School of Arts and Sciences

Political Science Graduate Lands Competitive Fellowship with Coro Pittsburgh

Monday, December 12, 2016

Pictured is Laier-Rayshon Smith, political science graduate and fellow for CORO Pitsburgh. | Photo by Shayna Mendez

Meet Laier-Rayshon Smith

Fellowship: Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs with Coro Pittsburgh
Degree earned:
Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a concentration in International Studies and a minor in History
Graduated: August 2015
College activities: Pioneer Community Day committee, Honors ProgramHonors Student Organization and Alpha Chi National College Honor Society
Hometown and current residence: Pittsburgh, Pa.
High school: Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts High School (Visual Arts)

"Laier demonstrated a passion for civic engagement, a willingness to learn rather than lock down when challenged and a confidence to share his unique talents and perspective. He stood out during the selection process, and we are thrilled to have him in the cohort."

-- Michael Sider-Rose, Ph.D., senior director of programs and learning development, Coro Pittsburgh


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"My political science classes at Point Park helped develop my understanding of how people involved in changing systems and developing new ideas can build coalitions to make things happen."

-- Laier-Rayshon Smith


Why did you decide to apply for a Coro Fellowship?

I stumbled upon the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs while researching graduate schools. I became interested in urban planning because of the gentrification of the East Liberty neighborhood in Pittsburgh.

In reading about this fellowship, I discovered that it could help strengthen my understanding of public affairs and help me in advancing my leadership skills. Also, Coro’s mission to advance ethical leaders and build leadership capacity in order to create a more connected and inclusive community really encouraged me to apply.

I was excited about being offered opportunities to work across boundaries to build consensus, making sure that there is a seat for everyone at the table. Coro’s network also encouraged me to apply. Coro is connected to many communities across the country, with five cities (San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, New York City and Pittsburgh) that host Coro Fellowships in Public Affairs. Coro is making measurable, demonstrable differences in the communities and individuals that they touch, and I really wanted to be a part of that.

Tell us about the rigorous process you went through to be selected.

The process started with an extensive application. It required two recommendations, three personal essays and answering many questions. After submitting the application, I was later selected as one of 36 finalists from across the country and was invited to Coro Selection Day here in Pittsburgh. Selection Day is basically the interview process, but it occurred over the course of eight hours. We were tested in many ways as individuals including our ability to work with other people.

We were divided into six groups of six and we participated in five activities throughout the day in our assigned groups. Each activity was completed in front of a panel of judges. The activities varied greatly, but all tested our abilities to be leaders within a team, communicate with each other, process information and make decisions. One activity forced us to question and confront the idea of societal privilege. We also did individual presentations, completed a written assignment and were interviewed twice by a panel of judges.

Selection Day was very intense! Twelve fellows were then selected to form a cohort. Two of the fellows in my cohort attended Selection Day in New York City and Los Angeles.

What type of work are you doing?

Currently, I am working on two projects. I am working with the web team in the Department of Innovation and Performance completely redesigning the City of Pittsburgh's website. We are working to find better ways to organize content, make information easier to understand and make the website more useful. We launched our Alpha site in October to engage with the residents of Pittsburgh in this process. I am assisting in rewriting content and helping to make design choices, and I have written or contributed to the blog posts on the Alpha site.

Also, the entire Coro Fellows Cohort is collaborating on a group project with the Homewood Children's Village. Specifically, we are assisting in creating programming for one of HCV's after-school programs for high school students. We are trying to support the students in their own development of their talents and skills. We are also building connections between HCV and other organizations in the Homewood neighborhood. 

How have your political science classes at Point Park helped you in this role?

My political science classes at Point Park helped develop my understanding of how people involved in changing systems and developing new ideas can build coalitions to make things happen. It is very important for leaders to gather an inclusive community of like-minded people and then move them towards a common goal.

Throughout my political science classes, and some of my history classes, we considered the actions, personalities and effectiveness of individuals or groups as they attempted to make an impactful influence in communities, pass legislation or ignite a movement. As a Coro Fellow, I constantly think about this because we are trying to make impactful differences in Pittsburgh and we can only do this by building inclusive relationships in the city.

What are your career goals?

I have a lot of interests and have been finding ways to explore as many possible. Currently, I'm applying to graduate school to study architecture and couple that with urban planning or public policy. I really think there is a role for me in those fields.

Do you have a favorite quote?

"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” — Vincent van Gogh

Photo by Shayna Mendez, a senior photojournalism major

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