McCaskill, Ho Selected as 2024 Smiley Award Recipients

Posted on April 30, 2024

Mary Beth McCaskill (left) and Youn Jung Ho (right), recipients of the 2024 Smiley Award


The Smiley Award, which supports global educational opportunities for current School of Education (SOE) undergraduate and graduate students, has been presented to undergraduate student Mary Beth McCaskill (Department of Teacher Education and Higher Education) and graduate student Youn Jung Ho (Department of Counseling and Educational Development). These students will represent the SOE as Global Education Ambassadors through international or local engagement. 

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McCaskill, who is a Middle Grades Education (Social Studies Concentration) major, spent 10 days in Hamburg, Germany during the Spring semester. During the trip, the group of students learned about the German education system and attended seminars at the University of Hamburg. 

She says, “The best cultural experience I ever had was because of a milkshake. This happened… at the drive-thru of a cookout. In my car with me were two German exchange students who I had the pleasure of knowing as a member of the 2024 Hamburg Education Exchange for Student Teachers. As a good American ambassador, I invited them both for a night on the town where we feasted on cheeseburgers at Natty Greene’s, browsed used bookstores, and ended the evening with a Cook Out milkshake. As I saw Leoni take the first sip of her caramel cheesecake dessert, she exclaimed in careful English ‘You’re so lucky to have these anytime you want!’ I laughed in response, but it made me wonder, why doesn’t Germany have $3 milkshakes for sale at 2 am? More importantly, why do we?” 

In her return to Hamburg, McCaskill reconnected with those friends. For McCaskill, travelling abroad on multiple occasions has become about more than education. She hopes to use her travels, both past and future, to inspire her students to explore and have adventures themselves. 

Ho hails from South Korea and is a second-year master’s student in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Prior to enrolling at UNCG, they worked in the entertainment industry, developing multicultural stories and working with global partners to leverage media and be an advocate for marginalized communities. 

At UNCG, they travelled to Toronto, Canada, to attend the American Counseling Association conference. As an Association of Multicultural Counseling and Development Day of Connection Committee member, they planned a fundraising event with the Ontario Native Women’s Association.  

They have also served as the co-chair of the Advocacy and Community Engagement Committee of Chi Sigma Iota, an international counseling professional honor society, at UNCG. In this position, they hosted a pair of events to promote counselor wellness. 

They established and facilitated the Transgender, Non-binary, and Gender Expansive Career Counseling (TNG) group in response to anti-trans legislation. They plan to “develop a culturally sustaining learning model to honor marginalized students’ voices and recognize their vulnerability for sharing their stories as an act of gratitude.”