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A Culture of Care

Read Smith’s UPDATED plans as of August 5, 2020,
for an entirely remote fall 2020 semester.


Smith students talk about their work to Smith faculty at 2017 Collaborations, Smith College

Each academic year the Office of the Provost and Dean of the Faculty offers a variety of lectures, luncheons and faculty development workshops that feature Smith faculty and visiting professors.

Chaired Professor Lectures for 2019–20

Lectures are held in Seelye Hall 201 at 5 p.m. All lectures are free and open to the public.

October 10, 2019

Nalini Bhushan, Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy: "Aesthetic Integrity"

November 12, 2019

Rosetta Cohen, Myra M. Sampson Professor of Education & Child Study: "'If it ain’t mine, I won’t fix it' And other thoughts on curriculum reform"

March 3, 2020

James Lowenthal, Mary Elizabeth Moses Professor of Astronomy: "Bright Galaxies, Dark Skies"

The March 10, March 26, and April 21, 2020 Chaired Professor lectures will be rescheduled.

Headshot of Mary Baine Campbell
The Smith College Department of English is pleased to host Mary Baine Campbell as the 2019–20 Ruth and Clarence Kennedy Professor in Renaissance Studies. Campbell is professor emerita of English, comparative literature and women’s and gender studies at Brandeis University, where she founded the creative writing program with Allen Grossman. She is a scholar of medieval and early modern travel writing, utopia and science (especially anthropology and cosmography), and also teaches poetry and environmental studies.

She will give three lectures at Smith drawn from her current book in progress, Dreaming, Motion, Meaning: Oenirics in the Atlantic World, 1550-1750. The book asks why dreams are no longer taken seriously in daily life and community affairs, given the prevalence of “dream” in the Anthropological Index. Has “dream” as a basic human activity and source of knowledge been corralled by the workings of European colonialism into the once-subjugated societies of its empires? How did that happen, and what can the written record show us about the neglected arts of dreaming? Are we of the supposedly post-industrial world in need again of access to that skill, in the face of climate crisis? Can we find our way back?

Lecture Dates and Titles

September 24: The Renaissance of Dreams

October 22: Dreaming and Knowing: The Case of Descarte’s Dreams

November 19: Atlantic Dreaming: Vision and Prophecy in the New World

All lectures take place on Tuesdays from 4:30-6 p.m. at the Alumnae Conference Hall.

Carol Zaleski
In 2019–20, the 62nd annual Engel lecture, Unfinished: William James and the Making of America’s Religious Classic, will be presented by Carol Zaleski, Professor of World Religions.
Thursday, January 30, at 5 p.m. in the Alumnae House Conference Hall, Smith College

For William James, the "right to believe” was a life-or-death matter: He attributed his recovery from suicidal depression to a decision to permit himself to believe in free will. In his Gifford Lectures, published in 1902 as “The Varieties of Religious Experience,” he extended this privilege to religion, providing a naturalistic but sympathetic interpretation of conversion, mystical states of consciousness, saintly affections and prayer. Though it lacked the fully worked out philosophical conclusion James had hoped to provide, the Varieties became an instant classic, prized by figures as diverse as Ludwig Wittgenstein, Muhammad Iqbal, D. T. Suzuki, and Bill Wilson (co-founder of AA). James’s admirers praise him for his robust defense of religious experience and its life-changing power; his detractors criticize him for his emphasis on private, eccentric, and extreme mental states. But the Varieties is best understood in the way James understood himself, his philosophical system and reality as a whole: as an unfinished project. In recounting the making of the Varieties, this talk suggests ways in which James’s oversights can be corrected, his exuberant pluralism more fully realized and his religious classic rediscovered for today. 

The Katharine Asher Engel Lectureship at Smith College was established in 1958 by the National Council of Jewish Women to honor the memory of Mrs. Engel, its onetime president, a graduate of Smith College 1920. Mrs. Engel’s life was one of generous participation in educational, civic, religious and welfare activities. In endowing the lectureship, the council hoped to “create a bond between a remarkable woman, her college and the organization to which she was devoted.” Under the terms of the grant, the holder of the annual lectureship must be a member of the Smith College faculty who has made an outstanding contribution to knowledge in his or her field.  

Carol Zaleski earned her B.A. from Wesleyan University and her M.A. and Ph.D. in the study of religion from Harvard University. She has been teaching philosophy of religion, world religions and Christian thought at Smith since 1989 and was appointed to the chair in world religions in July 2006.

Zaleski is the author of Otherworld Journeys: Accounts of Near-Death Experience in Medieval and Modern Times and The Life of the World to Come (both Oxford University Press). She is the co-author, with Philip Zaleski, of The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Prayer: A History (Houghton Mifflin), The Book of Heaven (Oxford) and The Book of Hell (forthcoming, Oxford). She is currently working on a book about the search for immortality. She is a columnist and editor-at-large for Christian Century, and has contributed articles and reviews to The New York TimesFirst Things, AmericaSecond SpringNova et Vetera, Communio, ParabolaThe Journal of Religion and The Journal of the History of Ideas.

Zaleski regularly teaches Philosophy of Religion; Introduction to World Religions; The Inklings; The Catholic Philosophical Tradition; Heaven, Hell, and Other Worlds: the Afterlife in World Religions; and seminars on C. S. Lewis, William James and John Henry Newman.

Martha Merrow
This spring, Martha Merrow joins the Smith College community as the 2019–20 William Allan Neilson Professor. Merrow will deliver a series of three public lectures. Videos of the lectures will be available on the Kahn Institute website following each lecture.

All lecturers will take place at 4:30 pm in the Alumnae House Conference Hall.

