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21st-century scholar

December 13, 2012

Brittany Bennett

Name and Class Year: Brittany Bennett, 2015
Hometown: Winston Salem, North Carolina
High School: Ronald Reagan High School, Pfafftown, NC
Major: Engineering Science B.S.
Campus Activities: President of Engineers for a Sustainable World, Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day Coordinator for Society of Women Engineers, Diversity Representative for Capen House, Events Planning Sub-Committee under the Diversity Committee, STEM Peer Mentor, Treasurer of American Sign Language Club, and I work as the Fellowships Assistant.


Last Movie Seen in Theaters: Skyfall

Favorite Movie: Mysterious Skin and The Room

Favorite Song: Anything by An Horse, LCD Soundsystem, or ONSIND

Smith House: Capen

Last Book Read: Their Eyes Were Watching God

Favorite Books: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Hobbies/Interests: Chai tea, seeking out obscure punk music, emulating the many wonderful social justice activists on campus, and thrifting.

Favorite Place on Campus: My bed

Favorite Campus Dining Location Lamont

Fondest Smith Memory So Far: Meeting my girlfriend

Favorite Quote: "The most beautiful people we have ever known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have pulled themselves out of the depths. These people have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen." —Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Describe your family.
My mother is without a doubt the most incredible person I have ever met. She had the courage to run away from her abusive ex-husband of 11 years, the strength to single handedly raise and support my twin brother and me, and the stamina to go back to college and work full time.

How did you discover Smith?
My mother encouraged me to apply to colleges regardless of their price or location. Since her socio-economic background prevented her from applying to the colleges she was truly interested in, she attended a college she did not like and eventually dropped out. In addition, I saw college as a chance to finally have control over my own life and be truly independent. Thus, I set out to find The One.

To give you some perspective, I am the kind of person that reads every item on a menu before ordering to be sure I have picked the best option. Therefore, I believe my college hunt led me to be aware of every single college in the United States. Even so, I always wound up on the Smith College website, in awe of the all-women engineering program, social justice oriented student body, and the college's emphasis of empowerment. I applied Early Decision I and haven't looked back since.

What were your first impressions of the College? Do you find they're still true today?
I viewed Smith as a safe environment where I could fully present, act, and live as myself. Smithies have time and time again proven this to be true. When I lament the racial discrimination in public school systems, or argue for the importance of integrating ethics and cultural awareness into engineering, or wax on about various environmental concerns, people do not just listen, but join in on the conversation.

What Smith professors, coaches or advisors have inspired you?
Almost every professor I have had here at Smith has made a substantial impact on my life. I was lucky to have Professor Cloelle Giddings, a two year lecturer from the first class of Smith engineers, for my Intro to Engineering course. Her intelligence, passion, and confidence proved to me the value in a Smith education. She supported my endeavors, encouraged my dreams, and expressed true concern. While I entered Smith not knowing if I actually wanted to be an engineering major, by the second week of her class, I was sold.

Have you volunteered as a student? If yes, what did you find most rewarding about the experience?
Because my family faced the possibility of being homeless before I came to Smith, I have volunteered weekly at the homeless shelter in downtown Northampton for almost a year now. I think what I love the most is being able to engage in conversations that I could not have with 18-22 year olds. The guests at the shelter have made me cry from laughter and heartache, provided me with tips on frugal living, helped me find a job for the summer, taught me how to defend myself against attackers, and educated me on the injustice they have had to face. I hold many of them dear to my heart and wish more students had the opportunity to volunteer there.

What are your plans after Smith?
Because I see myself having many different careers, I have many dreams about what life after Smith will entail. If one thing is certain, I intend to stay far away from research and go directly into industry after graduation. Ideally, the Environmental Protection Agency will hire me as an environmental or agricultural engineer to work on combating water pollution. After gaining substantial work experience, I hope to put my leadership experience to use and shift over to some sort of managerial position or start my own company. One of my long standing dreams is to help bring clean water to rural areas of Haiti-I am unsure of how to accomplish this efficiently and ethically. I would love to start a company that would employ Haitian engineers, but I am also a firm believer in change through education. Thus, I may start an initiative to educate Haitian girls in the STEM practices. And then, of course, there is always public policy. In a nutshell, I see the future as an infinite expanse of possibilities and I refuse to settle on just one.

What perspective would you share with alumnae?
I would not be able to attend Smith without the generous donations from alumni. Being at Smith has been the greatest thing to ever happen to me and not a day goes by that I am not thankful for the wonderful gift that has been bestowed to me.