September 6, 2006
Good evening, and welcome! Welcome to Smith, and welcome BACK to Smith!
Welcome to the SENIORS, the spectacular class of 2007!
Welcome to the JUNIORS, the great class of 2008!
Welcome to the SOPHOMORES, the marvelous class of 2009!
Welcome to the transfer students! Welcome to the graduate students!
A warm welcome to the Ada Comstock scholars, especially the 66 NEW Adas!
And finally, a very special welcome to the 686 FIRST YEARS, the amazing Class of 2010!
We are very excited to meet you, but we do know a few things about you already. You come from 43 U.S. states, 31 countries outside of the United States, and 586 different high schools. Sixty of you have a mother, a sister, or a grandmother who attended Smith, and 22 percent of you are the first in your family to attend college. You are the most diverse class that Smith has ever enrolled; 30 percent of you are women of color.
You come to Smith at an important moment in the college’s evolution. As returning students know, we are in the midst of a strategic planning process that will shape the college’s future for the coming decades. Students’ experiences inside the classroom and beyond are at the heart of this process, and I urge you to get involved. In coming weeks you will receive an invitation from me to participate in roundtable discussions about the future of a Smith education. Please step forward and make your voice heard.
You will also hear more about the Common Ground: Community in Diversity project, whose findings will strongly inform the strategic planning process. I thank the students, faculty, staff and alumnae whose wisdom and commitment informed the project. Their work lays the foundation for action that promises to transform the campus community into one that is respectful of, and welcoming to, all of its members.
In October, I look forward to welcoming back to campus Smith’s seventh president, Jill Ker Conway, who will join us for the dedication of Conway House, the college’s first residence designed for Ada Comstock Scholars and their families. We will also be joined by former president Mary Maples Dunn and a number of the college’s former and current trustees.
Smith’s athletics teams begin their fall season this week, with field hockey taking on Westfield and volleyball playing in the Williams tournament. Before we cheer them on, I want to take a moment to make sure we celebrate a number of proud victories from last year. Volleyball won the Seven Sisters and the NEWMAC championships. Crew won its third consecutive NEWMAC title and placed fourth in the nation in the NCAA championships. Karen Klinger, the team’s coach, was named NEWMAC Coach of the Year for the second year in a row. Rugby won the prestigious Division Two Beast of the East tournament. Junior Marlene Pineda broke two Seven Sisters swimming records at the Seven Sisters Championship. Junior Shanti Freitas finished second at diving nationals for the second year in a row. Judy Strong, head coach of the field hockey team for 19 years, was named to the NCAA Division One 125th anniversary team. Sophomore Nora Youngs competed at nationals in both cross country in the fall and the steeplechase in outdoor track in May. Congratulations to all of our athletes and coaches!
This summer, more than 400 Smith students participated in Praxis internships, working for organizations around the world. These included museums from Boston to Oaxaca; botanic gardens from the Maine coast to Kew, outside of London; news organizations from CNN to the Daily Hampshire Gazette; educational organizations in India, Pakistan, and Cambodia, as well as many in the States; scientific laboratories at Harvard Medical School, Columbia, Dartmouth Hitchcock, and Mass General; and government offices and NGO's ranging from a United Nations Development program in Cairo to our own Jane Harman’s congressional office in Washington D.C.
This fall, Smith is widely expected to place first in the nation in the number of Fulbright Fellowships – 17 – beating last year’s record of 14 and speaking volumes about your academic distinction and international commitment. Smithies are everywhere, in every realm, engaging meaningfully with the challenges of our world today.
In coming together tonight, we begin this year with momentum and pride, rejoicing in our individual and collective accomplishments, even as we reflect on the ways in which an educational community such as this can seek to be of service to the world.
Last night many of you heard Paul Farmer, the subject of Tracy Kidder’s book, Mountains Beyond Mountains. Paul Farmer ’s extraordinary work in bringing health care to Haiti and in building Partners in Health, an NGO bringing health care to the world’s poorest and sickest people, challenges us all to examine our lives and the choices we make. Dr. Farmer ended the evening, calling on all of you to become social activists, committed to making a difference in the world.
One of the important ways to make a difference is to vote. This is a congressional election year. If you haven’t registered to vote, I urge you to do so.
This fall marks the fifth anniversary of 9/11, and Smith joins the nation and the world in reflecting on those tragic events. Our commemoration that day will include a carillon concert in the early morning and a mid-day memorial on Chapin Lawn to honor the memory of those who died and the impact of the events of 9/11 on the world. The day will conclude with a faculty panel discussion in the evening. I encourage you to participate in any or all of these offerings.
It is now my pleasure to call on several members of our community who wish to join me in extending their welcome to you.
Kevin Quashie, associate professor of Afro-American studies, will offer greetings on behalf of the faculty.
Julie Ohotnicky, who is beginning her first year as dean of students, will offer greetings on behalf of the staff.
Senior Megan Ambrus, SGA president, will offer greetings on behalf of your student government association.
And Maureen Mahoney, dean of the college, will announce a number of awards and prizes.
Please welcome each of them and give them your full attention. I wish you an exciting and fulfilling year.