Rachel Smith (’07, ’09)

Category: Alumni Promise | Awards

2021 Alumni Promise Award Winner

A Volunteer through and through, Rachel Smith has gone above and beyond to improve the lives of children and adults alike. Through her focus on developing talent and engaging communities through recreation, she has impacted hundreds of children and young adults.

Smith holds two degrees from UT, a BA in psychology and an MS in health and human performance. While working on her master’s degree, she was twice selected to work on the grant staff within the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies’ Therapeutic Recreation program. Her role in the program entailed submitting and securing grants to support Camp Koinonia, an outdoor education program for children and young adults who have multiple disabilities that is staffed by UT students. The program pairs each camper with a student counselor, a position that Smith volunteered for five years in a row.

After UT, Smith earned her PhD in early therapeutic recreation at Indiana University. With her doctorate, she was hired by Tyson Foods to develop the talents and skills of its workforce. She held several positions with the company, the most recent being director of continuous improvement training and development.

But Smith’s aspirations have always extended beyond the corporate world. In 2018, she began Camp Acacia, a program in Arkansas based on Camp Koinonia. Camp Acacia welcomed its first group of more than 100 campers in summer 2019 and was lauded by parents.

As might be expected, Smith is active in a number of community organizations. A few organizations she has volunteered for include the Sertoma Center of Knoxville, the Special Olympics, the American Heart Association, Autism Speaks, United Way, and NWA Food Bank. She has also served as philanthropic chair for Emerging Leaders and was the founder and philanthropic director of Tyson Foods’ Young Professional Business Resource Group.

In 2018, Smith and her family established the Camp Koinonia Internship Endowment at UT. This awards a paid internship to a worthy graduate student in the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies who is committed to the mission of Camp Koinonia.