Nicole Smith: Hoops and Hopes

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From Barrow, Alaska, to Highline Community College, to a UW Tacoma degree in environmental science, Nicole Smith follows her route to the future.

Nicole Smith, '16, Environmental ScienceNicole Smith is a talented basketball player. The Alaska native hooped for Highline Community College. “My coach somehow found out about me and made the trip up to recruit me,” said Smith.

That was a long recruiting trip. Smith grew up in Barrow, Alaska. Barrow—the northernmost city in the United States—is roughly 2,000 miles from the Highline campus. Smith had offers to continue playing basketball at four-year institutions after she finished community college. “I didn’t want basketball to be my job,” she said. “I made the decision to go to school instead of play.”

Smith enrolled at UW Tacoma and chose environmental science as her major. “I really like science and I care about the environment so I thought this was a good route for me to take,” she said.

The 22-year-old says it took her a while to feel comfortable on campus. “It’s been in my senior year that I really started blooming and making a ton of friends,” Smith said. “I kind of wish I’d done it earlier because I’ve met some really awesome people.”

Smith hasn’t decided on her next step. She’s weighing getting a graduate degree but wants to take a break from school. Smith is also considering moving back to Alaska. She still has family in the area, many of whom are members of the local Iñupiat tribe. “I love Alaska and Barrow is such a unique place but I’m still 50-50 about what I’m going to do,” Smith said.

Written by: 
Eric Wilson-Edge / June 2, 2016
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or