Macalester Today Fall 2010

Kiah Zellner-Smith ’14 South High School, Minneapolis

Kiah Zellner-Smith was so shy in middle school that she avoided raising her hand in class. Four years later, by then senior class president, she delivered a speech to an audience of several thousand at Minneapolis South High School’s graduation. “It was one of the most amazing days of my life,” she says. “I used to be nervous talking in front of a group, but this time it just felt like home.” Which is exactly what she was hoping Macalester would soon feel like, despite having never expected to find herself at a hometown college.

"I’d like to be fluent in French and start another language as well. Why not?"

“I didn’t think at first that I wanted to stay in the Twin Cities,” she says. “But I wanted a smaller school, and I couldn’t see myself spending four years in a cornfield town.”

Mac’s generous financial aid package helped, but it was by no means the decisive factor. “The University of Minnesota would have been way cheaper—almost free,” she says. But back in the ’80s, Kiah’s mother had been unhappy and lost at the gigantic university, and she urged her daughter to consider all the benefits of attending a smaller college. “I’ll know all the teachers and they’ll know me—the size makes me feel good,” she says.

Like many first-year students, Kiah has no idea what she’ll major in, but she has established interests she plans to pursue. Four years of high school French plus a summer trip to France with an aunt has “inspired me to continue studying French,” she says. “I’d like to be fluent in French and start another language as well. Why not?” She also loves drawing and photography and is pleased that non-art majors can easily take those classes.

Speaking of classes, her head was spinning at the list of possible first-year courses alone. “I signed up for classes on race, global emerging diseases, linguistics, psychology—it’s so hard to pick just a few! They’re so much more interesting than high school classes.”