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Resilience, networking bring success for alumna

Mills College Weekly

It’s Sunday morning in Brooklyn, New York. There are a million
things to do, especially if you are a busy professional producing a
major network news show and promoting your new book, like Mills
alumna Taigi Smith. Brunching with girlfriends; a chance to catch
up on some work perhaps; or maybe squeezing a work out in at the
gym are all viable options. If you want to find Smith, it’s more
likely you’ll find her working at her Baptist church bake sale.

Smith is a Bay Area native who grew up in San Francisco’s
Mission district and graduated from Mills in 1994 with a
communications degree. Now she resides in Brooklyn New York, with
her 4-year old Yorkshire terrier Moxie and in spite of a few
disappointments, has worked hard and persevered.

Smith, now 31 years old, said that after graduating from Mills
she had her sights set on the Columbia School of Journalism. She
was devastated when she didn’t get accepted as a graduate student,
but she was determined not to let that stop her from achieving her

“Regardless of what your first year out of Mills is like,” she
said, “if you are resilient and aggressive, [if you] network, and
join professional organizations and keep going after what you feel
you are trained to do, you will. “

Smith has lived by these rules and said that it has helped her
build a successful career over the last ten years. In retrospect,
getting rejected by Columbia wasn’t necessarily a bad thing
according to Smith.

“I would be doing what I am doing now if I had gone to Columbia,
I just wouldn’t be as far along in my career,” she said.

Mills journalism professor Sarah Pollock recalled Smith as a
student who is “unforgettable, and came in with a hunger for news
and telling stories [who] hit the ground running.”

“She didn’t take no for an answer or let obstacles get in her
way,” Pollock said. “She turned everything into an opportunity and
always delivered. I am very proud of her.”

Smith also cautioned against “giving up on your industry”.

“Giving up on your industry is like giving up on yourself,” she
said. “We all worked retail and restaurant jobs after college. We
were scared to do what we felt we were trained in.”

Smith is now an associate producer of CBS’s 48 Hours and just
had her first book published in February. She has also been
published in the San Francisco Chronicle, New York Newsday, Honey
and Essence, to name a few. Her work has also appeared in literary
books, featuring her first person essays.

Smith began with CBS ten years ago and recalled her first break
after many rejections.

“I remember the first man that hired me at CBS almost ten years
ago,” she said. “His sister-in-law is a Mills alum, there was that
Mills connection again.”

Those connections are something that Smith has held as strong
and dear, citing some of her closest friends as Mills graduates.
She has woven some of those connections into her latest independent
project, a book that she compiled and edited, featuring work by
Mills alumna Thembisa Mshaka as well as visiting professors Victor
LaValle and Evelyn C. White.

Sometimes Rhythm, Sometimes Blues; Young African American
Writers on Love, Sex, Relationships and The Search for Mr. Right,
was a “labor of love” according to Smith. She became inspired to
put the book together after observing the state of African-
American heterosexual relationships, in particular the growing
number of single African American women, who are educated,
independent, attractive, have careers and overall are successful,
including herself and many of her friends. The book contains 24
essays which she said “critically dissects” the issues.

Smith feels that her time at Mills made her stronger in the
workforce, citing a “sense of fearlessness” that was instilled in
her. In addition she said that Pollock’s journalism classes were
incredibly valuable in the real world.

“It doesn’t get better than Sarah Pollock’s journalism classes,”
she said. “My clips came in really handy.”

Referring to her newspaper clips from her student articles
published in The Weekly, Smith said that now in a position of
hiring herself, she always asks potential employees if they have
written for their college paper and/or interned anywhere, such as a
TV or radio station.

“You have to intern and write if you want to work in this
business, everyone you’re competing against has,” she said.

She also credits a spiritual foundation as an important part of
her success in life.

“Church is refreshing and helps keep me grounded,” she said.
“They don’t care that I’m a producer and have been on the road.
They want to know where my sweet potato pie is for the bake

Smith will be featured on CBS’s Bay Sunday, hosted by Barbara
Rodges this Sunday, April 25.