Honors Alumni Spotlight
"My Honors professors helped me zero-in on my interests."
Taylor Liput Smith
B.S. in Psychology | Class of 2006
M.A. in Cross Disciplinary Studies | Class of 2008
Inducted into NSU’s Athletics Hall of Fame (rowing) | 2014
As an undergraduate student at NSU, Taylor Liput Smith earned a long list of achievements.
She was twice awarded the Student Life Achievement Award (STUEY), as 2005 Female Athlete of the Year and as the 2006 Undergraduate Student of the Year, the same year she also received the Young Women Leader’s Award.
A psychology major, Smith was an officer of Psi Chi, the international academic honors society in psychology, and a recipient of the Flo Hyman award for community service and a Leadership Roundtable Scholarship.
A member of the inaugural women’s rowing team, Smith led the team to its first Sunshine State Conference and Southern Intercollegiate Rowing Association (SIRA) championships, and took home the Rowing Coach’s Award.
In 2014, she was inducted into NSU’s Athletics Hall of Fame and she began coaching high school athletes the following year at Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale.
Now a mother of two, Smith helps manage a security-education business operated by her husband Steve Smith and business partner, Jeffrey Rodriguez, both NSU alumni.
“I truly had an incredible experience at NSU and one that will never be forgotten,” Smith said, citing faculty such as Michael Reiter, Ph.D., professor at the College of Psychology, and Don Rosenblum, Ph.D., the dean of the Farquhar Honors College, for their support. “When I think back on my education, I think about the professors who made my experience that much better. I felt honored to be asked to do research with Dr. Reiter. The professors at NSU helped me explore my education and zero-in on my interests."
“One of the great joys of being a faculty member," said said Michael Reiter, Ph.D., professor at the College of Psychology, "is working with those students who seek out engagement. Taylor was one of those students.
"While she was busy as a student athlete (and excelling in the classroom and the sports arena), she also sought out extra academic experiences—such as doing a research project with me and another classmate about student athletes and personality types.
"But perhaps what made Taylor stand out was that she was willing to engage, using her whole personality—she was present as a person in everything she did here at NSU. This allowed me to have a person-to-person relationship with her that was meaningful to me and hopefully to her as well,” Reiter said.
“Extracurricular offerings made my experience at NSU the most worthwhile," Smith said. "I had opportunities to be involved in educational, leadership, and recreational clubs and organizations. I was provided opportunities to hold leadership positions and challenge myself.”
After graduation, Smith spent a summer living with a host family in Lima, Peru, and teaching English as a volunteer in a deeply impoverished area. After returning home, she worked as a graduate assistant at NSU’s Department of Residential Life and Housing before accepting a position at Memorial Healthcare System counseling at-risk youth.
After being promoted, Smith spent three years providing therapeutic services and managing programs for disadvantaged children and youth with mental health diagnoses.
“I truly loved working with that population of youth that struggled with mental illness,” she said. “In 2012, as the nation followed the Sandy Hook [Connecticut] school tragedy, my husband made a vow to create a training program to protect students and teachers in school.”
The following year, they opened Guardian Defense, a company offering educational training services to schools’ staff and teachers, private business employees, and law enforcement professionals.
While raising her two young children is her primary occupation right now, Smith hopes to one day open a foster home.