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Orientation Groups

Each year incoming first-year students select an orientation group program in which to participate. While these programs vary from year to year, the selection below provides a glimpse of what these programs may look like in the coming year.

We encourage students to be familiar with the orientation group offerings listed below. Mid-July we will activate the login for orientation group sign up.

Sign in information and special instructions will be sent to all students at their Smith College email address just prior to the opening of the web form. All orientation groups have limited capacity, and students are advised to be prepared with alternative choices in case their first choice for an orientation group is full.

Registration opens on Monday July 21st at 9 am

Registration for programs will occur July 21 - August 1. Please check your Smith College email address on the morning of July 21 for your login information.

Register for an Orientation Group

Orientation Groups 2014

Preseason Athletics

If you are participating in preseason athletic training, this is your orientation group! Only those who have received an invitation from their varsity coaches may register for this program. You cannot simply elect to participate in this program without an invitation. This option is only open to the varsity teams of cross-country, field hockey, soccer, tennis and volleyball.

Be the Change You Wish to See:
Spirituality in Action 2014

Our first few days, weeks and months of our college experience we are exposed to so many ideas about the world and our place in it, and then when we go home on vacations people often ask what we want to study, or to do with our college education. When it comes to making change in the world, we can sometimes feel torn between all the time we need to spend learning while in college and the desire to "act" in the world and make a difference in the here and now. This orientation will provide two days of activities and dialogue designed to help prepare us to manage the ongoing balance between making change and learning what we need to learn to do it, how to have a contemplative approach to our time both in and out of the classroom, and how we can align ourselves spiritually and internally to "be the change" we want to see in the world. Small group work and some interaction with another orientation program also included. Program will include community service, meditation exercises, time outdoors, and fun to help take in all that we are experiencing our first few days on campus, and grow into leadership as change agents. This group can accommodate up to 25 students.

Everyday Brave: Rocking Your Inner Rebel

New friends. New opportunities. New everything. What's your number one asset in the first year? Courage: to take risks, screw up, and try again. Spend two days with local bestselling author and leadership expert Rachel Simmons: you'll learn concrete skills to find your everyday brave in the areas of life that matter most to you. Become more self-aware, less self-conscious and laugh while doing it. You'll even practice getting rejected and be amazed at what you find out. Sure, you can cruise through Smith playing it safe. But you'll have way more fun rocking your inner rebel. This group can accommodate up to 35 students.

First Generation College Student Orientation Group

Did you know that Kathleen McCartney, President of Smith College, is a first-generation college student? If you are also the first person in your family to attend college, then this might be the group for you! It can be difficult to know what to expect as a college student when you have not had the benefit of learning from the experiences of family members' college experiences. This orientation will help you learn how to navigate the Smith system with confidence by making explicit some of these unspoken "rules" about how to play the role of college student. The group will also strive to help you arrive at a deeper understanding of what it means to you personally to be a first-generation college student, including an exploration of how being first-generation might shape some of your college experiences. Finally, the group will serve as a way for you to connect to other first-generation students and to discuss how your first-generation status can be proclaimed loudly and proudly as a source of pride. This group can accommodate up to 25 students.

First Link

Focusing on food justice and urban agriculture we will work with Nuestras Raices at their farm in Holyoke, MA. Nuestras Raices is a grassroots organization that promotes human economic and community development through projects relating to food, agriculture and the environment. Students will combine a one day community service project of direct action with small discussion groups that examine local social problems and effective solutions. Students will improve their understanding of food insecurity in an urban context and learn how community service work relates to their college education by making a positive contribution to the local community while beginning new friendships with other Smithies. This group program can accommodate up to 21 students.

Global Leadership Skills for Smith Campus and Beyond

In this orientation program, you will have an opportunity to think deeply about who you already are as a leader as well as who you would like to become as a leader in the global community in which we all live. We will focus on some of the leadership experiences you've already had and we will help you explore the leadership opportunities that exist on campus, in the community and beyond. The format of this program is a combination of some large group work, small group activities and visits by some really interesting and compelling leaders here on campus. We work hard to ensure that you have a chance to meet as many of your fellow first years as possible, and you will also be working in your small group with a student leader whose job it will be to provide a very customized experience for you. In short, our goal is for you to have a great time learning more about yourself and about the leadership opportunities you will have at this amazing place called Smith College! This program can accommodate 75 students.

"It's Our Story"

This workshop is designed for students who have learning or other disabilities, chronic health issues, or who may have dealt with mental health challenges to find support and make connections at Smith by exploring and sharing our stories. If you are like many other Smithies with disabilities, your story is one of challenges and accomplishments, struggles and triumphs, vulnerability and power, you have had incredible supporters, stared down a few barriers and negative attitudes, you have worked hard to find your voice, accomplished a lot to get to Smith, and plan to make your mark while you are here. We want to get to know you, so come tell your story and begin a new chapter here! What perspectives and gifts do you bring to Smith—a different voice, your creativity, compassion, determination, unique ideas informed by moving, learning, or experiencing the world a little differently? What are you nervous about in coming to college and navigating the academic and social life? What are you hoping to find? How can you get support and give support to make sure everyone is included?

