Hi, I'm Kelly Smith, communications and drought resources specialist at the National Drought Mitigation Center, which is based at UNL's School of Natural Resources.
I grew up in Springfield, Missouri, where I started my working life in high school at Baskin Robbins, and enjoyed the miraculous stay-thin powers of youth as I vigorously sampled my way through all 31-plus flavors, with special attention to Jamoca Almond Fudge. The summer after high school I had the good fortune to get a job with the Youth Conservation Corps at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, where I built split rail fencing and cleared poison ivy in the height of the hot, humid Ozarks summer. I loved it. Later I worked at a newsstand, which I felt kept me grounded in the basics of life, at a women's clothing store in a mall, which was not me, to put it mildly, and as a waitress at a German restaurant, where I felt I acquired a basic life skill that made me employable anywhere.
I graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1984 with a B.A. in history and a minor in French, and then went on to the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, where I received a master's degree in 1985 with a concentration in print - the ancient art of arranging ink on paper in ways that are informative, timely, not likely to get anyone sued, serving the idea that a well-informed electorate is crucial to proper functioning of democracy, all that sort of thing. My first couple of "real" jobs were at daily newspapers, the Belleville (Illinois) News-Democrat, and the Waukesha (Wisconsin) County Freeman. I then made the jump to corporate public relations, working for a big printing company in Wisconsin for several years. Among other things, I ghost-wrote for Gruff, the company's real live goat and environmental mascot.
When we moved to Nebraska in 1994 I went to work for Don Wilhite. I became the first official employee of the National Drought Mitigation Center in 1995, and I brag that I helped invent the U.S. Drought Monitor. After several years I could no longer resist the siren song of further graduate studies, so I took what turned out to be a six-year leave of absence in the early 2000s, and got a master's in Community and Regional Planning with a focus on social planning. I ended up working with Lincoln's African refugee populations on behalf of various faith-based and non-profit organizations. I found this work extremely absorbing but after several years of increasingly altruistic effort, my husband suggested, rather reasonably, that perhaps I could seek work that paid a little more consistently, so I found myself with the incredible good fortune to be back at the Drought Center in 2006. Part of my appointment followed Don Wilhite to the School of Natural Resources in 2007, where I wrote news releases, edited the Director's Report and Inside SNR, helped with web content, and took on other projects as they came up. In 2012, all of me returned to the Drought Center.