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Deondre Smiles

4th year Ph.D. candidate, Geography

In April 2019, Deondre Smiles, a PhD candidate in geography, was announced as one of Ohio State's 150 Sesquicentennial Scholars — 32 of which are in the Arts and Sciences. The Sesquicentennial Student Leader Scholarship program aims to increase access and affordability, as well as recognize students’ academic and non-academic accomplishments and diverse interests.

Why did you choose your major?

As a child, I loved learning about the various countries in the world — their cultures, their histories, what made them unique. I also really enjoyed reading maps — I had a small collection of them by the time I was in high school! Not surprisingly, when it came time to pick a major for college, geography was the clear choice. While in college, I decided that my career ambition was to become a geography professor, and I’ve never looked back!

What does being a Sesquicentennial Scholar mean to you?

Being a Sesquicentennial Scholar is an amazing opportunity to represent a university and a community that has meant so much to me. Ohio State’s 150th anniversary is an opportunity for us to reflect on where we’ve been, what we’re doing now and what we hope to do in the future at the university, and I am proud to be an ambassador for this unique celebration.

Explain what you love about being in the College of Arts and Sciences at Ohio State.

Coming from a series of smaller, regional universities, I was not prepared for the breadth and depth of the academic offerings that Arts and Sciences has. I’ve had the opportunity to take graduate coursework in the college both in my department and others that is taught by world-class faculty who are also committed to student success. It truly is the best of both worlds — the top-notch academics of a research university with the care and support that you might expect from a smaller school. I am confident that my degree will help me be successful in my career path.

How do you hope to inspire the next generation?

My hope is that I can serve as an effective role model and mentor to the next generation of Native American and Indigenous geographers, and Native academics more broadly. I want them to know that it is possible to survive and thrive in academia while holding onto their connections with their culture and their communities.