Jason Smethers is like the wizard of Oz. He prefers to be behind the curtain instead of on stage. In fact, he prefers for anyone reading this profile to just stop now and move along, but we wanted to pull back the curtain and find out more about Smethers and his role as our college data analyst.
Smethers spent half of his childhood in Kansas and the other half in Northern Kentucky. He played in the band during high school and thought he wanted to teach high school band, so he went to Eastern Kentucky University and majored in music education. During college, however, he discovered the wonders of student life and decided he wanted to be in higher education instead.
“I loved college life,” Smethers said. “When I learned I could do it for a living, everything changed.”
After graduating with a BA in music education, Smethers went to the University of Kansas. He received his MS in higher education administration, but hit a roadblock after graduation.
“I finished grad school at the height of the recession when every university was in the midst of a hiring freeze,” Smethers said. The love of his life lived in Knoxville, however. “I wanted to be near my now wife, but didn’t know what I wanted to do so I took temp pool jobs at UT for a year – including a position moving books in the library.”
His first real job at UT was in the Registrar’s office. He learned Banner and soon became the go-to guy for all questions about the registration system. Smethers received another temporary appointment in the Provost’s office as a special assistant to Sally McMillan and when that was about to end, the data analyst position in the College of Arts and Sciences opened.
As the college data analyst, Smethers provides support for college initiatives, departmental projects, and a variety of requests from the Provost’s office and other areas of UT administration.
“Jason is our ace in the hole with regards to getting quality and useful data and then providing analysis of that data that reflects the diversity of the college,” said Chuck Collins, associate dean for academic programs.
“I was fortunate to get this position and have loved being here ever since,” Smethers said. “Everyone at UT is passionate about what they are doing – at all levels – and I love that about working at this university.”
When he is not crunching numbers in Ayres Hall, Smethers is trying to finish his PhD in communications and information with a focus on organizational leadership.
“I also spend a lot of my time chasing around the craziest three-year-old in Tennessee,” Smethers said. “And when I’m not doing that, I spend quite a bit of my remaining time as the advisor to the Esports club at UT helping them become the next big thing on campus. My wife says I live vicariously through their experiences.”
Smethers enjoys reading and would love to have lunch with Douglas Adams because, “I know the answer is 42, but what is the question?”
While he does not have a motto for life, Smethers tries to live his life the way his dad has always done – as the most relaxed, chill, cool person.
“Sometimes things just happen and we can’t really do much about them,” Smethers said. “It’s better to focus in on the now and how to be better down the road than worry about what has already happened.”