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A Culture of Care >> Read Smith’s plans for the summer and fall 2021 semesters.

About the Center

Conway center staff and students posing

The Jill Ker Conway Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center is designed to prepare Smith students to become different kinds of entrepreneurs, leaders and innovators who engage with the world beyond the campus.

Our Story

In February 2015, Smith College embarked on a comprehensive strategic planning process and solicited ideas designed to shape the future of the college. Many of the proposals revealed the paramount importance of emphasizing co-curricular experiences, a core value of a Smith education. President McCartney, supported by the Smith College Board of Trustees, made the decision to invest in programs that connect students’ academic experiences with creative and practical opportunities. The Jill Ker Conway Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center, named in honor of Smith’s eighth overall and first woman president, was envisioned and identified as a new initiative priority.

Thanks to the generosity of Smith alumnae, the Conway Center launched in fall 2016 and signifcantly expanded and built upon the successful programming and initiatives of the Center for Women and Financial Independence (2001–16). At the Center, we recognize that Smith’s liberal arts curriculum provides students with an intellectual foundation for critical thinking, communication and creativity. When integrated with the complementary innovative and entrepreneurial experiences we offer, students become better problem solvers able to develop compelling value propositions. We teach academic courses, offer co-curricular programming and engage in financial education and entrepreneurship research.


About Jill Ker Conway

Jill Ker Conway (1934–2018) began her tenure as Smith’s first woman president in 1975. She championed groundbreaking projects, programs and academic departments, including the the Ada Comstock Scholars Program and programs in women’s studies, comparative literature and engineering. In 2013, Conway received the National Humanities Medal for her work as a scholar, author, college administrator, and member of numerous corporate and nonprofit boards. In naming Smith’s innovation center after Jill Ker Conway, we honor the legacy of a true pioneer and affirm our shared commitment to women’s success and leadership.


Our Team

René Heavlow, Director of Operations and Special Programs
René has been active in the field of collegiate program development for over fifteen years. Formerly the director of the Center for Women and Financial Independence, she is responsible for program design and management, as well as strategic and fiscal planning of the Center’s financial education and entrepreneurship activities. She has served as a mentor to and resource liaison for aspiring undergraduate entrepreneurs at Smith College. She has also developed and led interactive financial education workshops for middle and high school students. She currently serves as a research associate for projects focused on women’s financial knowledge and behavior. René received her M.A. in sociology from the University of Arizona and B.A. in African-American Studies and Ethics from Smith College.

Jennifer Kennedy, Administrative Assistant
Jennifer joined Smith College in August 2018. She serves as the primary contact for external offices and students. She spent nearly a decade working in intercollegiate athletics on three Division III campuses and in a conference office. Jennifer has a master’s in education from Springfield College and a bachelor’s from Cedar Crest College, where she is a lifetime member of the alumnae association and the class agent to the class of 2007.



Student Interns

Conway Intern Maha Awaisi

Maha Awaisi ’21
Maha is a senior double majoring in computer science and mathematics. She is a co-captain of the South Asian fusion dance team, SC Masti, and tutor for computer science classes. She is excited to promote the CIEC and learn more about entrepreneurship and innovation.

Photo of Serena Keenan

Serena Keenan ’23
Serena is a sophomore and resident of Talbot House majoring in Russian, East European and Eurasian studies. She is the assistant features editor for the Sophian and works on Labrys, the college’s literary magazine. She is excited to be involved with the Conway Center and to learn more about the opportunities it offers.

Conway Intern Talia Deady

Talia Deady ’21J (Fall 2020)
Talia is a senior majoring in classical studies. She lives in Morrow House and is SGA vice president. Her favorite part of working at the CIEC is learning about the Draper Competition and how creative the competitors are.

Conway Intern Christie Lee

Christie Lee ’22
Christie Lee is an art major who is hoping to double major in computer science. Whenever Christie is not studying, you can find her playing the violin.

Conway Intern Theo Dean-Slobod

Theo Dean-Slobod ’21
Theo lives in Sessions House and is majoring in economics and minoring in engineering. She is treasurer for the a capella group The Noteables. She’s excited to learn about the projects that students undertake through the CIEC and supporting innovation at Smith.

Conway Intern Ileanna Garcia

Ileanna Garcia ’22
Ileanna is a junior majoring in computer science and mathematics. She is part of the website administrators team and is excited to work at the center to learn more about interdisciplinary opportunities.

Conway Intern Lily Jin

Lily Jin ’22
Lily is a junior, double majoring in statistics and quantitative economics. She is involved in the investment club and Sazanami and is interested in helping with the function of the CIEC and its events.

Conway Intern Sara Kragness

Sara Kragness AC
Sara is an Ada Comstock Scholar who hails from the Midwest. She is an American studies major, focusing on social movements, and a minor in film and media studies. Sara wants to learn about CIEC programming to help others merge their personal work with CIEC services.

