40 under 40 honoree: Jamelia Outlaw Smith (ABJ ’03)

40 under 40 honoree: Jamelia Outlaw Smith (ABJ ’03)

September 17, 2020

Grady College is proud to have four alumni recognized as 2020 40 under 40 honorees, presented by the University of Georgia Alumni Association.

The 40 under 40 distinction recognizes the personal, professional and philanthropic achievements of UGA graduates under the age of 40.

This interview with Jamelia Outlaw Smith (ABJ ’03), director of diversity and inclusion at Cox Enterprises, is one of a series of conversations with Grady’s honorees this year. Other honorees are:

Ashley McMaster (ABJ ’12)
Eric Jones (ABJ ’12)
Mikaya Thurmond (ABJ ’12)

Grady College: What experience during your time in college had the biggest influence on where you are today?

Smith: “I’ll choose two experiences. My time as a resident assistant in Creswell Hall–yes, I chose to stay in Creswell for an extra two years–and my summer as an orientation leader. These experiences had an incredible impact on where I am today because these jobs reinforced my love for guiding and directing the experiences of young people and my interest in making an impact. As both a resident assistant and orientation leader, I was the first introduction both parents and students had to the University of Georgia. In a small way, I hope I was able to shape their experience in a positive way. Throughout my career, I’ve always been able to guide and support employees and members of the community, and I think much of that comes from my early days at UGA.”

Grady College: What advice do you have for current students?

Smith: “Don’t rush it! Everyone is in such a hurry to finish school and move on with their lives. That’s definitely how I felt while I was there. Now, looking back almost 20 years later, I wish I had slowed down a bit and enjoyed the experience more. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not encouraging students to spend five or six years in school. But just enjoy this moment in your life and find some way to leave Athens and UGA a better place than when you found it.”

Grady College: How has your UGA community helped you in your career?

Smith: “UGA grads are everywhere! There isn’t a place I can go where I can’t strike up a conversation about Georgia football or something else happening at UGA. This has been invaluable during my career. I started off in sales, and as a young African American woman, I sometimes struggled to find commonalities amongst my clients. Then I discovered animals and alma maters. People love to talk about their pets and their college football teams. Thanks, UGA, for always giving me something to talk about!”

Grady College: What was your vision for your career? Have you followed this path?

Smith: “This is a great question. I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up. I’ve always been open to the next big adventure! What I do know is that as I get older, I gain more clarity about who I am, what I need and what type of work fills my cup. My vision was to always have a job where I can give more than I take. If you asked me if I have followed this path, I would say that yes, most of the roles I’ve had I’ve been able to leave a bigger footprint than I’ve taken and for that I’m grateful.”

Jamelia Outlaw Smith and her family on a beach vacation together
Smith, her husband and two children take a selfie together on vacation. Hard work means balancing life as a professional and parent.

Grady College: How have unprecedented times in 2020 challenged your work as a professional?

Smith: “Well since you asked–LOL! My husband and I each have a full-time job and two small kids at home. We are no different from many families that struggled to be full-time while maintaining our sanity and our careers. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve relied a lot on my faith and the grace of God to get us through this difficult season. In June, we were dealt another blow following the killing of George Floyd and the unrest that followed. As a diversity and inclusion professional, this impacted me directly and I have never been busier. The work is hard and heavy and while I don’t sleep much these days, I’m grateful for the opportunity to help create real change, even if that happens one company at a time!”

Grady College: What did you love most about your time at UGA?

Smith: “ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING! On a more serious note: friends who turned into family, football and the food. Yes, I loved the late night pizza at Snelling.”