March 9, 2012
Dear Members of the Smith College Community,
I write to share my decision to retire from the presidency of Smith College on June 30, 2013. As I sit in my study, looking out over Paradise Pond and the hills beyond, I feel thankful for the opportunity I have been given to lead this remarkable institution.
The decade since my husband, Paul, and I arrived at Smith has been rich with accomplishments for the college. Applications have substantially increased, making the college more competitive than ever in recent history. Smith is significantly more diverse, a point of pride for its students and a critical part of their education. We have embarked on a strategic plan, the Smith Design for Learning, that reimagines liberal arts learning for the 21st century, building essential capacities, integrating knowledge across disciplines, and connecting classroom learning with practice-based experiences outside of it. We have become a college for the world’s women, increasing both our proportion of international students and the opportunities for all students to study and hold internships abroad—a strength reflected in the large numbers of Fulbright Fellowships our students win year after year. We have helped launch global partnerships: Women’s Education Worldwide, a new association of women’s colleges from around the world, and the Women in Public Service Project, a collaboration between the State Department and the historic Sister colleges. We have created new centers: for global studies, for the environment, for community collaboration, for work and life, and for teaching; we have built the MacLeish Field Station on land we own in Whately to promote environmental research and experiential learning. We have built Ford Hall, home to chemistry, computer science, molecular biology, and the Picker Engineering Program—a symbol of our leadership in science education for women. We are in a notably strong financial position, despite the recession. And last year, the Board and the campus community embarked on a project to look 20 years into the future, at the ways in which higher education will change and how Smith will adapt—resulting in the Futures Initiative, a project that has attracted national attention.
All this has been possible because of the extraordinary creativity and vision of our community. I am buoyed every day by the spirit and ambition of our students, the imagination and dedication of our faculty and staff, and the accomplishments of our alumnae. An alumna recently said to me, “Smith is not only a college but a movement.” As Smith’s president, I’ve had the privilege of seeing the history of women in the 20th and now into the 21st century through a unique lens—the aspirations, the achievements, and the lives of our students and alumnae.
The Board of Trustees has already embarked on the search for my successor. Over the next 15 months, we still have much to do, completing some projects and launching others. When you lead a college, you step into a river that flows before and after your time in its waters. I am grateful to be a part of this remarkable institution. In the next year, I look forward to the many occasions we will have to celebrate its distinction, its achievements, its mission, and its future.
Carol T. Christ