A pioneer in the field of tourism and a scholar in the discipline of anthropology, California State University, Chico Professor Emerita Valene L. Smith was recently recognized by a world tourism authority.
On January 17, Smith was awarded the 14th United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) Ulysses Prize Laureate for Excellence in the Creation and Dissemination of Knowledge in Tourism at the International Tourism Trade Fair in Madrid.
The UNWTO award is granted annually to a distinguished scholar for his or her outstanding contribution to create and disseminate innovative knowledge in tourism. Nominated by Jafar Jafari, the founder and longtime editor of Annals of Tourism Research, Smith is just the second woman to ever receive the award.
Smith taught in CSU, Chico’s anthropology department from 1967 to 1988, and has been a major supporter of the University’s Museum of Anthropology since its inception in 1971. She was nominated Outstanding Professor in 1981–1982.
Considered one of the founders of the global tourism industry, Smith led tourism studies in 1974 at the American Anthropological Association in Merida, Mexico. The subsequent papers were published as Hosts and Guests: The Anthropology of Tourism in 1977, a travel anthology that is still considered essential reading for travelers. A follow-up work, Hosts and Guests Revisited: Tourism Issues of the 21st Century, was published in 2001.
Despite the astounding success of her books, Smith, who also taught at Los Angeles City College from 1947 to 1967, said she had “never really thought about textbooks. I taught, I didn’t write textbooks.”
Smith’s contributions reach far beyond her published works. Her philanthropic gestures have touched thousands of students, staff and faculty at CSU, Chico in the form of the Valene L. Smith Museum of Anthropology, and many of the exhibits have featured items from around the world from her personal collections. Last year, Smith donated $250,000 to go toward an expansion of the museum.
Current exhibits at the Valene L. Smith Museum of Anthropology include “Imprisoned at Home,” an immersive exhibit exploring the incarceration camps of World War II (runs through August 2, 2018), and “Sacred Splendors,” a glimpse into the expansive sacred art collections of Judith E. Hilburg, which spans more than 50 years (runs through May 11, 2018).
A trailblazer in her early years of travel and teaching, Smith continues to touch and inspire travelers across generations.
“Valene embodies the mentor/scholar model which underscores the teaching practices of CSU, Chico,” said Adrienne Scott, curator of the Valene L. Smith Museum of Anthropology. “She continues to inspire because she is willing to be inspired by the younger generations of students and scholars.”