by Samantha Mendoza
Zane Smith fell in love with St. Mary’s University the first time he set foot on campus for his college tour.
Originally from McKinney, Smith said he was “the most introverted person you could have possibly met” in high school, and he didn’t know which career path he wanted to pursue. But he was certain of one thing — beginning his college journey at St. Mary’s “just felt right.”
Eager to take advantage of all the University offered, Smith dove headfirst into a diverse array of student activities.
“I really hit the ground running,” Smith said. “I was joining any organization that would let me in the door trying to figure out exactly where I fit.”
One of the organizations Smith joined was Gamma Iota Sigma, the St. Mary’s chapter of the international organization dedicated to promoting student interest in insurance and risk management careers. The group attracted Smith for its professional development events and, within three days, inspired him to change his major to Finance and Risk Management.
“The major is really unique because it’s almost like a double major,” he said. “It gives you an understanding of risk management principles to work in the finance industry, but it’s also useful in risk management and insurance to have a financial toolset.”
Smith’s involvement in Gamma Iota Sigma allowed him to network with leaders and chapter members across the country to discuss topics he was learning in the major. He became passionate about advocating for increased diversity, equity and inclusion efforts within the industry.
Zane Smith, senior Finance and Risk Management major
“The St. Mary’s mission is about growing leaders who are transformational.”
“The insurance industry has historically not been diverse at all. There’s a lot of nepotism,” Smith said. “I’m working to open those doors for populations that have never had these doors open for them before. It’s been exciting to set a new standard for the industry that will impact future generations.”
Now in his senior year, Smith is chapter president of Gamma Iota Sigma. He set out to create for other students the same transformational experience he encountered.
“Through Zane’s efforts, our chapter has become one of the largest and most prominent of the 100 collegiate Gamma Iota Sigma chapters nationwide,” said Professor of Finance David Sommer, Ph.D., who is the Charles E. Cheever Chair of Risk Management and serves on the board of trustees for Gamma Iota Sigma.
Smith is committed to providing opportunities for students both on and off the St. Mary’s campus. With the national Gamma Iota Sigma chapter, he helped launch a foundation to provide direct financial support for minority students who are underrepresented in the insurance profession.
“Zane is going to change the industry,” said Nikia Stowe, the national vice president for University Relations and Member Services at Gamma Iota Sigma. “He always answers the call when needed and uses his platform to advocate for others.”
Smith, who often gives university tours in his trademark bright yellow, St. Mary’s spirit shoes and volunteers at events across campus as a President’s Ambassador, plans to continue giving back to the St. Mary’s community even after graduation.
“The St. Mary’s mission is about growing leaders who are transformational,” Smith said. “I’m hoping to be able to live out those values in the next chapter of my life and continue doing whatever I can to uplift future St. Mary’s students to have the same opportunities and experiences I’ve had.”