Alumni Spotlight: Hayden Smee

Alumni Spotlight: Hayden Smee

By Kala Allen-Dunn | Feb 26, 2024

Honors College alumnus Hayden Smee

Honors College alumnus Hayden Smee is a recent graduate who is quickly finding success in his career at Lockheed Martin, thanks to a Murray State education and a lot of hard work.

Even though he only graduated in 2023, Honors College alumnus Hayden Smee is already achieving incredible things! His engineering degree, Honors education, and impeccable work ethic prepared him well for his career at Lockheed Martin, where he helps ensure the safety of the United States through his work in missile defense. 

Hayden, tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in Cape Girardeau, Missouri to Tony and Tamara Smee, the people who instilled in me a firm desire to challenge myself personally and academically. My sister, Winnie (MSU ‘19), grew up in the great outdoors; our parents took us hiking, camping, canoeing/kayaking, and created opportunities to spend time together outside. My love for these activities motivated me on my path to the rank of Eagle Scout, an honor I’m proud of and try to help the next generation of participating youth achieve. I’ve always been an American history buff with a keen interest in politics, so political TV shows and presidential biographies are some of my favorite ways to wind down after work.

Why did you choose Murray State?

I chose Murray State for a few reasons. I grew up in a family already entrenched in the Racer community thanks to my uncle Shawn Smee’s (MSU ‘98, ‘01, ‘17) long history with the institution. Thanks to him, my family was wearing the blue and gold before I could tell you what college was. When I entered high school, my sister entered her first semester at Murray State and afforded me many opportunities to visit and learn what it’s all about. This was four years of homecoming parades, All-Campus Sings, MSU Jazz Orchestra concerts, Campus Lights, and more. I already adored the university by the time I was a high school junior and was told about Commonwealth Honors Academy. Despite being at Murray State, it took substantial convincing by my family members to help me realize the benefits of spending three weeks in a class-oriented program on campus. These three weeks cemented my decision to attend Murray State University in 2019, familiarized me with campus, introduced me to a few of my closest friends, and changed my life forever. Those three weeks decided my next three or four years.

What have you been up to since graduation?

Since graduating last May, I’ve had the exciting privilege of moving to a new city in a new state with a new job all thanks to a strong network of MSU alumni. Fellow Engineering Physics alums created an internship opportunity for me with Lockheed Martin in Huntsville, AL–the land of opportunity for new engineers. This internship culminated with an offer of a full-time position that I began nearly 9 months ago. I’m incredibly grateful to work for one of the leading companies in the defense and space exploration industries, with over 122,000 employees at over 345 facilities worldwide. It has been an exciting and challenging start to my career. As a Systems Engineer, I play a small part in ensuring our nation’s safety through innovations in missile defense. Outside of work, I love exploring all that “Rocket City” has to offer, spending time with new friends and other young professionals, visiting dear friends from my time at MSU, and participating in various events with my new church family. I spend many evenings studying and completing graduate coursework in engineering management for the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). I have a hard time saying “Go Chargers!” with the same gusto as “Go Racers!” although my new school’s horse mascot was a welcome coincidence! The soft skills and strong educational foundation I gained from the MSU School of Engineering could not have prepared me more for this continued education. I often find myself reflecting on wise words from Dr. Jamie Rogers.

How has the Honors experience made a difference in your life thus far, personally and professionally?

The Honors College experience is single-handedly responsible for the strong friendships I made during my freshman year that I maintain today. Our group of 8 Honors College students met during Honors 101 right after freshman move-in, supported each other through the COVID-19 pandemic, grew closer every day, and walked across the stage at commencement all in a line. Personally, this experience has granted me some of the best friends (aforementioned and those I met through Honors Student Council) I have ever had. I was immersed in a community of ambitious learners dedicated to bettering themselves and bettering their chances for a meaningful career. Professionally speaking, there are many skills and lessons I picked up in Honors seminars and other events that I have applied in the workplace. In a fast-paced technical environment, critical thinking and often thoughtful discussion are keys to solving complex issues. Additionally, the journey through researching, executing, and defending an Honors Thesis is a valuable experience I routinely reflect on as being more important to my career than I realized. I was taking a Systems Engineering approach to the work completed for my thesis before I truly understood its principles. I believe Murray State University prepares you to begin a career, but I believe the Honors College prepares you to seize opportunities for personal growth that are generally hiding in plain sight. Completing an education abroad program (London Spring Break ‘23) is something I would never have considered without the Honors College. All my peers would agree, I am confident, when I say these opportunities have truly significantly changed the way I view the world around me. For these reasons I sincerely thank Dr. Warren Edminster, Dominique Suiter, and Hannah Durbin for curating such an influential curriculum and community.

What’s your favorite Murray State memory?

One of my few favorite Murray State memories is the Centennial Homecoming of 2022. I had the pleasure of being selected for the Homecoming Court representing the Honors Student Council for a second time. This time, I campaigned for King alongside my wonderful friend and fellow Honors College alum, Kaitlyn Sutton. The entire homecoming season was a time to remember; I met hundreds of students across campus while campaigning, enjoyed the parade from my place in line, spent time before the game surrounded by supportive friends and family, and had a ball at the Centennial Gala. As significant as this day was for the history of Murray State University, it was undoubtedly one of the happiest days I can remember. I had never been so proud to be a Racer.

What advice would you give to current students?

The most important piece of advice I can give to current Honors students is to know no strangers. Try to get to know as many of your peers as you possibly can, beginning with the Honors College. There are so many amazing people with incredible life stories and ambitions all around you, and you only have so much time to spend at MSU meeting them. You’ll never find a brighter or more interesting community of people. The facts you take away from the classroom are important, but it’s imperative to capitalize on the community aspect so you leave college with a vast network of friends and professional connections. Higher education can be a stressful environment at times, but you’ll feel entirely more confident walking along the path with friends. Welcome unfamiliar faces and exclude no one.

Any parting thoughts or wisdom to share with our Honors family?

The Honors College and the university at large are like most elective experiences in life. You get out of it what you put into it, and it’s not over at graduation. I’ve found continued involvement with Murray State to be personally fulfilling as a way to give back to an institution that has given me so much. Seek out opportunities to be an involved member of the alumni network, encourage young people to consider Murray State, and come back for homecoming. It’s important for current students to see us, meet us, and hear what we’re doing for society, and it’s important for us to support them. As an alumnus myself, I’ve already had several opportunities to meet fellow alumni from other classes and bond with these new friends over our love for MSU. Any bit of time or other resources goes a long way and should be easy to offer when you realize how much you treasure the time you spent there.

Take the next step

© Murray State University Department of Web ManagementWe are Racers.