2023 Distinguished Alumni

Barbara J. Smith ('01)

Barbara Smith Headshot

Barbara J. Smith

M. A., Political Science (’01) 

The Carter Center, Vice President for Peace Programs

Barbara J. Smith has circled the globe representing the U.S. Agency for International Development on policy matters in Brussels, Paris, and Nairobi. Now, as the vice president for peace programs at The Carter Center, Smith calls on her international experiences as she fights for human rights around the world.

Smith oversees more than 70 staff members and the development and implementation of some 30 program initiatives for the not-for-profit Carter Center, which former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, founded in 1982.

Carter Center CEO Paige Alexander first worked with Smith in 2011 at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). They collaborated in 2012 to coordinate what Alexander called “life-saving and transformational aid” to the Middle East in response to the Arab Spring, a series of anti-government protests and uprisings that spread throughout the region.

“Her style of leadership, interpersonal skills, background, and experiences — rooted from her studies at Texas State — gave her credibility among many audiences, including congressional staff, think tank scholars, international delegations from other countries with interest in the work, and our own U.S. government agencies,” said Alexander, reflecting on their shared experiences.

With her experience in conflict resolution, governance, and diplomacy, Smith is often involved in pressing international issues. For instance, she’s currently helping lead a team to further the peace process in Mali, a country that has seen its government overthrown three times since 2012.

Smith also stays connected to her Texas State roots. The political science grad has met with TXST President Kelly Damphousse, attends alumni events as often as she can, and mentors students to help them succeed. She doesn’t miss an opportunity to share about The Carter Center’s robust internship program with students seeking a career in international development.

Alexander says Smith’s job at The Carter Center requires her to work with donors and interested countries as well as weigh in on some of the hardest challenges in international relations.

“She focuses on some of the most difficult and intractable problems facing our world, in places like the West Bank/Gaza and the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Alexander said. “She engages with the senior-most government officials and civil society organizations in these countries to discuss how The Carter Center can assist. Barbara has done remarkable work on behalf of the most vulnerable populations. Texas State University should be proud of her work and her status as an alum.”