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The STRIDE Program

Each year, Smith College offers some of its finest incoming first-year students one of the best perks possible: a scholarship that includes a paid research position—a prestigious job and research opportunity that undergraduates at most liberal arts colleges don’t even hope for.

Through Smith’s Student Research in Departments (STRIDE) Program, students with outstanding academic and personal qualifications receive a scholarship of $22,500 per year (limited to $11,250 per semester of enrollment) for each of their four undergraduate years at Smith, regardless of financial need. In addition to the scholarship, STRIDE Scholars are given an annual stipend of $3,000 (effective Fall 2023) for each of their first two years at Smith linked to a position as a research assistant. The total four-year amount of the STRIDE award is $96,000. Continuation of the STRIDE grant each year is contingent upon good academic standing.

How Do I Apply?

STRIDE scholars are selected to participate in the program at the time of admission on the basis of a student’s outstanding academic and personal potential. Students attending Smith with a merit-based Dora Windes Zollman Scholarship are also offered membership in the STRIDE program. Membership in these programs is very selective and limited to a small number of highly qualified applicants.

Since its inception in 1992, this unique program has been featured in The New York Times and USA Today and has served as a model for similar programs at other colleges.

How Does STRIDE Work?

Choosing from a long list of fascinating research projects, each STRIDE scholar may select one that especially piques their interest. They are then paired with a mentor with whom they will work approximately seven hours a week over the coming year.

Current and former STRIDE participants say that one of the program’s most valuable aspects is the close look it provides at the world of academic learning. Another is that STRIDE mentors frequently encourage, advise and connect students with others and help sort through the many opportunities that may come along during and after college.

STRIDE students are also pleased to find they can do meaningful, interesting work. Computer science major Margaret Zaccardi spent her second year as a STRIDE scholar helping to manage the Poetry Center’s website and assisting Ellen Watson, Professor Emerita in English. “To be involved personally in bringing famous poets to Smith and publicizing the events is quite rewarding,” she said.

Her experience is not unique. STRIDE students and their mentors often collaborate and present results of their joint research at academic conferences or are listed as joint authors when their findings are published in academic journals. STRIDE lets students test an interest in an intriguing academic area and gives them practical experience as an integral part of a professional research team.

Another academic and social highlight is Celebrating Collaborations, Smith’s annual showcase of student research and performance highlighting students’ intellectual achievements and their collaborative efforts with faculty in a variety of departmental, program and interdisciplinary projects. Students participate in individual talks, panels, poster sessions, exhibits and performances, in the areas of science and technology, performing arts, and social, cultural and literary studies.

With endless possibilities, projects span departments and programs across the curriculum and across campus.

Some past projects include:

Classical studies: digital archeology of Malthi, Greece
Economics: anti-poverty programs in the U.S.
Smith College Museum of Art: exhibiting contemporary art
Africana studies: the 20th-century Black world
Physics: the secret life of quantum magnets
and even the Botanic Gardens: Sylvia Plath’s botanical imagination

What Can STRIDE Do for Me?

Joanna Slater says she got to know every “last nook and cranny of Neilson Library” when she worked as a STRIDE scholar with Elizabeth Spelman, professor in the humanities and philosophy. Joanna also gained a friend and mentor in Professor Spelman. “Through our weekly meetings, mostly over coffee at a local shop, I learned about the best traditions of academia: a curious mind, a respect for others, a devotion to learning,” she explains. At the end of her senior year, Joanna won a prestigious Henry Luce Foundation Scholarship that placed her in Hong Kong for one year as a Luce Scholar and a journalist. Joanna was awarded a Knight Bagehot Fellowship at Columbia University. She is now the New York bureau chief for Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail.

Through STRIDE, Elizabeth Thomas worked with David Smith, associate professor of biological sciences. “The STRIDE program allowed me to conduct one-on-one research with a professor as soon as I entered Smith. It gave me opportunities to do work that most undergraduates do not have until their senior year. STRIDE also provided me with connections that helped me to get summer jobs during my college years.” Elizabeth is now attending graduate school at Brown University.

For Jennifer DeBerardinis, a biological sciences and philosophy major, her STRIDE research led to a special studies project in her senior year with Laura A. Katz, Elsie Damon Simonds Professor of Biological Sciences“Heterogeneous Rates of Evolution Among Loci in Ciliate Chilodonella uncinata. She is now a Fulbright Fellow living in Australia conducting philosophy research—“Uniting Science and Metaphysics through Embracing the Reality of Inherent Contradiction.”

“My STRIDE research has greatly improved both my ability to conduct research and to clearly communicate my findings and ideas, benefits that spill over into nearly every area of my academic career.”
– Eva Bruce ’25