Looking to gain a better understanding of the world and its people, Valene Lucy Smith has dedicated her life to anthropology, geography, and tourism. She has loved traveling since childhood, and has been to almost every country in the world. These experiences taught her that there is more to her field than people understand and led her to teaching travel geography and tourism. This is also what separates Dr. Smith from her peers; while many other anthropologists are caught up in human behavior, she looks at human behavior as a response to different environments, land areas, and uses. Over the years, she has published her findings in books like “Hosts and Guests Revisited” and “Tourism Alternatives: Potentials and Problems in the Development of Tourism.”
One of the highlights of Dr. Smith’s career was establishing a museum of anthropology at California State University. It takes up 4,000 sq. ft., has two galleries, and is located right across from the school library. Dr. Smith has served as the building’s director since its opening in 2010. Another highlight was when she was asked by the city school system in Los Angeles, California, to teach a course for the families of WWII soldiers who had been overseas. Dr. Smith maintained that role for a number of years; over time, the class grew to be between 60 to 100 students and it became very diverse. She really enjoyed it because the students asked real-life questions about places they’d been.
Dr. Smith prepared for her endeavors by earning a PhD in anthropology from The University of Utah in 1966, a MA in geography from the University of California in 1950, and a BA in geography from the University of California in 1946. She also became a certified travel counselor and accrued hands-on experience as a professor of Earth science at the Los Angeles City College and a professor of anthropology at California State University. To keep in touch with her peers, she joined prominent organizations like the International Academy for the Study of Tourism, Certified Travel Counselors, the American Anthropological Association, the American Association of University Women, and Soroptimists International.
In recognition of her hard work and dedication, Dr. Smith was honored with the Ulysses Laureate Award from the World Tourism Organization in Madrid, Spain, in 2018, and with the Athena Award from the United States Chamber of Commerce in 1988. Other notable accolades include being named a Fulbright professor in Peshawar, Pakistan, from 1953 to 1954, and being included in numerous editions of Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Education, Who’s Who in Science and Engineering, Who’s Who in the West, Who’s Who in the World, and Who’s Who of American Women.
When Dr. Smith has free time, she enjoys aviation and photography.