"Follow you heart and follow your dreams. Major in something you love and can innovate in."
Filmmaker Ya' Ke Smith expresses gratitude when asked about the University of the Incarnate Word. In talking to him, he recognizes Faith and Innovation as the two most important tenets of UIW. He explained how UIW professors such as Dora Fitzgerald and Dr. Roberta Leichnitz served as vital inspiration for him in the Communication Arts program as a young McNair Scholar. In May 2011, Ya' Ke Smith's most recent film, Katrina's Son, was shown at the Cannes Film Festival. Katrina's Son is about a son's journey through the streets of San Antonio looking for his mother after Hurricane Katrina's devastation. His film is a culmination of dedication and faith over many years.
When Ya' Ke was growing up, he always had a knack for helping his friends and showing them how to do things. It wasn't until many years later that he realized his passion for teaching. Currently Ya' Ke serves as an Assistant Professor at UT Arlington and in May was named UIW Alumni of Distinction. He takes pride in working with numerous first generation college students and helping them find their voice. As a former McNair Scholar, Ya' Ke developed and honed his faith and creativity here at UIW, taking his first film theory class here as well as building his own voice.
Ya' Ke shared that Incarnate Word taught him faith. "Not just in a higher power, but also faith in yourself." He explained how many first generation college students don't know they already have the skills necessary to achieve what they want. Building faith is a vital aspect of a college experience and Incarnate Word provided that. He also shared what he learned about innovation at UIW. "The best people are innovators, they don't follow the pack and they make their knowledge their own." His advice for current students and young alumni is: "Follow you heart and follow your dreams. Major in something you love and can innovate in."
Ya'Ke's filmmaking career will bring him back to UIW in late summer 2011, when he will shoot several scenes from his first full-length feature film, Wolf, on the Incarnate Word campus. Fellow alumni can also learn more about his production company, Exodus Filmworks, and support the production online.
When asked about himself, he says that others say he is a relentless hard worker who takes painstaking effort into the most important details. He acknowledged it takes many failures before you can get to success and that he is proud to be named UIW's 2011 Alumni of Distinction for Professional Achievement.