Knowledge Building: Engineering Lessons from a Big Tornado

In the aftermath of a devastating tornado that touched down in Springfield, Massachusetts, in June 2011 and affected an estimated 40 percent of the population, a class of Smith engineering students this fall used this extreme of nature as a springboard for their study of engineering mechanics.

Smith College is one of the first institutions of higher education to apply innovative teaching methods known as knowledge building to the liberal arts, establishing it as a leader in teaching and learning pedagogy. Now instead of putting the primary focus on lectures, some professors are rewriting the old syllabi and trying a new approach—one that emphasizes higher-level thinking and values the processes of innovation, collaboration and creativity. Read the full story in Insight.

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Ten days before classes began, I arrived on campus—sight unseen—from India. I bonded immediately during International Students Orientation activities, from simply sitting in a room bewildered by tax information to wandering around the Holyoke Mall. Everyone smiled at us wherever we went, which is very welcoming. Through my house community, I met people who have become good friends. One invited me to her house for Thanksgiving, another to Connecticut for Christmas.

I’m taking lots of intro classes to help me decide on a major: drawing, sociology, microeconomics and astronomy.  Whatever I do, I know it has to involve travel. I grew up speaking Hindi, English and Bengali. I’m taking a Spanish-intensive language course and, through the Career Development Office, looking for internships in Spanish-speaking countries my junior year. Spanish opens up another world to me.

My first year, I ran for class president because I wanted to be involved with my peers and my school in every way. Along with performing my class cabinet duties, I planned activities: we had ice cream socials with the seniors and students from the Five Colleges, Bollywood Night, and we organized student care packages for finals week. This experience has made me wonder if there are careers that would involve using the skills I have learned.

Coming from India where I had never seen snow, I was sad for a while when winter came; but then we all got hot chocolate and danced and made snow angels by Paradise Pond, so everything was all right again. There are lots of just-for-fun things to do here too, like talks by the philosophy department professors, kayaking on the pond, free film screenings and a wonderful creative writing workshop I took at the Poetry Center. I found it very refreshing and inspiring.  

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My mother and I were visiting Smith the summer of my junior year in high school when a student introduced herself and asked if she could help us. I thought, if Smith is this friendly, I want to be here. I became a Gold Key tour guide my second semester. I love to talk and I love Smith, so what could be more perfect?

Making friends was easy, either through my house, informal study groups or the Glee Club. A few of us from the Glee Club sing with the choir at St. Elizabeth Anne Seton Church in Northampton. It’s been great having a support system off campus and getting to know the local community. 

I haven’t nailed down exactly what I want to do as a career. I’m thinking about publishing or library science, and because teaching is also something I may want to try in the future, I tutored one semester at the Campus School and took a six-course sequence in the education department that will lead to teaching certification.

I’m studying this year at the University of Hamburg. I felt like a global citizen even before I got here because the student body on the Smith campus is so diverse. At Smith, I feel valued in a way I never did in high school. It isn’t about the grade you get but about what you learn.


Smithies Go to Washington

With Smith students, faculty and alumnae gathering in Washington, D.C., on December 15 for the inaugural colloquium of the Women in Public Service Project, the year 2011 ended on an inspiring note.


No Shave November

As part of the college's multi-faceted approach to environmental sustainability, students coordinated "No-Shave November," a month-long contest among campus residences challenging students to shave time off their shower duration, and thus cut down on water consumption.


The Importance of the Women in Public Service Project

President Carol T. Christ
In 2011, Smith College collaborated with other top U.S. women’s colleges — Mount Holyoke, Barnard, Bryn Mawr and Wellesley — and the State Department to initiate the The Women in Public Service Project (TWPSP) with the goal of preparing the next generation of women leaders from around the globe for success in public service. President Carol T. Christ on the importance of TWPSP.



Becoming a College Woman

Susan Van Dyne, Professor of the Study of Women and Gender
Director of the Archives Concentration

Studying archival photographs from the early days of Smith College, Susan Van Dyne traces the changing styles, attitudes and modes of dress of Smith students, who defied Victorian-era convention to express themselves through academics, athletics and dramatics. These self-consciously crafted and carefully curated images allow us to witness the emergence of modern womanhood.

Part of the Scholars in Studio video series



Smith College Vespers 2011 Live

This is a replay of the Live event.

Christmas Vespers tells the story of Advent through hymns, prayers, and readings. Dean of Religious Life Jennifer Walters will lead the services, which will include readings by members of the Smith College faculty, staff, and senior class. With Jonathan Hirsh, Grant Moss, and Gregory Brown directing, the music portion of the program will feature the Smith College Chorus, Glee Club, Chamber Singers, Handbell Choir, and Orchestra.

Download the Program for this event (pdf format)

Consider a gift to Smith this holiday season



2009 Vespers Highlights

 Highlights from the 2009 vespers concert. Christmas Vespers tells the story of Advent through hymns, prayers, and readings.

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A Smith alumna I met at a concert in my hometown suggested I consider Smith in my college search, and I was so impressed with her that I did some research. When I discovered that Julia Child, Nancy Reagan and Betty Friedan were all Smith alumnae, I thought, a school that produces consistently impressive graduates is definitely worth consideration! Smith has been a great fit for me from the beginning.

I was homeschooled through high school, and I played with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra the year before I came to Smith. I was concertmaster in the college orchestra my first year here. This year I am in a piano trio working on pieces by Shostakovich and Schumann.

I’m considering a career in law or criminal justice and will use my Praxis grant this summer to intern at the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department. This semester I worked on a research project with Nnamdi Pole, one of my psychology professors, involving the psychological effects of trauma on police officers and their families. Next year I will be going to Paris to study through Smith’s Junior Year Abroad program.

Smith is both nurturing and tough at the same time. It makes you stretch yourself, while giving you support and encouragement. My professors are always available to talk with me, not just about classes, but about books and articles I’ve read, ideas and research.