Zoe Smith

Zoe Smith

Where are you from?

I’m from Rockford, Illinois about 60 miles outside of Chicago.

Why did you come to Western?

I came to Western because I came for a tour and was looking at schools all around the intermountain west, and then I came back to Western for a preview day. They had one of the old buildings sprayed with ice to form a climbing wall. Through the entire time, my admissions counselor was in really close contact with me and I felt like if I went to Western my success really mattered and they were committed to helping me out. It was the best decision I ever made!

Why did you choose the Recreation and Outdoor Education (ROE) program?

I worked for Outward Bound in the Sierra Nevadas three summers ago. Paul Tame (Western Professor) was really influential in having me become an instructor at Outward Bound. From there, I decided I wanted to do a little more schooling regarding outdoor leadership. I’ve been working for Outward Bound since. I think it will help having a little more classroom experience and field experience to bring into my career.

What else are you involved in at Western?

Wilderness Pursuits has been a huge component of my time at Western.  Also, the Mountain Rescue Team and Mountain Sports cross-country and gravity mountain bike teams. I’m also on the endurance ski team.

What do you do with Wilderness Pursuits?

I instruct different courses throughout the school year. I also instruct wilderness- based orientation. We take people out (in the backcountry) and have a less traditional orientation. We’ll go mountain biking, stand-up paddleboarding and hiking. I do rafting trips and backcountry skiing as well.

What do you like about Western?

A small school with small classes; a close relationship with my professors. All the doors it has opened and all the experiences I’ve had.

What would you tell people considering attending Western and the ROE program?

Its’ the best decision you’ll ever make.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I really like mountain biking, cooking, and backcountry skiing.

Did your parents attend Western?

Yeah, both my parents are alumni.

Were they influential in your choice to pick Western?

They spoke really highly of their experience but they were really open to other schools. They didn’t try to persuade me.  It was my own decision. They were involved in the business, economics, and biology programs.

Was the Gunnison Valley a big part of them deciding to attend Western?

They were from upstate New York and Illinois and having such a beautiful valley to live in was a key component of coming here.

And your brother attends Western?

Cameron’s in the Exercise and Sports Science program. He’s doing the bike team and the Nordic ski team  and does a ton of WP trips and really thrives off of the outdoor offerings here.

What’s next?

I’d like to go to grad school somewhere, potentially at Western. I want to go explore but I definitely want to come back.


Interview and article by Dustin Eldridge.


Zoe Smith is a Wildlife Biology major at Western with a minor in Recreation and Outdoor Education. The beautiful surroundings of the Gunnison Valley are a big part of why Zoe attends Western; when she’s not in class she might be leading a whitewater rafting trip with Wilderness Pursuits, backcountry skiing in Crested Butte, or instructing with Outward Bound over the summers. Zoe is also a member of the Mountain Sports team, mountain biking in the summer and on the endurance ski team in the winter.