Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Leadership lived: UIS student helps start Downtown Discounts program


University of Illinois Springfield political science and economics major Kaelan Smith is passionate about helping people in his community. He recently helped to start the Downtown Discounts program, which saves UIS students money at downtown businesses.

On campus, Smith is the vice president of the UIS College Republicans and is a member of the Capital Scholars Honors Program, where he volunteers as a peer mentor. He is also currently interning at U.S. Congressman Darin LaHood’s Springfield District Office.

“The internship has taught me the professional organizational skills to make a government office work for the people and the kind of leadership skills it takes to be a successful public servant,” he said.

Smith helped start the Downtown Discounts program in his role as co-chair of State Representative Sara Wojcicki Jimenez’s Higher Education Student Advisory Committee. Deals for UIS students vary, but often include a 10 percent discount at stores and eateries when students show their i-card.

“I had a lot of communication with business owners trying to get an idea of what kind of offers were best for their business strategy, but also I also talked to students to see what kind of program would really attract them to the downtown area,” he said.

Smith, who is from Clinton, Illinois, says he chose UIS because of its location in the state capital. Being in the seat of state government has given him many advantages when it comes to making connections and obtaining internships.

“UIS is just great for proximity. It’s right here in the heart of the state capital,” he said. “You meet so many professionals in state government and state politics and it’s an easy way to meet these people, get mentors and get opportunities.”

Thanks to his opportunities both on and off campus and the knowledgeable professors in the classroom, Smith says he’s learned many lessons about leadership.

“UIS has taught me that leadership requires a lot of thought, a lot of work and also thinking about the values you really want to impact in your community. The work and the measurement of what kind of leader you are is about the kind of values you leave in your community and whether or not you’ve made it a better place for everybody.”

Following graduation from UIS, Smith plans to work in state government before pursuing either a master's degree in public policy or attending law school. Afterwards, he hopes to work in a state’s attorney's office or in the public sector working on public policy or legislation.

Smith encourages other students who are interested in government and politics to attend the University of Illinois Springfield.

“If I could rethink it all over again, I would come back to UIS. UIS is a great place if you want to learn how to be a public servant, but also learn how to make your community a better place,” he said.