PROUD. STRONG. HUMBLE. MEET DR RENE SMITH
By Khethukuthula Lembethe.
Dr Rene Alicia Smith refuses to be defined as bubbly, spontaneous, assertive, strict or intelligent. She is all these and more.
Smith, a media academic, is the acting executive dean in the Durban University of Technology’s Faculty of Arts and Design. She’s also a senior lecturer in the Department of Media, Languages and Communication, and supervises post graduate students. She used to work for the M.L Sultan Technikon and Natal Technikon respectively. Upon her return years later, she was appointed as a senior lecturer and thereafter the DUT Journalism Programme Coordinator before taking up her current post.
But it’s not her job or qualifications that make her stand out. Rather, it’s her humility, passion and drive – with these being inspired by her family.
“Many of the opportunities I had are because of my family. They remind me of my core values,” says Smith.
It’s not surprising to find out that Smith is a proud feminist, as she served as chairperson of a feminist media NGO and as board member of other Section 21 companies.
“I am a proud feminist, and I am non apologetic about it. It is the only label I wear with pride,” she says.
She has chaired several appeal hearings of the Review Board of the Film & Publication Board (FPB), which she was appointed to at age 25 and was its youngest member. She served two terms with the FPB. She was also a member of ICASA’s Broadcasting Monitoring & Complaints Committee and in January 2012 was formally appointed to the Board of the Media Development and Diversity Agency.
“I was in leadership positions from the age of 25, or even earlier. My parents brought me up to be in leadership. They would tell me, ‘You were born for this. Do it’,” says Smith.
One can wonder with all her achievements how does she maintain her bubbly personality. Are there no people who pull her down?
“A favourite quote by a Buddhist keeps me sane. ‘How people treat you is their karma, how you react is your karma’. So I always keep my head high,” she says.
Smith feels she symbolises opportunity for other women to see that they have a chance, even if society tends to feel that assertiveness is a male characteristic.
“I’m always drawn to the front line even when I want to be in the background. I owe it to my family and the people who lost their lives for me. I have earned my colleagues’ respect,” she says.