Alumnus Shows Versatility of Anthropology Degree

Brian Smith boards the submarine USS Annapolis.

Anthropology and nuclear physics seem worlds apart, but Brian Smith proves that’s not the case.

As an Orlando native, Smith had been around UCF his whole life. Ultimately, the university’s growing campus and reputation encouraged him to pursue his education here.

“For me, it was exciting to be on the ground floor of a revolutionary change to Florida’s higher education landscape,” Smith said.

Smith first became interested in anthropology while taking an introductory course at UCF. He originally intended to pursue a degree in engineering, but the stories his professor told about field work in North America intrigued him. After a second anthropology class, he changed his major.

Bowling at the White House

After graduating, Smith entered the U.S. Navy’s Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida. Shortly after his commission, he was selected to serve at Naval Reactors, a joint Department of Energy/ Navy program in Washington, D.C. After his active duty assignment, he continued to work at Naval Reactors as a federal civilian as director of Finance and Budget.

Currently, Smith is the director of Management and Administration with Naval Reactors as part of the Senior Executive Service, an exclusive leadership position held by less than one percent of federal civilians.

“My current position is heavily focused on human capital management,” Smith said. “I oversee personnel matters for a headquarters and field office staff of 400 federal civilians in two executive branch agencies and 400 military members.”

Some memorable moments from his career include delivering a briefing in the White House’s situation room, and standing on top of a submarine while dolphins swam past. But the most rewarding moments for Smith is mentoring future senior executives.

“Senior leaders owe it to the next generation to pass along perspectives gained through successes and failures,” he said.

Smith credits the Anthropology faculty at UCF for pushing him to think outside the box and evaluate his preconceived notions and biases.

“The evolution of my own perception of the people around me prepared me for the complex personal interactions that occur every day in Washington, D.C.,” he said.

His advice for current and future students? Hard work is key.

“The results don’t matter nearly as much as the effort,” he said. “As long as you know you could not have tried harder, it’s easy to be proud and learn from the experience.”

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