Carol T. Christ, Smith Alumnae Quarterly, Fall 2006
As Smith enters the next—and most consequential—phase of strategic planning, it does so from a position of considerable strength. Applications for the class of 2010 broke all records, resulting in an incoming class of unprecedented accomplishment and diversity. Our students garnered seventeen Fulbright Fellowships, a figure widely expected to place Smith at the top award position in the country. Annual giving, an important reflection of alumnae support and affiliation, increased by more than $400,000.
In this context, we are bringing forward a number of strategic planning objectives that will powerfully shape the college over the next decade and beyond. The mandate we have taken in our planning is no less than this: to reimagine a liberal arts education, linking Smith's past to its future in bold new ways.
Such an aspiration might sound audacious, and in many ways it is, but I have met enough Smith alumnae and students to know that audacity and boldness are well within our tradition. I spent the last year meeting with hundreds of alumnae, in small groups, from Honolulu to Boston, from Chicago to Palm Beach, inviting advice as we shape the future of Smith. I also received many comments through e-mail messages that were carefully considered and which demonstrated the strong feelings that alumnae have for their college, the education it provided them, and its impact on their lives.
Across the generations and professions, across interest groups, classes, majors, and professions, what alumnae told me—what you told me—was remarkably consistent. You are proud of Smith's academic excellence and distinction; you are grateful for the commitment of faculty to their students; you are excited about Smith's pioneering developments in the sciences and engineering; you recognize the exceptional strength of Smith's programs in the arts, as well as in international study; you value the house system; and you believe strongly that education has a moral and social purpose. Smith, you've said firmly, must educate its students to contribute to the world.
Like our campus community, you have voiced a deep commitment to developing students' personal and academic capacities. You have joined faculty, staff, and students in stressing the importance of writing, quantitative reasoning, public speaking, critical thinking, cross-disciplinary study, intercultural competency, and civil discourse.
And you have reminded us that many of the most transformative moments of a Smith education occur beyond the classroom. One alumna summed it up evocatively, recalling how, as she and her friends studied together, they were "outraged by authors, amused by ironic criticisms, and stunned by a social history [they] had never looked at in this light. Each revelation started a discussion that ranged from pop music to foreign policy in Rwanda." Her reward, she realized, was "the ability to speak my mind, be a thoughtful listener, and use others' passion for inspiration."
My conversations with alumnae and the campus community have crystallized into eight strategic-planning directions. Briefly stated, they are: to strengthen essential student capacities, such as writing, public speaking, critical thinking, and cross-cultural competency; to promote a culture of research and discovery, involving students broadly and deeply in experiences of original discovery, creative endeavors, and real-world challenges; to deepen students' awareness of global cultures and issues, leveraging the college's considerable strengths and resources in this area to students' best advantage; to encourage purposeful engagement with society's challenges, building capacity for ethical reasoning, civil discourse, and community-based learning; to support and promote environmental sustainability, both as a central operating principle and a pedagogical focus; to prepare women for work/life opportunities and choices in a world of often conflicting career and family goals; to open doors to women of promise, ensuring that a Smith education remains available to talented, qualified applicants across the socioeconomic spectrum; and to extend Smith's impact on the world, developing programs that actively engage our alumnae around the globe as well as new populations and professional groups.
We will spend the fall and early spring developing significant initiatives in each area. I invite you to watch the process unfold, and to join the dialogue, by visiting the strategic-planning Web site: www.smith.edu/planning.
In our own country and around the world, the education of women is increasingly recognized as a force for social and economic development and for the advancement of civil society. The future Smith shapes for itself must—and will—connect powerfully to the pressing debates and challenges of our time, reaching and influencing new populations and engaging our alumnae and supporters in new and compelling ways. This process has already begun, and I am grateful to the many alumnae whose observations and advice have ended with a generous and energizing question: "How can I help?"