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A Culture of Care

Read Smith’s plans for the fall 2021 semester.
Current Operating Mode: GREEN

Writing & Public Discourse at Smith


Writing about what matters. Having the courage and conviction to speak up and speak out. These are hallmarks of what it means to learn and study at Smith College, and to live a life as an engaged global citizen who is ready to address society’s challenges. Thanks to a dedicated faculty and staff, and supported by prestigious foundations, Smith is undergoing a transformation in how we teach students to write, with public discourse at the center. Across Smith’s courses, disciplines, programs and events, students don’t just get a chance to practice writing in the classroom, they also get the chance to put their ideas into action and make a difference in the world.

Taking Initiative

Thanks to nearly $1.6 million in funding, since 2019 Smith has embarked on exciting writing and public discourse initiatives that will continue through 2022 and beyond. These initiatives involve every level of the college, from revising and developing individual courses, to bringing on new faculty members within departments, training faculty in a Writing Enriched Curriculum, and infusing the college at an institutional level with a philosophy that puts writing and public discourse at the forefront.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Writing in Service of Public Discourse. This prestigious grant is funding visiting assistant professors who also write for the mainstream press, as well as a robust set of innovative courses with public discourse writing at their center.

Calderwood Seminars in Public Writing. Modeled after courses started by David Lindauer at Wellesley College, these capstone seminars translate disciplinary knowledge to broader audiences, empowering students to fully explore how to use their voices and writing to effect change.
Writing Enriched Curriculum Supported by the Davis Educational Foundation. This grant supports departments in rethinking their writing curricula and making them more public-facing, a process grounded in the innovative model for writing across the curriculum developed at the University of Minnesota.



Real-world writing Smith students express insightful opinions, based on compelling evidence and strong argument. They regularly publish articles in mainstream media outlets and scholarly journals, either independently or with faculty. The Jacobson Center provides editorial guidance.

Ideas That Resonate

Katie Fleisher ’21, “Time to Push ROE Act Over the Finish Line,” Daily Hampshire Gazette, October 27, 2020

Lucy Metz ’22,“Massachusetts Is About to Set a Tough New Climate Goal—We Need Ambitious Policy In Place Fast to Get There,”, August 3, 2020

Sophie Willard Van Sistine ’22J, “Figuring Out (Im)mortality,” Oakland Arts Review, September 9, 2020





The Amplify Competition is an opportunity for Smith College students to share their knowledge, stories and perspectives in a public forum to bring about positive change. The gallery website showcases submissions in public writing, public speaking and public art for the 2020–21 competition. This program is offered by the Wurtele Center for Leadership with support from a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for writing in service of public discourse.



“I think my opposition to a future career in public writing stemmed mainly from an insecurity that I could not create something worth reading. Journalism and all of its cousins have seemed unattainable to me, like there was a standard for it that I would never understand, let alone reach. In this way, this seminar has had such a profound effect on how I view myself as a scholar and the avenues open to me as an English major, as I now no longer shrink away from job postings with the word ‘journalism’ or ‘writing’ in them.”
—Student from a Calderwood Seminar
“Students’ writing improved dramatically over the semester. Their growing ability to convey relatively complex sociological content in clear prose impressed me. Their ability to edit and workshop each other’s writing also improved. At the beginning of the semester, they were more tentative and more focused on copy editing; by the end, they were engaging with questions about organization, rhetoric and the underlying ideas that writers sought to convey. The sense of community and mutual respect in the class was palpable.”
—Nancy Whittier, Professor of Sociology
“I feel as if this course filled a gap in my skill set and education that I didn’t quite realize I had: how to articulate (for myself, but then for a larger audience) exactly why my thoughts and ideas are important. While my entire education has encouraged me to think deeply, and to feel confident about my thoughts, this was one of the first times in which I felt able to connect certain patterns of thinking and analysis to mainstream media and knowledge, and then, to a piece of writing accessible to a larger audience.”
—Student from a Calderwood Seminar



Associated Faculty


Writing & Public Discourse Committee Members

  • Julio Alves and Richard Millington, co-chairs
  • Sara Eddy, Assistant Director of the Jacobson Center
  • Suzanne Gottschang, Professor of Anthropology and of East Asian Studies
  • Travis Grandy, Interim Team Lead, Learning and Design
  • Alice Hearst, Professor of Government and Director of First-Year Seminars
  • Alexandra Keller, Professor of Film and Media Studies and Director of the Kahn Institute
  • James Lowenthal, Mary Elizabeth Moses Professor of Astronomy
  • Jane Stangl, Dean of the First-Year Class
  • Nancy Whittier, Sophia Smith Professor and Professor of Sociology

Mellon Visiting Assistant Professors of Public Discourse in the Disciplines

Calderwood Seminar Instructors


Writing & Public Discourse Initiatives

To share ideas or questions about Smith’s Writing & Public Discourse Initiatives, please contact Julio Alves at the Jacobson Center for Writing, Teaching & Learning.