Photo of Danielle Davis

Danielle Davis ’21
Danielle is a senior double majoring in economics and Spanish and is a student liaison for the economics department. The CIEC has been her second home on campus, where she has conducted research on entrepreneurship offerings at peer institutions, learned technical skills and expanded her network of passionate entrepreneurs.

Vivian Ma

Vivian Ma ’22
Vivian is a junior majoring in economics. She lives in Haven House and is involved with multiple clubs, including the Investment Club, Asian Students Association, Consulting Club, First-Generation Student Alliance and Chinese Student Association. She is excited to work at the CIEC to gain leadership skills.

Photo of Finn Murray

Finn Murray ’21
Finn is a senior English major and government minor. She enjoys working at the Conway Center because she has learned real-life technical, communication and financial skills, and she credits the CIEC for helping her develop a healthy work ethic in a supportive and friendly environment.

Chichi Wu

Chichi Wu ’22
Chichi Wu is a junior statistical and data sciences and art history double major with a concentration in global financial institutions. She co-founded the Blockchain Initiative, which aims to introduce blockchain resources and curriculum to Smith so that more women and people of diversity will have a seat at the table.

Affiliated Instructors

Randall Bartlett
Randall Bartlett is professor of economics and director of the Urban Studies Program at Smith College, where he has taught since 1979. Known for his exceptional storytelling prowess, Bartlett has played an integral part in Smith’s comprehensive financial education program, co-founding the Center for Women and Financial Independence program, now the Conway Center. He teaches weekly lunch-and-learns on the essentials of personal finance. In addition, he hosts a popular personal finance bootcamp for graduating seniors in May.

Roger Kaufman
Roger Kaufman received his doctorate in economics from MIT in 1978. His research projects include an analysis of gain-sharing on productivity and wages, optimal college and university endowment spending policies, other issues in the economics of higher education, gender wage gaps in the public sector and forensic economics. Kaufman also played an integral part in the founding of Smith’s Women and Financial Independence program (now the Conway Center), and has taught the lunch and learn series Principles of Investing since 2001.

Mahnaz Mahdavi
Mahnaz Mahdavi is professor of economics and the faculty director of the Global Financial Institutions Concentration. She received her doctorate in economics from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and has been teaching courses on topics related to finance and international finance. She was the 2008 Distinguished Professor of the Year and one of the inaugural recipients of the Sherrerd Teaching Award in 2004. She was a teaching fellow at the University of Michigan and a faculty contributor to the Women’s Executive Education program at Smith College. Mahdavi was the founding director of Smith’s Center for Women and Financial Independence in 2001 and served as the Ann F. Kaplan ’67 faculty director of WFI until 2017.

Susannah Howe
Susannah Howe coordinates and teaches the capstone engineering design course. Since joining the Smith faculty in 2003, she has coached numerous student design teams across a wide range of engineering disciplines and collaborated with multiple sponsoring organizations from both industry and government. Howe also helps support entrepreneurial activity on campus, coordinating faculty mentors for students teams at Smith.

Fadia Nordtveit
Fadia Nordtveit (previously Hasan) teaches entrepreneurship courses for the Conway Center. Her research, which focuses on environmental communication, global youth movements, new media technologies and social entrepreneurships, led her to found The BGreen Project. BGreen is an international nonprofit that works on environmental action projects and sustainability education. Her doctorate and master degrees are from the communication department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is also the co-founder of a social entrepreneurship project called Bija Bangladesh. Her academic-community engaged research connects sustainability issues in the global north and south and has led to her book, Participatory Action Research and the Environment: The BGreen Project in the U.S. and Bangladesh (2019).

Keith Fox
Keith Fox received his master’s degree in mathematics from Oxford University and his master of business administration from the Harvard Business School. A qualified member of the Institute of Cost and Management Accountants (a UK professional body), in 2011 he received the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation. He has testified on access to capital before the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, has been a guest lecturer at the Venture Capital Institute and several leading business schools, and is currently the independent chairman of the DWS funds and a director of ICI Mutual.

Conway Center Recognition


Outstanding Emerging Center

— Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers

Top Ten

#2 School for Female Founders who want to change the world

— College Magazine

Top 50

#26 College Financial Literacy Program

— LendEDU


Top Speciality Program for Excellence in Entrepreneurship Education

— United States Association for Small Business & Entrepreneurship


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Annual Report 2019-20

“In the coming year, we’ll apply our entrepreneurial expertise to our own efforts to ensure that curricular and co-curricular activities remain innovative and engaging. We especially look forward to exploring how to best achieve our mission while ensuring that all Smith College students have the ability to take advantage of all our offerings.”
—Monica Dean, Director of the Conway Center