The professor who was shot to death Monday at a Mississippi University had ties to Acadiana, shaping a path for at least one grad student.
Ethan Schmidt, an assistant history professor at Delta State University, led a discussion with faculty and students last year during an informal event at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
The professor is remembered as a supportive mentor and a kind person by Maegan Smith, a second-year graduate student studying history at UL Lafayette.
“He actually encouraged me to branch out in my field,” Smith said. “I was having a hard time doing that before I met him.”
Smith was one of about 15 people who attended Schmidt’s presentation at the Gulf States Early American History Workshop Oct. 24 at the UL Lafayette Alumni Center.
Following the hour-long event, Smith and a few others took Schmidt out for pizza and beer at Mellow Mushroom.
“I was shocked to find out that we had a lot of the same interests,” Smith said. “I wasn’t expecting that. We started talking about our interests, and he was very open to giving advice, very helpful in navigating my questions. He was very much a very short-term mentor.”
Robert Carriker, head of UL Lafayette’s Department of History, Geography and Philosophy, said that he did not attend last year’s event or meet Schmidt.
The professor who organized the Gulf States series is on leave this semester and was unavailable for comment.
Smith learned that the shooting claimed Schmidt’s life between classes Monday from another student who attended last year’s event.
“It was especially shocking because — obviously this shooting has nothing to do with the shooting in Lafayette — but it’s just weird how connected we all are on some level,” Smith said. “It really puts things in perspective. People always say there are six degrees of separation, but it just seems like that’s getting so much smaller.”
A mutual interest in Native American and early colonial history are what connected Smith and Schmidt, but the two also shared a little about their personal lives.
“He told me about his family and his kids,” Smith said. “And he was just a nice guy, and honestly, you don’t get that with very many academic professors.”
Smith is now looking into doctoral programs that focus on ethnohistory — a field that combines archeology, anthropology and history — because of her conversation over pizza with Schmidt.
“We as the department and the other students are all just hoping that his family is OK,” Smith said. “We’re keeping them in our thoughts and prayers.”