Martha Merrow is an American chronobiologist. She currently chairs the Institute of Medical Psychology at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. Her career focuses primarily on investigating the molecular and genetic mechanisms of the circadian clock. Since joining the Ludwig Maximilian University in 1996, Merrow has investigated molecular and genetic mechanisms of the circadian clock as well as daily human behavior and medical psychology.

Lecture Dates and Titles

Feb 10, 2020: Circadian Clocks: How Daily Biological Rhythms Rule Life on Earth
Some behaviors are so obvious that we don’t stop to think about how they are regulated, or how they might be encoded in our DNA. Sleeping, for example, is regulated by a biological clock that measures time in units of about a day. Most organisms on earth show similarly profound behaviors that occur at specific times of day. In this lecture, we’ll explore the extent of daily timing in the biosphere – in bacteria, fungi, plants and animals. Our entire environment is oscillating!

March 09, 2020: The Problem of Circadian Clock Synchronization and Why DST Is a Bad Idea
Circadian clocks are tuned to regular signals from the environment called zeitgebers. The most dominant of these is the light dark cycle, which is entirely predictable from day to day and year to year. Organisms use the light and dark signals to synchronize their biological clocks. This process is a bit of biology that resembles physical principles of entrainment of oscillators. We’ll discuss how different, inter-individual circadian clocks entrain themselves to a zeitgeber and also the problem of asymmetry: it is easier to delay a clock than to advance it. Some of you may have noticed this in your experiences with jetlag!

The March 30, 2020 is POSTPONED Lilliputian Landscapes: The Thousands of Microbes That We Carry With Us
One of the most fascinating developments in biology is the understanding that microbial communities are essential to health and well-being. We still lack an understanding of how stable microbiomes form and are maintained. Perhaps there are some clues in how the microbiome changes according to time of day or time of life. In this lecture, the state of the microbiome in the gut, mouth, lungs—and even your hotel room—will be discussed. We’ll try to find some systematic principles in these massive collections of microbes that accompany us throughout our life.

Liberal Arts Luncheons

Liberal Arts Luncheons are sponsored by the Committee on Academic Priorities (CAP) and in 2019-20, the LAL series joins with Sigma Xi to offer alternating presentations on Tuesdays in McConnell Auditorium, unless otherwise noted.  Talks begin at approximately 12:10 p.m., a complimentary lunch is offered in McConnell Foyer (first come, first served). 

Date Lecture Presenter(s)
February 4 Sigma Xi  
February 11

"You must become Caligari!": One-Hundred Years of Cinematic Madness
February 26, 2020 marks the hundredth anniversary of a milestone in cinematic history: the premiere of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. It's been called the first horror movie and the first cult film, and today, a hundred years later, it continues to cast its shadow over cinema historiography. This talk explores the strange role played by this bizarre Expressionist nightmare in our understanding not only of German cinema, but of German culture as a whole.

Joel Westerdale, German Studies
February 18 Sigma Xi  
February 25

A folklorist and a computational scientist walk into a math institute...
In this talk, John Laudun and Katherine Kinnaird will share this interdisciplinary work in computational humanities. Laudun studies crawfish boats, and Kinnaird studies music information retrieval. So naturally their co-authored work investigates TED talks. Their research collaboration began during a residency at the Institute of Pure and Applied Mathematics (IPAM) at UCLA, and is an example of how a folklorist and a computational scientist can leverage their respective trainings to address interesting questions.

Katherine Kinnaird, Statistical & Data Science and Computer Science with John Laudun, English, University of Louisiana
March 3 Sigma Xi  

March 10

Can Mathematics Be Antiracist? Can mathematics be antiracist? Does the question even make sense? In Fall 2019 I developed the special topics course Inequalities: Numbers and Justice, as a second iteration of a previous class I had taught in Brooklyn College in 2013. In this talk I will discuss the development of these ideas, and reflections on the interaction between social justice and mathematics. Tian An Wong, Mathematics & Statistics
March 17 Spring Break, no presentation  
March 24
Sigma Xi  
March 31
Climate 101: Carbon Neutrality in US Higher Education - What Does Leadership Look Like? The most important number in climate policy is zero – we need to achieve zero net emissions as quickly as possible to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Academic institutions have both the mission and the capacity to be leaders in the transition to a decarbonized society. A handful of schools have already announced carbon neutrality. I'll discuss college and university commitments to carbon neutrality in the context of the broader climate policy ecosystem – highlighting how the current rules risk behaviors that fall short of leadership and how academia might do better. Alex Barron, Environmental Science & Policy Alexander Barron, Environmental Science & Policy
April 7 Sigma Xi  
April 14
Creating a Season at Chester Theatre Company
How does a theatre season get created? I'll discuss briefly the history and identity of Chester Theatre Company, then talk about my work planning the 2020 Summer Season. How are plays selected and developed? How are artists chosen and artistic teams put together? How does season planning respond to the current social, cultural, and political moment?
Daniel Kramer, Theatre
April 21 Sigma Xi  
April 28
Lessons and Life in the Academy: One Dean's Observations of the Status of our Faculty
This talk will describe the arc of my work and observations over the last three years serving as Dean for Academic Development, tying them to the broader landscape of higher ed and Smith's future.
Patty DiBartolo, Associate Dean of the Faculty and Dean for Academic Development

Sigma Xi Luncheons

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society, meets regularly for talks and a complimentary lunch throughout the year. Talks are open to all faculty, staff and students.

Talks begin at approximately 12:10 p.m. in McConnell Auditorium. A complimentary lunch is offered in McConnell Foyer. Please visit the Sigma Xi website for the schedule.

Faculty Development Events

The Office of the Provost offers a variety of faculty development workshops and events throughout the year. Please visit the office’s Faculty Development webpage for the schedule.