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Grateful Student Story: Laura Smith

Laura SmithLaura Smith had always loved horses. Born and raised in eastern Pennsylvania, she recalled telling her mom of her career goals that she “just wanted to work with horses and be happy.” She graduated college with a degree in equine science and worked at a racehorse breeding farm in western Pennsylvania and as a veterinary technician in Ohio. While her love of horses remained, the long hours, low pay and the physical demands of the vet tech field took a toll on her.

Laura became intrigued by the idea of moving to the field of human medicine and applied to Aultman College. But the fear of going back to school kept her from enrolling in classes. She worked in manufacturing for five years until her job was eliminated. She decided to try again at Aultman College and began as a health sciences major, then moving into the associate of science in radiography program. “This time, I stuck with it,” she said.

Laura chose Aultman College for several reasons. “They really seemed like they were focused on their mission and on creating future employees. I also loved the small classes and liked the idea of being able to build relationships with my professors,” she said.

Laura’s work in the veterinary world paid off during her education. “My equine degree definitely helped. Horses have many of the same bones as humans – just in different places – and the organs work the same. I had taken X-rays of horses before. I knew sterile technique and how to gown a doctor,” she said. “It was a joke among my classmates how I would always compare the concepts we were learning to how they applied in a horse.”

But transitioning from caring for horses to caring for humans required some transitional thinking. “As a vet tech, if a horse even looks at you wrong, you sedate them,” said Laura with a laugh. “You can’t do that to a human.”

Calling herself a natural introvert, Laura said her Aultman College education really helped her with empathy and communication skills, along with providing with a solid technical education. “I cannot stress enough how good the professors are and how much they helped me. They truly make the knowledge stick, and they are so passionate,” she said.

The financial burden of returning to school was heavy, especially in light of the school loans she already had from her equine degree. “I tried to be as thrifty as possible,” Laura said. She credits her boyfriend and family for helping with living expenses so she could focus on school. She also had an external part-time job that offered tuition reimbursement benefits and participated in Aultman College’s Federal Work-Study program, working in the college’s financial aid office.

Laura is also grateful for the scholarship dollars she received. The Rick and Vicki Haines Family Scholarship, 1892 Endowed Scholarship, Austin-Bailey Scholarship and Class of 1959 Scholarship she earned during her educational journey helped her cross the finish line. “Every scholarship I received made a difference,” said Laura. “I am just so thankful to those donors who give so generously to help students they don’t know, without expecting anything in return.”

Laura graduated with her degree in radiography technology on May 2, 2024. After she passes her registry exam, she plans to begin working as a CT scan technician in a small ambulatory emergency department. “I feel very equipped for my radiology career,” said Laura.