Through songs, poetry, history, and art this workshop will let you explore disability as a powerful part of who you are; help you make connections with some amazing people who have paved the way for you; begin to build your Smith community of awesome friends with peers who share similar experiences; teach you a little about disability history, culture, and community; learn about resources, and give you a space to consider what you need to be a successful and happy Smith student. Smith is a place that values diversity by focusing on unique abilities, creative ideas, and respects the different paths people take to success. You are a part of what makes Smith great!

This workshop can accommodate 25 students.

Kick-Start Your Passion! Kick Stress to the Curb!

In this workshop, we will peel away outside influences that can lead to mental stress and confusion. Through insightful and mindful exercises, we will un-cover our deepest desires, re-visit our dreams and passions, and learn how to use them as antidotes to stress, fatigue, and mental anguish. We will also visit our brains and touch on some basic neuroscience to explain how this works. This program can accommodate 25 students.

Learning REAL Talk in Smith Communities

There are many dialogues that take place at Smith. The diversity of dialogues reflects the diversity of communities on campus. Here, you will have dialogues within your classrooms, house communities, student organizations, and even dialogues with yourself. These dialogues can range from talking about race, gender, socioeconomic class and dis/ability, to name a few. In this workshop, you will learn how to engage in "REAL Talk" and how to participate in dialogues at Smith that are "Responsible, Engaging, Allied, and Liberating". In this two-day workshop, you will learn how a dialogue is different from a discussion or a debate and how to have authentic dialogues about diversity that build connections with people who may be different from you. Participants in this session will leave with skills on how to have deep dialogues and resources to help you get the conversation started and set you on the way of having "REAL Talk" where you live and learn. This program can accommodate up to 30 students.

Making the Most Out of College:
Reflecting on Past Selves & Exploring Future Selves Through Multi-Media Documentation

Work with Jessica Bacal and Ally Einbinder '10 of the Wurtele Center for Work & Life to begin the process of creating a personalized integrative portfolio. We will guide you through structured conversations with peers, during which you'll talk about important past learning experiences, especially those that happened outside of the classroom. We will also spend time imagining, discussing and writing about--in a playful way--various future paths that interest you. By the time you leave this group, you will have started new friendships and built an online portfolio to take into your first year of college. This group can accommodate 40 students.

Mindfulness meditation for focus, stress reduction, and wellness

According to a report from Brown University, "several studies with college students suggest that the practice of mindfulness leads to decreases in stress and anxiety, improvements in concentration and attention, and increases in self-awareness and overall emotional well-being."

In this experiential program, we will explore the practice of mindfulness meditation and discuss options for developing a regular practice that can be sustained. This program is suitable for those with no meditation experience and for those who have meditated before and want to deepen their practice. Some yoga and movement practices will also be included, so please dress in comfortable clothing that will allow for movement and stretching. This program can accommodate 30 students.

About the teacher:

David Spound, M.Ed., is the founder of Valley Mindfulness, a Northampton company that offers courses, trainings, and coaching in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). He is certified as a teacher of MBSR by the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at UMass Medical School in Worcester, the organization founded by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., who originally created the MBSR course. David is also a former staff member of Smith College and recently led a 5 week "Mindfulness in Leadership" course for Smith students.

Outdoor Adventure Orientation Programs

Under the instruction of professionals and the leadership of trained Smith student leaders, First-year students will enjoy the scenic outdoors of Western Massachusetts while meeting other new students through participation in one of four Outdoor Adventure Program trips. Students will learn and practice various outdoor skills such as backcountry camping, map/compass, fire building, rock climbing, kayaking and canoeing. These experiences will highlight teamwork, general leadership, communication, fun and camaraderie.

These excursions are in an outdoor environment. With the exception of the OARS program which stays on campus, there will not be access to any indoor facilities, such as electricity or bathrooms. Each participant will be supplied a backpack, sleeping bag, and other gear for use on the trip if needed. Students will be required to provide their own clothing, including hiking boots, rain jacket, and multiple layers of clothing (*see suggested equipment list). Each student will also share in carrying the group items. Read over the following trip descriptions carefully. All four trips are super fun, have nice views, but vary in the type of activities and difficulty level.

