Musician; Director, Old Dominion University Peninsula Center, Hampton
Few people can say they sing in a choir with Pharrell Williams.
Or that they’ve performed on Netflix, “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” “Good Morning America” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
But Nakia Madry-Smith has done all those things. Yet, she still finds time to connect with the community, representing Old Dominion University regionally as director of ODU Peninsula Center. The university’s higher education center in Hampton offers undergraduate degree completion classes, graduate classes and certificate programs.
“ODU has been a blessing because they are so supportive, and I don’t feel as if I have to choose between pursuing my dreams and pursuing my goals of impacting students at ODU,” she says. “I can do both.”
Madry-Smith says she can be her authentic self while easily shifting between meetings and stages around Virginia and the globe. She is a member of Williams’ Voices of Fire and two local bands, The Fuzz Band and Rocky 7. She’s traveled to war zones on three tours to perform for U.S. troops.
Her career as a musician helps her connect with students who have big dreams of their own. “I try to live my life in a way that demonstrates possibilities for students, so that they’re not bound by misperceptions or limitations,” she says.
“It’s important for youth to see representation of themselves in leadership, so they know that they too can achieve their goals.”