Belonging at Baylor Law - Sam Smith, Baylor Law's New Diversity and Events Coordinator

April 20, 2023

Belonging at Baylor Law - Sam Smith, Baylor Law's New Diversity and Events Coordinator

By Van Darden, B.A. ‘07

Sam Smith, Baylor Law's Diversity and Events Coordinator

“It was a role that was needed,” Sam Smith says about her new position as Baylor Law School’s Diversity and Events Coordinator. The conviction in her voice points to her passion not just for the issues surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion – which is considerable – but for the students she serves and supports.

The Waco-area native started at Baylor Law three years ago as an Administrative Associate for Admissions and Financial Aid. “The students of color really took hold of me and I became a counselor for them, someone they could turn to in addition to the faculty. They started feeling comfortable with me,” she says. Through these conversations, one thing became apparent: “We needed more activities and representation for these students, and I wanted to do something about that. I wanted these students to feel appreciated.” What began with a Black History Month appreciation lunch and other diversity programming last year eventually turned into a full-fledged position as of November 2022, one central to the school’s commitment to diversity in the classroom and beyond.

Sam Smith (Left) With Members of Baylor Law's Diversity in Law Student Organization

“The Law School created this role because they saw the work I was doing,” she says. “It’s important to Baylor Law that our students of color have a sense of belonging when they come here. And that's what I want: to make sure that all students of color know they belong. It’s a dream job. I love it.”

Smith says she has a calendar full of planned events, including hosting a monthly quiz day celebrating various cultural heritages. “For Black History Month, we did a quiz day, and students were able to show their knowledge or learn something new. Oh, and win some prizes,” she laughs. For Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, students, faculty, and staff had an opportunity to try their hand at making dumplings under the guidance of a local restaurant owner who demonstrated different techniques for folding dumplings. The music of a local mariachi band created a festive atmosphere for the dinner to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. An important element to Smith’s work is involving the local community whenever possible – specifically including and supporting people of color who own local businesses. “It's important for us to not only celebrate but to educate,” she says.

Sam Smith (3rd from left) With Several Baylor Law Students at the University of Texas Thurgood Marshall Legal Society Black Women's Brunch in February 2023

Another initiative of which Smith is particularly proud is expanding the scope of Baylor Law’s Professional Development Program to include more nontraditional themes, topics, and guests. During Black History Month in February, for example, Smith invited Associate Dean Patricia Wilson to host a roundtable discussion of a documentary on race.

Next on Smith’s radar is establishing a pipeline program for local high school students from Waco, University and La Vega high schools. “We want our young, diverse students to know that we want to see (them) at Baylor Law School four or six years from now,” she says. “Since I have that relationship with the Admissions Office, I already know how recruitment works. I've also been attending events to connect with diverse college students throughout the country.”

She said all these efforts are driven by the difference she knows she’s making on the lives of students at Baylor Law School. “My personal mission is to do things in excellence,” she says. “When I walk into the law center each day, that's my goal. And my students drive me to that. They’re constantly saying how much I mean to them, and they are so glad that I'm here. That's what keeps me going.”

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Established in 1857, Baylor University School of Law was one of the first law schools in Texas and one of the first west of the Mississippi River. Today, the school has more than 7,600 living alumni. It is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Baylor Law has a record of producing outstanding lawyers, many of whom decide upon a career in public service. The Law School boasts two governors, members or former members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, two former directors of the FBI, U.S. ambassadors, federal judges, justices of the Texas Supreme Court and members of the Texas Legislature, among its notable alumni. In its law specialties rankings, U.S. News & World Report ranked Baylor Law's trial advocacy program as one of the top 5 in the nation. Baylor Law is also ranked in the top 50 in the magazine's 2019 edition of "America's Best Graduate Schools." The National Jurist ranks Baylor Law as one of the "Best School for Practical Training," and in the top 15 "Best Law School Facilities" in the country. The Business Insider places Baylor Law among the top 50 law schools in the nation. Baylor Law received the 2015 American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award, making it only the third law school in the nation to be honored with the award since the award's inception in 1984. Learn more at

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. Learn more at

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