Kelly Smith, Director of Development for COTA, combines her passions to serve students


KENNESAW, Ga. (Feb 13, 2019) — Kelly Smith is the new Director of Development for the College of the Arts (COTA). She joins the KSU staff after working with United Way as the community engagement director for Cobb County. Smith’s love of advocating for college students, coupled with an exceptional career in nonprofit fundraising, makes her the perfect fit to bring a flame of passion to her position and to COTA.

It is easy to recognize that Smith is passionate about the students. Having only been in her position for two weeks, Smith made it clear through her actions that her work is for the students; she attended the Black and Gold Scholarship Interview Day less than a week into her new role. Of the event, Smith says, “During the Black and Gold Scholarship Interview Day, I heard life stories from two young men that almost brought me to tears. Stories like theirs keep me balanced, centered and humbled; they are good reminders of why I do what I do.”

Smith’s path to the nonprofit sector is marked by fate. She started her career in insurance and financial services and from there, was introduced to the nonprofit sector by creating a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and working for the owner of the agency she worked with. In this role, Smith was responsible for making connections to potentially implement financial literacy programs into nonprofit organizations. It was this experience that initiated her passion for fundraising and development. She made the decision to do this work full time, which is how she moved into a position at United Way and, subsequently, Kennesaw State.

It is not by chance that Smith has found herself with COTA. Her undergraduate degree is in vocal performance from Spelman College. She taught vocal lessons for nine years and still sings in the choir at her church. Smith says her new position has been a wonderful marriage of everything she knows, including her personal life. Currently, her children are in the same stage of life as the students she serves. She has a lot of wisdom to share with students and prospective students about college and finding the right place for their education, and students are free to stop by her office or contact her at any time. In fact, her cell phone is listed as a point of contact.

Smith says the students are the lifeblood of what she does and why she does it. She plans to set up forums with students who receive scholarships.

“I can have all the data in the world to talk to a donor, but taking the story of a student and why they decided to major in their respective major, what challenges they faced coming to KSU, and what the scholarship has done for them is important for me,” says Smith.

Tobhiyah Emiohe