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Second Time's a Charm for UC's 'Mr. Bearcat' Nate Smith


Each year, the Sigma Sigma honorary fraternity bestows the title of “Mr. Bearcat” upon a graduating man who has achieved academic success, demonstrated leadership in diverse settings and contributed to the University of Cincinnati with “Bearcat Spirit.”

Date: 6/4/2009 12:00:00 AM
By: Wendy Beckman
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Photos By: Ashley Kempher, photojournalist

UC ingot   Like many Mr. Bearcats before him, Nate Smith is a College of Business student. And like many UC students and Mr. Bearcats, he is full of Bearcat Spirit. But unlike the other Mr. Bearcats, he has already been featured in a Mr. Bearcat profile. Did you ever see this photo?

Bearcat mascot, a binturong and Mr. Bearcat 2007, Dominic Berardi.
Three Bearcats in 2007. Will the real Nate Smith please stand up?

No, Nate is not Dominic Berardi (Mr. Bearcat 2007), and he was not the precursor to Lucy the binturong (the bearcat at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden). Nate’s the one on the left, for he is now allowed to admit that he was a UC Bearcat mascot his sophomore year.

Nate Smith in Marge Schott Stadium.
Nate played many sports at Fairview High School, especially baseball.

So how did he come to this? What brings a young man from Bryan, Ohio, down to Cincinnati to go to college when no one else in his family came here and his high school guidance counselor didn’t even suggest it to him as a place to consider?

“Its highly ranked co-op program was a huge factor,” he says. “And athletics. Basketball was big at the time. To have that atmosphere was very attractive.” Nate also adds that he was chosen to be the Bearcat mascot in the year that UC entered the Big East, so it was doubly exciting for him. He had played sports in high school and to be able to attend all the games was a big thrill.

Beyond all that, though, “I just wanted to experience a new place,” he says. “I took a tour and immediately fell in love with the place.”

You might say that Nate Smith was a young man of vision even then. The Campus Rec Center was still a year and a half away from opening; the “bubbles” were still up because Tangeman University Center had just been completed; and the Lindner Center was “a big hole in the ground,” as Nate describes it.

Nate stands on the amazing staircase in the Richard E. Lindner Center.
Nate says when he first visited UC, the Lindner Center 'was a big hole in the ground.'

“I asked my parents what they thought and they said, ‘It’s going to look awesome when it’s done,’” Nate says.

He points out that the architecture on campus is astounding and is definitely a big draw. And now that all the construction is completed?

“It was definitely worth the wait!” he says.

Besides being passionate about the physical environment of the campus, Nate Smith is also passionate about the campus community. For two-and-a-half years, he has been a Peer Educator with the UC Wellness Center.

“I was good friends with some people who worked there who were older than I was,” Nate says. “I got to know the bosses who suggested that I apply for a job. I applied, interviewed, was hired and away we went!”

“Away” indeed. In her glowing nomination letter for Nate, Nicole Lepone, the assistant director of the UC Wellness Center, talked about the impact he has had on his fellow students.

William Nester left UC as its associate provost and retired as chancellor emeritus of the University of Nebraska-Kearney.
Nate with William Nester at the SALD Awards Banquet.

“Nate is committed to working with and improving the lives of the students at the University of Cincinnati,” she wrote. “His involvement with and dedication to Camp Bearcat, a first-year student leadership retreat, has allowed this event to not only impact the lives of 120 first-year students, but also give the newest members of our community something for which to strive. Nate is an exemplary role model; students desire to follow in his footsteps, and faculty and staff cherish working with this one-of-a-kind young man.”

Through the Peer Educator program, Nate and his colleagues present programs to their fellow students in an intimate atmosphere in their own locations, on such things as nutrition, stress management, alcohol, body image and sexual health.

“It’s different from making a presentation in front of a large gathering of people,” Nate explains. “It’s a totally different atmosphere. It’s neat being able to influence other students in a way that not a lot of people see. You and another Peer Educator might be talking to 10 freshmen in their learning community about issues in their lives. It’s something that affects their life not just while they’re here in college but even after they graduate.”

One of Nate's proudest moments was when RallyCats was named student group of the year.
Nate just finished up a term as president of RallyCats.

In addition to his Peer Educator activities, Nate has also been very active in RallyCats, having been president in his third year.

“One of my proudest moments was when they got the student group of the year award,” he says. “They are truly an open, welcoming group. Anyone can come in.”

He has also participated in Bearcat Live, Student Alumni Council and Men of Metro, and just finished up as president of Sigma Sigma and Omicron Delta Kappa.

“I learned real early how to prioritize and how to spend time well,” he says. That will serve him well in his future career, no doubt. Nate is an operations management major in the College of Business. He already has a job waiting for him in New York City as an operations resource leader with Sabra Dipping Co., makers of Sabra hummus and refrigerated dips.

“They came here to recruit my chemical engineering roommate and he realized that what they needed was an operations management type, so he suggested they interview me,” Nate says, laughing. “So the guy I didn’t even know five years ago got me a job.”

Nate and his roommates met five years ago either by being randomly assigned to the same room or same wing of Daniels. When they decided to move off campus, they all got a house together.

What advice does Nate have for the new batch of students coming in to be “randomly assigned” to residence halls in the fall of 2009?

“Find your passion, what drives you, and go with it,” he says. “With more than 300 student organizations on campus, you’re bound to find something you’re interested in. And if there isn’t a group for your interest, it’s really easy to form one. From there it will open other doors.”

Nate Smith in James Gamble Nippert Stadium.
Nate says he doesn't think other schools 'can match the value that you get' at UC.

And when Nate returns to his hometown of Bryan and visits his alma mater of Fairview High School in nearby Sherwood, Ohio, he’ll encourage other students to follow in his southward footsteps.

“With UC’s co-op program, top academic programs, robust student life and the whole SALD office in general — they’re great in that office — students should absolutely consider coming to UC,” he says. “I don’t think other schools can match the value that you get here.”