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The Smith Class of 2011: Walking the Walk

By Jan McCoy Ebbets

Long before incoming first-year student Chelsea Andrews of Mattituck, New York, arrived to take up residence and join the Smith College class of 2011, eight other women from her family had trod the same path. The first was her great-great grandmother Mary (Ballard) Halligan, a member of the class of 1898. Over the next 100 years, those that followed were two great-great aunts, a great-grandmother and a grandmother, a great aunt and two aunts.

While not all of these women graduated from Smith, Andrews is nonetheless proud that her family has sent women to Smith College for more than a century (113 years to be exact). “In a time when women weren’t as liberated as they are today, my family was getting an education. I am the ninth woman in my family to go,” she notes.

More than a year after her first visit to campus—at a time when, by the way, she “instantaneously knew that this was where I was meant to be for the next four years of my life”—Andrews is among 781 new Smith College students, including 659 first-year students, 54 Ada Comstock Scholars (students of nontraditional age) and 68 transfers. Eleven percent of the class of 2011 has a sister, mother, or grandmother who is a Smith alumna.

On the other hand, the first-year class includes 124 students who are considered to be “first-generation” students: those who come from a family in which neither parent graduated from a four-year college or university.

Twenty-eight percent of the incoming class identifies as a student of color; of the total, 14 percent are Asian American, 7 percent African American, 5 percent Latina, 1 percent multiracial and 1 percent Native American. Six percent of the first-year class is made up of international students, coming from 26 countries. China is the top country of origin, followed by Korea and India.

For United States students, the top five states of origin are Massachusetts, New York, California, Connecticut and New Jersey.

Although still poised at the beginning of their undergraduate careers, these students have an impressive list of accomplishments. The class is distinguished by an equestrian who won the 2005 Gold Medal in the North American Young Riders Championship; a Tibetan student who studied for five years at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Varanasi, India, and will now attend Smith through the Five College Tibetan Studies in India Program; and a first-year student from Atlanta who made applying for college—and the money to pay for it—a special mission, ultimately receiving more than 35 prestigious scholarships totaling more than $635,000.

“I applied to 43 schools for the fun of it,” remarks Sarah Perkins of Atlanta, who has created her own PowerPoint presentation on how to apply to, and get money for, colleges and this summer offered workshops to Atlanta high schools students on the topic.

“I always had a slightly greater love for Smith than all the other schools I applied to,” she says. The turning point was a visit to Smith. “The classes aroused my senses and…as a guest I felt empowered. I knew I wanted Smith because nothing else compared or felt as much like home.”

With dreams of becoming an oncologist, Perkins is considering neuroscience as a focus of her Smith studies. Meanwhile, she hopes to accomplish some short-term nonacademic goals this fall: “I want to eat at the famous ice cream place,” she says, “paint a picture of the pond and dance at sunrise over the lake.”

The Smith class of 2011 moves in. Among the new residents of Wilson House were Jillian Flexner, with her parents Jenine and Richard Flexner of Raleigh, North Carolina. Photo by Judith Roberge.

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