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Crystal Smith

headshot of Crystal

If you weren’t working at WVU, what’s the most likely alternative?

I would likely still be working in cooperative extension or, potentially, in farm management or sales in equestrian brand or horse farm. That’d be elsewhere; those jobs tend to land more closely to where the horse industries are. So it’d probably be in a top five equine state like Kentucky, Florida, Texas, Virginia, California - someplace like that. 

Moment you knew what you wanted to study:

I graduated with my bachelors and then went to work in the horse industry for a couple of years. I used that time top really fine tune what it was exactly that I wanted to do. When I graduated I started working as a trainer at a professional horse farm. I also was a technician with a sports medicine veterinarian. It was during that time that I really discovered that I wanted to teach and have more of an educational component to my job. 

Moment you knew your current role was right for you:

I know that my current role is where I want to be in terms of teaching in higher education because I think one of the greatest joys in my job is seeing our students achieve success in their own careers. In the equine studies program, we take a really hands on approach to advising and career planning with our students. Seeing our first couple graduates get out there in the industry and land really great first jobs that they were able to become super successful in was definitely the pinnacle moment for me of knowing that higher education was right for me and I really am able to impact lives.

How long have you been involved with horses?

I actually grew up on a professional horse operation in central Pennsylvania. I was really fortunate to have a mother who was a horse woman and I grew up showing, training and working with horses in the race industry. Those experiences in my formative years solidified for me that I always wanted to have a job with horses and a career in the horse industry.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

If I could live anywhere in the world it would definitely be in one of those horse-centric communities. I would likely either move back to northern Virginia, where I lived before I came here, or live in a place like Lexington, Kentucky or Ocala, Florida, where the hub of horse activities is so strong. That not only gives you a lot of job opportunities, but it’s just so threaded through the fabric of the community that your social activities, your friends and everything are also very grounded in the horse industry. That’s one of the things I loved about being in Virginia and working there. 

That’s different from my retirement house, though. When I retire I want to live in Asheville, North Carolina, in the summers and in Key West, Florida, during the winters. I’d have the best of the mountains and the beach!

Favorite part of social distancing:

Probably my favorite part of social distancing is that I get to spend a ton more time with my husband Ryan. That’s really the only part that’s good if we’re going to be honest. 

A silver lining about social distancing, particularly for me, is that some of our equine studies classes actually are approved to be done in-person because they are socially distanced and outside. It has been nice to have that small reprieve for the students to still be able to learn - at least in some of our hands on courses - in a very normalized way. 

The horses still have a routine. They still need to be fed at the same time everyday. We still have chores to do, regardless. Definitely the horses and the hands-on classes have brought a sense of normalcy to the students and to me. 

Least favorite part of social distancing:

My least favorite part is missing out on travel opportunities and opportunities to catch up with my friends that are from out of state. For us, we happen to work in a place where none of our families live. The travel restrictions have been very challenging. 

Just for Fun

Favorite book: The Glass Castle

Favorite movie/TV show: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Favorite Spotify playlist/band/song: Red Dirt, Americana, Turnpike Troubadours, Sturgill Simpson’s Cutting Grass Vol. 1

Favorite local restaurant: Mountain State Brewing

Favorite local activity: Kayaking the Cheat River; hiking with my dog Cody