UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When Chicago P.D. premieres for its seventh season on Sept. 25, a Penn State World Campus alumna will be among the cast.

Whether it was on-set, reciting lines and shooting scenes, or off-set, taking quizzes and writing papers, Kylie Smith has spent the last few years working toward her dreams of acting and finishing her college degree.

Smith graduated in August with a bachelor’s degree in digital journalism and media. The program was offered online through Penn State World Campus and the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications.

“Everybody’s been awesome,” said Smith, 24, recalling her experience at Penn State World Campus. “I’ve loved it and I love that it’s online. I can go and do what I want.”

When Smith first began college out of high school, her sights were set on her modeling career. But during her second year, Smith’s agent encouraged her to try acting, and her career quickly took off, forcing her to take a few semesters off from school. 

That break didn’t deter Smith from continuing her education later on, though, and that’s when she found Penn State — online.

“I knew that I wanted to have a degree,” said Smith. “If acting doesn’t work out, I would like to have that extra education and discipline.”

On Chicago P.D., Smith is a stand-in and photo double for Tracy Spiridakos, one of the lead actresses. She works 10-15 hours a day, so splitting her time between acting and school work was difficult but doable.

“We do have a lot of downtime, but at the same time, it is draining,” said Smith, mentioning that whenever she wasn’t shooting a scene, she’d work on tests, quizzes, and papers. “At the end of the day I’m ready to go home to my dog.”

Smith attributed her success to discipline and her hope to create the best life possible for herself.

“I’m not one to kind of settle,” said Smith. “I could have stopped after high school, but I want more out of my life.”

Now that Smith is officially a Penn State World Campus alumna, her sights are set on the future. She has been filming for the upcoming season of Chicago P.D. since July, and next year she will marry her fiancé, a baseball player for the Houston Astros.

She is also thinking about how she can put her degree to use. Smith praised the ability to earn her undergraduate degree online and said she hopes to continue to work online in social media.

Looking back, Smith said the busy days balancing her responsibilities were all worth it. She acknowledged that completing her degree online was her only option because of the nature of her work, and that the flexibility of learning online helped her get where she is now.

“I’m just happy that I did it, and I’m done and I’m loving it.”