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News & Events for the Smith College Community
News of Note February 17, 2016

U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith Will Deliver College Commencement Address

Megan Smith

Megan Smith—the United States Chief Technology Officer in the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House, and the first woman to hold that post—will deliver the Commencement Address at Smith’s graduation ceremony at 10 a.m. Sunday, May 15.

Commencement speaker Megan Smith will receive an honorary degree at commencement.

Honorary degrees also will be awarded to:

  • Cartoonist and memoirist Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home, Dykes to Watch Out For;MacArthur Genius Award winner
  • Roslyn Brock, chairman of the NAACP board of directors
  • Ruchira Gupta, a leader in the international fight against sex trafficking
  • American soccer icon and Olympic and World Cup champion Abby Wambach
  • NASA astronaut Stephanie D. Wilson

This year’s ceremony will be translated live, into Spanish and Mandarin.

About the Honorary Degree Recipients

In September 2014, President Barack Obama named commencement speaker Megan Smith the United States Chief Technology Officer (CTO) in the Office of Science and Technology Policy. In this role, she serves as an assistant to the president. As U.S. CTO, Smith focuses on how technology policy, data and innovation can advance the future of our nation.

Smith is an award-winning entrepreneur, engineer and tech evangelist. She most recently served as a vice president at Google, first leading New Business Development—where she managed early-stage partnerships, pilot explorations, and technology licensing across Google’s global engineering and product teams for nine years—and later serving as a VP in the leadership team at Google[x], where she co-created the company’s “SolveForX” innovation community project. She also co-created Google’s “WomenTechmakers” tech-diversity initiative and worked on a range of other projects. During her tenure she led the company’s acquisitions of major platforms including Google Earth, Google Maps and Picasa. She also served as general manager of during its engineering transition, adding Google Crisis Response, Google for Nonprofits, and Earth Outreach/Engine, and increased employee engagement.

In the early days of the Web, Smith served as CEO of PlanetOut, a leading LGBT online community that partnered closely with AOL, Yahoo!, MSN and other major Web players. Smith was part of designing early smartphone technologies at General Magic and worked on multimedia products at Apple Japan.

Over the years, Smith has contributed to a wide range of engineering projects, including an award-winning bicycle lock, space station construction program, and solar cookstoves. She was a member of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) student team that designed, built and raced a solar car 2,000 miles across the Australian outback.

Smith has served on the boards of MIT, MIT Media Lab, MIT Technology Review and Vital Voices; as a member of the USAID Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid; and as an adviser to the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and the Malala Fund, which she co-founded. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT, where she completed her master’s thesis work at the MIT Media Lab.

Alison Bechdel created the countercultural comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, which ran in lesbian and gay publications from 1983 to 2008. From her comic strip emerged the “Bechdel Test,” now an international benchmark for assessing gender bias in film. In 2006 Bechdel began to gain a wider readership with the publication of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. This graphic memoir about her relationship with her closeted gay father was named Best Book of the Year by Time magazine, and has been turned into a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical. Bechdel’s second graphic memoir, Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama, explores her relationship with her mother through the lens of psychoanalytic theory. Bechdel has drawn comics for The New YorkerSlate, McSweeney’s and The New York Times Book Review, among many other publications. She is the recipient of a 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship and a 2014 MacArthur Fellowship, and her papers are part of Smith College’s highly regarded Sophia Smith Collection.

Roslyn Brock is chairman of the National Board of Directors for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Her unanimous election to the chairmanship in 2010 made history,  as she was the youngest person and just the  fourth woman to hold this position. Brock is employed as vice president of advocacy and government relations for Bon Secours Health System, Inc., and serves on governing boards for institutions including The George Washington University, the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, the American Public Health Association and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Brock graduated magna cum laude from Virginia Union University; earned a master’s degree in health services administration from George Washington University, an M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and a master of divinity degree from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University.  Brock says her goal in life is embodied in an African proverb: “Care more than others think is wise, risk more than others think is safe, dream more than others think is practical, and expect more than others think is possible.”

Ruchira Gupta is a feminist campaigner, a visiting professor at New York University, and founder of Indian anti-sex trafficking organization Apne Aap Worldwide. She has helped more than 20,000 girls, women and their family members exit prostitution systems. An advocate for prostitution survivors, she took delegations of survivors to speak to the United Nations, and she also spoke to the UN General Assembly on their behalf; this work helped inspire the creation of the UN’s Trafficking Fund. Gupta testified before the U.S. Senate to support passage of the Trafficking Victim Protection Act; she also led survivors of  the 2012 Delhi bus rape to successfully lobby for a new anti-trafficking law. Gupta has won an Emmy for outstanding investigative journalism, the Clinton Global Citizen award and the Woman of Distinction Award from the United Nations’ NGO Committee on the Status of Women. Gupta has edited two anthologies: River of Flesh & Other Stories: The Prostituted Woman in Indian Short Fictionand As if Women Matter: The Essential Gloria Steinem Reader. Her dream, she says, is “to create a world in which no human being is bought or sold and Every Last Girl is free.”

World Cup champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist Abby Wambach is the all-time leading scorer in international soccer history, with 184 career goals. She was the United States’ leading scorer in the 2007 and 2011 Women’s World Cup tournaments and the 2004 and 2012 Olympics. (She missed Beijing 2008 due to a broken leg.) Her ability to wear down defenses with her physical play, aerial game and hard running has long been a key to the USA’s success. After winning the Women’s World Cup in 2015, Wambach retired as one of the most dominant players in the history of women’s soccer. A leader on and off the field, Wambach is dedicating the next chapter of her career to fighting for equality and inclusion across industries. The youngest of seven children who says she got her toughness from her four older brothers, she loves coffee, cooking, music and playing golf.  

Engineer and NASA astronaut Stephanie D. Wilson is a veteran of three spaceflights and has logged more than 42 days in space. Born in Boston, she attended high school in Pittsfield, Mass., and earned her B.S. degree in engineering science from Harvard University in 1988. After working at Martin Marietta for two years, she earned her master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Austin; her graduate research, sponsored by a NASA Graduate Student Researchers Fellowship, focused on the control and modeling of large, flexible space structures. Selected by NASA as an astronaut candidate in April 1996, Wilson reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1996 for two years of training. After a series of assignments at Johnson Space Center, she flew her first mission on board the Space Shuttle in 2006, then flew subsequent Space Shuttle missions in 2007 and 2010. Before becoming an astronaut, Wilson worked for two years for the former Martin Marietta Astronautics Group, serving as a loads and dynamics engineer for the Titan IV rocket. Wilson’s many honors include the Harvard Foundation Scientist of the Year Award, NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal and the Johnson Space Center Director’s Innovation Group Achievement Award.