This is part of our coverage of Northeastern’s 2022 Commencement exercises. For more information, including a livestream, photos, and live coverage throughout the day, visit our dedicated Commencement page.
Fenway Park is going to look enormous from the podium where Aniyah Smith will be speaking on May 13. But she does not appear to be anxious about delivering the student speech at Northeastern’s graduate student Commencement ceremony.
“Being at Northeastern has made me so much more confident in my skill set,” says Smith, who has earned a Master of Business Administration degree, with concentrations in marketing and analytics.
“It has allowed me to become more confident in myself. I’ve felt supported not only from Northeastern but from the people I’ve met here. And so I wanted to give the message back—to tell people to stay opportunistic, stay open, be ready for life.”
Smith earned an undergraduate degree in cosmetics and fragrance marketing in 2020 from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. She is proud of herself for applying for the graduate business program at Northeastern, despite her doubts at the time.
“I was very nervous about that,” says Smith, who has been focused on a career in cosmetics since she was 15. “Coming here, it was like, these are business people, and I’m pretty sure I’m the only person coming from a fashion background. So I was kind of nervous about not being taken seriously.”
Smith’s business immersion was jump-started when she entered the 2020 Husky Startup Challenge for students. She was surprised to finish second based on her idea to create inclusive and accessible cosmetics for a diverse population.
She soon started a company, Push Beauty, which is developing an inclusive line of cosmetics, including products for disabled people that can be opened and used with one hand. In support of her efforts to develop Push Beauty, Smith last year received an inaugural $2,500 Innovator Award from Northeastern’s Women Who Empower inclusion and entrepreneurship initiative. The awards, which will be offered again in 2022, recognized 19 women who were graduates or currently studying at Northeastern.
This is a busy time. In addition to seeking out potential manufacturers and working with engineers to enhance the accessibility of her products, she has been exploring opportunities to launch a career with an existing company.
“I’m currently looking for full-time positions in areas like marketing, social media, and community engagement,” Smith says. “Push Beauty will be the personal endeavor that I’ll be focusing on outside of the full-time job that I get.”
Smith’s Commencement message will account for her and her classmates’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The one thing that we all have in common is that we either came into this or were working on our degrees during the pandemic,” Smith says. “That’s not easy at all. We held on to our mission and goals and just went for it regardless. And I think that’s so special.”
She leaves with the strong belief that the past two years have strengthened her in all kinds of unpredictable ways.
“When I came to Northeastern, I was on the younger side—I had just graduated undergrad, and I knew I was going in with people that had years of [business] experience,” she says. “I now feel stronger and more capable of defending and vocalizing my point of view, using critical thinking.”
Her artist’s perspective has been complemented by a bottom-line, business point of view.
“My job going forward is to find a way to blend those two,” Smith says with a sense of self-confidence that has been earned. “I know that I can do it.”