Why I Support Scholarships

For Nirupa Umapathy ’02, an entrepreneur and first-generation immigrant, supporting scholarships is a way to give back after she received generous financial aid that changed the course of her family’s future.

For Alana Northrop ’71, an emerita professor of political science, supporting scholarships is a way to share the benefits of education—and a Smith education, in particular—with others.

“Smith’s financial aid transformed my future. ... I was able to change my family’s educational legacy.” —Nirupa Umapathy ’02

To date, 5,447 donors like Umapathy and Northrop have made gifts at every level to Smith’s Here for Every Voice initiative, a campaign to make a Smith education accessible to the best and brightest students. Each gift to the Here for Every Voice initiative helps the next generation of leaders find their voices—and creates a more just and equitable world in the process. Every day, we hear from students and alums whose lives are changed because of their financial aid. “Smith taught me to think critically and stand up for my truth,” says Umapathy. “Giving back is a virtuous circle.”

Here, Umapathy and Northrop share more about how Smith made a difference in their lives, why they support scholarships and how they believe scholarship aid can transform the lives of students.

Illustration of Nirupa Umapathy ’02
Nirupa Umapathy ’02

Hometown: Chennai, India

Houses at Smith: Capen and Duckett

Job: Writer, investor, social entrepreneur and corporate adviser. In my past life, as managing director at Bank of America, I was a trusted adviser to institutional investors in bond markets. In 2017, I went on a 180-day, life-design sabbatical and returned to found Salons for Life (SFL). SFL produces micro-retreats that facilitate personal and social change through conversation, arts and storytelling.  

Achievement I’m proud of: Venturing overseas to study as a first-generation immigrant and achieving financial freedom at age 38. I had come to this country with just $1,000 from my parents, which was a lot of money for our lower-middle-class family at the time. I was able to retire from my first chapter in finance and I’m now writing my second.

How I support scholarships: I support international students through The Smith Fund and any key strategic initiatives of the college.  

What I love about Smith: Its history and legacy of cultivating bold, heart- and values-centered leadership. 

My favorite thing about Smithies: Our commitment to be changemakers and our invisible affinity as Smithies.

How Smith made a difference in my life: Smith taught me to think critically and stand up for my truth. A Smithie recruited me into my first job in finance.

What I want to tell students today: Being a constant learner and critical thinker is invaluable in today’s complex world. As is your network. Cultivate your social and creative capital and nurture the foundations that support you. The greatest gift you can give the world is to be unapologetically yourself.

Why I support scholarship aid: My father could not complete college, but Smith’s financial aid transformed my future. I received close to a full scholarship, without which my journey in America would not have been possible. Thanks to Smith, I was able to change my family’s educational legacy, funding half of my sister's tuition to Cornell. Giving back is a virtuous circle.

Illustration of Alana Northrop ’71
Alana Northrop ’71

Hometown: Simsbury, CT

Smith house: Emerson 

Job: Professor of political science emerita at California State University Fullerton

Achievement I’m proud of: I became one of the youngest full professors in the U.S. at the age of 35.

Fun fact about me: During our daily quarantine cocktail hour, my husband and I took turns teaching each other about one great art masterpiece. I even consulted my old Art 100 book.

How I support scholarships: Through an endowed fund that will be established with my bequest.

What I love about Smith: The college valued women from its very creation. 

My favorite thing about Smithies: They’re so well rounded.

How Smith made a difference in my life: I met so many fabulous lifetime friends.

What I want to tell students today: Throughout your life you will value more and more of what you got from your four years at Smith and in different ways. 

Why I support scholarship aid: Education is a conduit. It provides not just a foundation for an impactful career but also for a life rich in culture, travel and ideas.  

By Mary Giles; this article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 Smith Alumnae Quarterly.

To learn more about supporting scholarship aid at Smith, please contact Betsy Carpenter ’93, associate vice president for development, at 413-585-2052 or ewcarpen@smith.edu.