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Where’s Becca?

It’s difficult to catch up with Rebecca (Becca) Berman ’06, an energetic senior who, since transferring to Smith two years ago, has been active in Smith theatre and as a Gold Key tour guide. When she’s not in class, Berman often attends different club meetings to stay informed and to keep in touch with friends. On Monday nights, she leads the American Sign Language Table in the Chase-Duckett dining room. As a house community adviser, she attends regular residential life meetings and keeps suite hours three times a week.

However, this year pales in comparison to the past two for Berman. During her first semester at Smith, she sang with Crapapella, a Smith a capella group known to sing off key intentionally. In the past two years, Berman has played former President Ulysses S. Grant in The Mother of Us All and the assistant director in Six Characters in Search of an Author. “I feel like because I’m a transfer, I don’t have a lot of time,” says Berman, 23. “I’ve done a lot of sampling.”

Lunch breaks serve as another opportunity for an outgoing Berman to meet people. On one Tuesday, Berman ate in the Chase-Duckett dining room and bumped into three sophomores from Wilder House, her previous residence. Although Berman lives in Hubbard House now, she doesn’t eat every meal there. She likes to hop around campus for these chance opportunities. “I think it’s good to have friends in other houses,” Berman says as she munches on a fried onion ring. “Otherwise, everything gets too insular.”

After lunch, she walks to McConnell Hall for her colloquium Blackness in America. Berman, who is deaf, has two interpreters waiting for her when she arrives. They take turns jotting down notes and signing to Berman during class. She listens intently to the professor and her classmates and often raises her hand to contribute. “It’s something that’s not talked about, racism, in general,” Berman says afterwards. “It’s a good class to learn how it’s embedded in our social consciousness.” Berman chuckles, “That was a real Smithie thing to say!”

Berman, who’s from Minneapolis, initially attended the Rochester Institute of Technology because of its large deaf community. However, she soon learned that she would prefer studying the liberal arts. Berman was nervous about transferring to Smith, where this year, she is the only student who uses ASL interpreters, although there are others with various degrees of hearing loss. The smaller campus eased the transition. Choosing between a school with a large deaf community or a better academic fit is a dilemma Berman says many deaf people face.

“Do you want to be in a school that doesn’t have as much of the social life or have the social life and not be in a great school?” asks Berman, who’s majoring in sociology with a minor in public policy. “I’m glad that at Smith I’ve had both the social life and the academic life.”

Suite Hours

After class, Berman returns to her spacious third-floor single, heavily decorated with colorful bumper stickers and inspirational quotes, such as “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.” She changes the silver button on her “Where’s Becca?” poster from “Around Campus” to “In My Room.” Berman holds her suite hours between 3 and 4 p.m., although her housemates know they can come by anytime.

Berman takes off her shoes and checks her e-mail for messages from her Public Policy seminar. In April, Berman and her classmates traveled to Washington, D.C. for their final project on diversity and public programming. There they interviewed senators and representatives from media advocacy groups and television stations.

After graduation, Berman may travel to Israel for 10 days. Otherwise, she will be job hunting and open to moving just about anywhere, even though sometimes she misses being a part of an all-signing community.

“I think it’s funny when people say Smith is not the real world because it’s an all-women’s college,” Berman says. “That’s what people said at RIT, this isn’t the real world because it’s all deaf. It’s kind of ironic. But I think that wherever you go, you can grow as a person. That’s the beauty of things. You can find friends anywhere.”

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