Now in her second year, Shannon is pursuing a dual emphasis in international business and entrepreneurship while maintaining an impressive 3.8 GPA. She currently works as an associate regulatory compliance specialist with Signal Hill Petroleum, Inc. where she’s responsible for ensuring compliance with all environmental regulations from federal, state and local agencies. She’s also participating in the CMS Program, which culminates with a three-week trip in May 2016 to Istanbul, Turkey; Athens, Greece; Rome, Italy; and Barcelona, Spain.
Looking ahead, Shannon hopes to continue volunteering with the Ugandan Lambs and would eventually love to work for a nonprofit like World Vision or the Red Cross. When she’s not in class or volunteering, Shannon enjoys cooking (she’s a crème brulee connoisseur), working out, spending time with family and traveling the world. She’ll get another opportunity to add stamps to her passport in spring 2017. Recently engaged, Shannon and her fiancé are in the early stages of planning a wedding and a trip around the world for their honeymoon.
Shannon realized at a young age that she wanted to devote her life to helping others and that’s exactly what she’s doing. She has already made an enormous impact on the lives of the less fortunate, and she’s just getting started.
“I was in the hospital when I was really young and almost didn’t make it,” said Shannon. “I’m so lucky and fortunate and there are so many kids in this world who aren’t. I was given a second chance to be somebody and make the most of my life. It’s the most rewarding feeling.”