When Siena Smith attended the Women in LEADership event in November 2022, she didn’t know she’d be receiving the first-ever Carol Grafton Impact Award.
The award celebrates LEAD Scholars, especially women in LEAD, who demonstrate commitment to community service and social justice.
Carol Grafton’s husband, Steve, was the president and CEO of the Alumni Association for 28 years, retiring in the fall of 2022. During his tenure, the LEAD Scholarship program was established and together, the two established the LEAD Scholars Leaders and Best Community Program Fund with their own generous philanthropic gift.
Smith, a junior engineering student at UM-Dearborn, is also on the women’s basketball team, a member of the Society of Women Engineers, vice president of the Biomedical Engineering Society, a member of the LEAD Advisory Board, and the LEAD Ambassador for UM-Dearborn. She’s known for always volunteering to help others, attending every event she can, and working to enhance the LEAD community by connecting the Dearborn and Ann Arbor campuses — all of which made her a clear choice for the first recipient of the award.
“When thinking about the scholar who epitomizes this award, Siena was the perfect choice,” says Phyllis Taylor, the LEAD Scholars and Student Recruitment Manager. “As a member of the LEAD Advisory Board and ambassador for the UM-Dearborn campus, she takes the lead on organizing gatherings to get her fellow Dearborn Scholars together for community building. In addition, she graciously gives her time and effort to connect both campuses together, making sure Dearborn Scholars are supported and feel part of the greater LEAD community.”
Before receiving the award, Smith had made a personal connection with Carol Grafton, recalling that she was “absolutely amazing” after getting to know each other during a U-M football game.
“I’d already formed a relationship with her, so she was so genuinely happy for me, it was awesome,” Smith recalls. “We’d really connected, so it meant a lot to get that from her and in honor of her.”
“It’s a great honor to have my name on this award, but what pleases me even more is to see someone like Siena be recognized with it,” Grafton says. “She is an excellent role model for others in demonstrating a deep commitment to values that also matter to me — community service and social justice.”
Smith grew up in Ann Arbor and went to Ann Arbor Huron High School before applying to UM-Dearborn and the LEAD Scholarship program. Though she hopes to pursue a career in orthotics and prosthetics after graduation, she’s looking for ways to start giving back now.
“I feel like it’s not enough to just be a part of the scholarship program, I want to do something more to at least give back — not only use the LEAD Scholarship but build it up and do more with it.”
Smith is a self-proclaimed introvert but recognizes how important it is for her and others to take on leadership roles.
“If I can practice putting myself out there and trying to take on these leadership roles, I think it will help me in the future but also help other people say ‘Hey, if she can do it, I can do it.’”
Katherine Fiorillo is the editor of Michigan Alum.