Decision to Attend Tarleton Changed Commencement Speaker’s Career Path


STEPHENVILLE — As a high school senior, Courtnie Smith was certain of two things: She had been accepted into a biochemistry program at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, and she did NOT want to go to college near her hometown.

Fast forward to Dec. 9, 2022. The 2017 Early High School valedictorian will make the keynote speech for Tarleton State University’s 10 a.m. commencement ceremonies and graduate in music education.

“I actually swore that Tarleton was one of the colleges I would not go to,” she said. “I was not going to Howard Payne, and I was not going to Tarleton. They are both too close, and everybody from my high school was going to one of them. My dad went to Tarleton, which was another reason I couldn’t come here.”

 Then she took the tour. Game over.

“I decided to make a complete 180 and pursue a degree in music education. I’ve met a lot of friends through the Baptist Student Ministry and the music department. I have some wonderful professors in the music department who have definitely made it a good decision to come here.”

Now she has a new goal: teach middle school or be a high school band director. Regardless of what happens, she’s thankful for the avenues Tarleton provided. “I was a student conductor on a concert last year. With that you get to lead ensemble rehearsals. I also had several performance opportunities to help me improve as a musician.”

Perhaps the decision that most enlightened her was working as the middle school band director at Morgan Mill last year while taking classes full time.

“After that experience I have a lot of perspective on what kind of teacher I want to be and what direction I want to go as a band director and educator,” she said. “My instructors at Tarleton have not only given me the knowledge, they have given me opportunities. It’s one thing to know the content — it’s another thing completely to teach it.”

Her commencement address will explore perseverance.

“The speech is about what we as students have overcome, and that if we’ve made it to this stage, we have it in us to overcome whatever life throws at us.”

She sounds certain of that.

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