Caleb Smith says the University of Iowa showed him that he can make a difference in the world—and he intends to do just that.
Caleb Smith

Degree: Bachelor of Arts in political science with a minor in human relations and a leadership studies certificate

Hometown: Oswego, Illinois

Plans after graduation: Looking for the right job, preferably in Washington, D.C., and then pursuing a graduate degree and eventually running for U.S. Senate

Caleb Smith wants to be a U.S. senator.

The graduating senior says the University of Iowa has positioned him well for that trajectory—not only through his political science classes and student leadership positions but also the campus culture in general.

“I think one thing that makes the University of Iowa different is that we acknowledge that there’s room for growth,” says Smith, who is a senator in UI Student Government. “We aren’t scared to engage in difficult conversations. We aren’t nervous to push back or to change or to go against the status quo. And the administration allows students to have a prominent role when discussing campus issues.”

Favorite Hawkeye memory

University of Iowa senior Caleb Smith smiles as he recalls heading out to his first Hawkeye football game from his room in Mayflower: “Walking through downtown Iowa City and seeing the streets flooded with people so early in the morning—everyone excited and in their black and gold, ready to go and full of Hawkeye spirit—was just super amazing. To see the community so engaged with our campus and with our football culture was a wonderful shock to me.”

Having been interested in politics since his childhood in Oswego, Illinois, Smith quickly began participating in a variety of extracurricular opportunities after arriving on the UI campus. He was recruited his first semester to serve in the residence hall government at Mayflower, then later joined the fraternity Beta Theta Pi, served as a student guide for Orientation, and worked as a student employee at the Iowa Memorial Union. He also is chief justice of Interfraternity Council and was selected to the 2019 Homecoming court.

These opportunities, Smith says, have boosted his confidence and taught him to be a leader.

“Being involved in extracurricular activities showed me how much work there is to be done and that each person can make an impact,” says Smith, who will earn in December a bachelor’s degree in political science and a leadership studies certificate. “Some people are always waiting for the next person, or someone with more status, to make those differences. But one thing I’ve learned at Iowa is that every person has the ability to make a change, whether it be on this campus, in this community, or elsewhere.”

One class that stood out to Smith was Foundations of Critical Cultural Competence taught by Yolanda Spears.

“As an African American, I learned so much about cultural differences, and I really enjoyed that,” Smith says. “We talked about privilege and power and how those different dynamics play a role in so many sectors of our government and our world. The professor did a great job of explaining the content in a way that didn’t make the students feel like we were ignorant to the situation, and she encouraged everyone to engage in difficult conversations that helped us grow in so many ways.”

“Just walking across campus and talking to staff, it was clear to me that Iowa was dedicated to doing its best to make sure that all students are comfortable and engaged and have the opportunity to do their best.”

Caleb Smith
graduating senior in political science and UI Student Government senator

Ironically, Smith might have missed out on a University of Iowa education. When a friend asked him during high school if he was considering Iowa, Smith dismissed the idea, unaware of the school and what it had to offer. But when his mother informed him that his aunt had graduated from the UI Tippie College of Business, he added it to his list. A visit to Iowa City sealed the deal.

“I immediately felt like this was the place I wanted to be,” Smith says. “The campus was clean, and it felt very homey. Just walking across campus and talking to staff, it was clear to me that Iowa was dedicated to doing its best to make sure that all students are comfortable and engaged and have the opportunity to do their best.”

First-in-the-nation caucuses

Being a political science student at Iowa during election season has been a thrill for graduating senior Caleb Smith: “It’s crazy seeing all the candidates come to Iowa City. They want to hear our thoughts and opinions on their platforms and ideas. It’s a big deal. What a privilege Iowa students have.”

Students like Smith—who want to be of service and make a difference in the world—are not uncommon among those who study political science at Iowa, says Martha Kirby, a senior academic adviser in the department. She says she has little doubt that Smith will achieve his goals.

“Caleb has the extraordinary ability to connect with people individually and also engage with the broader community. He’s the kind of person you feel better after talking to,” she says. “He will make a very thoughtful leader and representative of any constituency he serves.”

Although Smith has a job offer after graduation to work as a leadership consultant for his fraternity’s national organization, he is opting to wait for an opportunity that more closely aligns with his career goals in public service. He’d like to get experience in Washington, D.C., and then earn a master’s degree in public policy or public affairs—possibly from Iowa—and eventually serve in the U.S. Senate.

As he readies himself to embark on a new adventure, Smith recalls the advice he has given to prospective Iowa students and their families: “Getting involved makes the biggest difference. The moment you allow yourself to be uncomfortable is the moment you allow yourself to acknowledge the room for growth in your life.”

Produced by the University of Iowa Office of Strategic Communication
Sara Epstein Moninger
Tim Schoon