Choose from the following four Outdoor Adventure trips:

  1. Rocks, Packs & Paddles (RPP): This is a fun mixed-sport overnight trip where students rock climb, paddle and camp over a 2-day/overnight trip. During the day you will split into two groups; one rock climbing, the other canoeing. At night, the groups hike into one of the scenic Smith College campsites at the Macleish Field Station. The second day the groups switch activities, then return to campus later that afternoon. This trip can accommodate up to 24 students.
    *Suitable for all levels-no experience necessary.
  2. Outdoor Adventure Recreation Sampler (OARS):
    A whole lot of fun in a day! This is our 2-day/on-campus adventure option. On the first day, you will kayak from the Paradise Pond Boathouse then learn to climb at the Ainsworth Climbing wall. Enjoy campfire and S'mores that night on the athletic fields (sleep in houses). The next day we'll venture out for a hike to the summit of nearby Mt. Holyoke on the Holyoke Range. This is a great option for those who want to see what the Outdoor Adventure Program and the local area has to offer! Despite camping in houses, you will still want to plan on having suitable clothing to wear while being active hiking, paddling or rock climbing. This trip can accommodate up to 14 students.
    *Suitable for all levels-no experience necessary
  3. Appalachian Trail I (AT-I): This is a very fun easier level 2-day/overnight backpacking trip. It consists of three small groups (less than 10) backpacking along the Appalachian Trail in Western Massachusetts. Students carry 35-40 lb backpacks to primitive wilderness campsites (no facilities). This trip can accommodate up to 21 students.
    *Suitable for all levels-no experience necessary.
  4. Appalachian Trail II (AT-II): These are similar, but more advanced 2-day/overnight backpacking trips. Expect steeper, more mountainous terrain with some challenging hills leading to beautiful vistas. Although very fun, this trip is not appropriate for most beginners. Students carry 35-40 lb backpacks to primitive wilderness campsites (no facilities). This trip can accommodate up to 21 students.
    *Previous backpacking experience and/or good physical fitness combined with enthusiasm strongly recommended.

SANE LIVING through SILLY MEANS

Facilitated by Elena Volpe, a psychotherapist at Counseling Services, this segment of the orientation will focus on stress management not only to help with your transition into Smith, but for your life so that you can continue to forge a work-life balance that will keep your head on tight and your feet to the ground so you let your imagination, ambition and dreams soar. We will identify your stressors and what methods and techniques work best for you. You'll have a chance to experience breathing techniques, guided imagery, passive and active meditation, journaling, art therapy, martial arts therapy, voice work, body awareness, self-massage and some high-quality silliness. This program can accommodate 25 students.

Science Center Outreach: a quick start

This program is designed to prepare undergraduates to work as volunteers in the local schools. Smith is heavily involved in supporting the local schools in a variety of ways. We tutor, mentor, work with before and after school groups, host field trips and teach requested activities in the schools. Most of the work is in kindergarten through 8th grade but we also work at the high school and GED programs. Once the school year starts it is difficult to get through the paperwork and orientation sessions in a timely way. This "fast track" will prepare you to work in the local schools in September if your schedule allows. If you like working with children or just want to help enhance their interest and understanding of science and engineering we hope you will join us. You do not need to be a science or engineering major to do this. We already have requests for math tutoring, before school engineering and 2nd grade science activities. The program will be led by Tom Gralinski, the Science Center Outreach Coordinator and can accommodate 30 students.

Sustainability and an Ecological sense of place

Perhaps the key issue facing humanity now is how to live in an environmentally sustainable, socially just way. According to one calculation, the average U.S. citizen has an ecological footprint that is five times greater than the planet can support. We need to - and can - do better than that! This program will help you: (1) learn how to live more sustainably at Smith and (2) develop an ecological sense of place in your new home.

Questions that will be asked - and, to some extent, answered - include the following: Where does my food at Smith come from? How and what can I recycle? What powers our campus and how can I save kilowatts and BTUs? Are there green spaces nearby? How can I get to them and to other places without a car? What kinds of environmental majors, minors, and resources are available? Are there active student environmental organizations on campus? And most importantly, how can I make a difference environmentally while at Smith?

Short excursions and activities will give you an ecological sense of place, whether we visit a shady riverside trail or a steamy power plant. You will learn what Smith College is doing well and where there is room for improvement (this is where you come in during your next four years). Professor L. David Smith, Director of the Environmental Science and Policy Program, leads this orientation.

This program can accommodate 40 students.

Wellness 101

What's the best predictor of academic success in college students? Going to class. Obvious, right? But what's the second best predictor? SLEEP. True! Next best predictor? Eating breakfast! The performance of your brain is directly linked to the wellness of your body, so this orientation session will teach you practical, surprising, and totally customizable strategies to improve your sleep, stress, nutrition, worry, mood, and more, so you can make the most of your time at Smith. Led by Emily Nagoski, Smith's Wellness Education Director, this is the orientation program for students who'd like to learn simple, effective wellness techniques to maximize their GPA and their daily life. This program can accommodate 65 students.

Women's Health at Smith and Beyond: 2014

Health is amazingly broad: physical, mental, social, cultural, political and economic. Explore this wide and fascinating world of young women's health, from the local to the international. What's new in contraception, sexually transmitted infections and LGBT health? Why do you get your period (and what does it mean if you don't)? What health resources are available on campus? Explore the link between the media and body image and violence against women. Examine some of the health challenges confronting women in developing countries, including female circumcision, obstetric fistula and HIV/AIDS. Students in this workshop will watch and discuss documentary videos, have the opportunity to make connections through small group activities, and listen to informal presentations. This program can accommodate 30 students.