Harper College

Ten Questions with Kei Smith

Ten Questions with Kei SmithNot a minute of Kei Smith’s time at Harper College is wasted. 

In 2022, she founded the Asian Student Association with the goal of creating a space for community and cross-cultural sharing within many Asian identities. 

In the 2022-23 academic year, she became the president of Harper’s Pride Club, while also serving as an Illinois Ambassador for the Human Rights Campaign at the Kenneth Young Center. 

And on top of all of that, she has fully embraced her role as the 2023-24 student trustee where she seeks to connect the Harper Board of Trustees to the student perspective.

Even walking up to meet us for this interview, she was wiping dirt off her hands after a long morning of planting native plants on campus with the environmental club. But when she’s not set on changing the world, you can find her rolling on the ground laughing with her sister.

1. Describe your perfect day.

My perfect day would start with waking up at my grandparents’ home in Osaka, Japan. I’d take a walk with my grandpa then head downtown to visit some of my favorite restaurants. Then at night I’d catch up with some friends and go to a festival. In the summer months, they have really fun festivals with a lot of dancing, food and community. I love it there. It’s my home away from home and where I go to rejuvenate and reconnect with my Japanese identity.

2. You could be best friends with any fictional character; who do you choose and why? 

Annabeth Chase from the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series. She’s smart, ambitious and loyal. She’s a bit snarky at times, but beneath her tough exterior, she’s a very kind person who looks out for the people she cares about. She’s also really into architecture and I could talk about that all day with her.

3. What's the best advice you ever received?

I remember some of my mentors and teachers in high school saying, “Once you get through high school and you get to college, you’ll fly.” They encouraged me to trust the process and stick through school because so much good can come from it. And they were right. I’ve discovered issues and people I care about and I’ve been able to make the most of my experience so far, so those were strong words of encouragement. 

4. If you could instantly become an expert at something, what would you choose and why?

Marine biology! Mostly because I love animals and I love the ocean, so it would be awesome to take care of marine life and understand it better because there’s so much about the ocean that we don’t know. 

5. What’s the hardest you ever laughed? 

Too many to count! But I would say anytime I’m with my sister. We have the same sense of humor and a very similar lived experience, so sometimes all it takes is a glance and we’re both cracking up. She’s also really good at imitating voices and telling stories, so yeah – anytime I’m with my sister is when I laugh the hardest.

6. What’s your favorite account to follow on social media and why?

I’m trying not to use social media too much, but I really like Why You Should Have a Cat on X (formerly Twitter). It’s just cute and funny pictures of cats. I also really like Carol Cleveland Sings on Instagram. Basically, they take toy pianos and accordions and non-traditional instruments and they recreate famous melodies. It’s fun because you never know what instrument they’re going to use to recreate “Jolene” or something like that. 

7. It’s your turn to sing karaoke. What song do you choose and why? 

I grew up with a lot of Disney, so I would probably choose a Disney song like “Reflection” from Mulan, “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid or “Go the Distance” from Hercules. These songs were such a big part of my childhood, so I could step up to the karaoke stage and remember the melodies and lyrics pretty easily. 

8. What do you wonder about?

I often wonder how long the human race will survive. When is our extinction point, and what will become of planet Earth? How will it survive, or will it survive? 

9. What’s something you’re hopeful for?

I’m hopeful for a more sustainable future. Globally, of course, but also in the little ways we can help in our communities. Little things like planting more greenery at Harper, or finding a way to bring more fresh food to campus. I just want to be able to make a difference wherever I am.

10. What do you love most about Harper College?

I really appreciate how much Harper works towards representing the “community” in community college. I’ve always felt like the people here are invested in my success – my advisors, my professors and even my peers. There’s just a really strong network of support and encouragement here and I wouldn’t have gotten that if I started at a four-year university. 

Last Updated: 3/14/24