Presidential Scholar Rwanda Smith Adapts to College Life in the City

Georgia State’s Presidential Scholars arrive on campus as incoming freshmen with more than just good grades. They possess the open minds, creativity, and dedication to hard work and discovery upon which our university was founded. In return, the Presidential Scholarship covers full tuition and fees and provides stipends for living expenses and study-abroad opportunities. Presidential Scholars are also part of the Honors College and receive specialized advising and mentoring by faculty and staff. Over the next few weeks, we’ll introduce you to each member of Georgia State’s 2013 class of Presidential Scholars, a diverse group of students with widely varying interests and goals for their futures. We’re proud to call them Georgia State Panthers — and to have invested in their future success.


As 2013 Presidential Scholar Rwanda Smith finishes up her very first week of classes at Georgia State, downtown Atlanta is being invaded. Football fans are in town for the Chick-fil-A College Kickoff; NASCAR fans have begun arriving for the AdvoCare 500. And then there are the DragonCon attendees, dressed as everything from superheroes to Disney princesses to “Game of Thrones” characters to Dr. Who.

Despite being a relative newcomer to Atlanta, Rwanda doesn’t seem fazed by any of this. She’s actually a big “Doctor Who” fan herself — she’s even wearing a Doctor Who belt made from a car seatbelt today. “I’ve really gotten into the British productions, all kinds of BBC stuff,” she says.

Even before the football fans and sci-fi characters descended on Atlanta, Rwanda says, she was adapting pretty well to downtown life. “The first time I actually got to the city, it seemed really busy and bright — then when I got to campus, it didn’t seem as crazy as the rest of the city did. It actually seemed kind of calm, and everything made sense.”

Good Examples to Follow

In making the transition to life smack in the middle of Atlanta, Rwanda, who describes herself as an “introvert,” had two things going for her. For one, she comes from a fairly large city herself — Virginia Beach, which has a population of nearly 450,000. Her dad also went to school at Morehouse, practically right down the street from Georgia State.

“I also have a godsister who just graduated from Norfolk State, and she told me what to look out for once I got to college,” she says.

That preparation has helped her get over the initial jolt of relocating to a new city. “It’s kind of a shock when suddenly you’re all this distance from home and going to college,” Rwanda says. “But I really am looking forward to my classes. They have all these opportunities for extracurriculars and traveling to different places, especially for the freshmen. Right now, I just want to get to know the city some.”

A Head for Numbers

As fields of study go, it’s safe to say Rwanda prefers numbers and equations to words and sentences — at Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach, she attended the math and science academy, and admits she plans on taking as few English classes as possible in college. That interest in math prompted her to select the major she’ll be pursuing at Georgia State, though she admits she’s not sure quite how it happened.

“Honestly, I just woke up one day and thought, ‘Hey — actuarial science!’ And it turns out that’s what my dad majored in in college,” she says. “I started looking up schools that have good accredited programs for that — I was looking at Purdue and even some Canadian schools, but Georgia State was my favorite.

“It was just nice. This was the only one I actually visited, and I didn’t even do a formal college tour. But when I came down here for scholarship day, I just liked the way it felt.”

Actuarial science, which uses math and statistical methods to assess risk, isn’t the best known career field, but it’s an important one that affects millions of people every day — even if they don’t realize it. Most people are affected by actuarial science through the insurance industry, which employs actuaries to determine the likelihood a customer will file a claim on a certain policy and, accordingly, what level of benefits to pay out.

“At Georgia State, actuarial science is its own major, so I’m going to take some business classes — I’m taking accounting this semester,” Rwanda says. “And eventually I’ll get my MBA.”

Rwanda says she knows a degree from the Robinson College of Business will require plenty of hard work and studying, but she’s got two good role models for that. “I think my mom was an RA in her dorm, and my dad worked a lot of jobs in college, so he didn’t have much time to go out and party or anything,” she says with a smile. “They were both pretty good.”


Previous 2013 Presidential Scholars: Wilson WitherspoonSamuel Hanks; Maya Kelkar; Ashleigh Cox