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Education Initiative

Project Coach Yesenia works with new and returning coaches

Launched originally in 2000 as Smith’s Urban Education Initiative, the Education Initiative exists to connect Smith to a critical movement in education and American society: the promise of education as the prime lever for social mobility, well-being and positive social change. Three core programs operationalize the Education Initiative’s vision and strategy: The Smith College Mindich Teaching Fellowship, Project Coach and Community-Engaged Scholarship & Research.

About the Education Initiative

An affiliated program of the Jandon Center for Community Engagement, our programs provide opportunities for Smith students to transfer what they are learning in the classroom to real-world experiences alongside mentors—many of whom are Smith alumnae—across a range of educational settings. Our students apprentice in classrooms, schools, educational policy placements and community organizations.

We believe that profound learning and self-discovery comes when experiences are supported by mentoring, context-specific foundational knowledge, intellectual analysis, and cycles of individual and group reflection. Our programs structure opportunities for students to learn about themselves, work at innovative educational placements, engage with mentors, and connect with networks of educators to explore the complex and urgent problems in education at the individual, classroom and community level. At the center of this multidisciplinary process is engagement in systemic analyses of structural, cultural and political forces impacting education in the United States. These opportunities align with and connect to a variety of Smith programs, including the Community Engagement & Social Change Concentration, and programs in the Department of Education and Child Study, and, in particular, the youth, community and policy strand.

Community-Engaged Scholarship & Research

Community-engaged scholarship and research remains central to our mission. Our programs are also laboratories where Smith students and faculty test and discover what works in education and share what we learn in the world. In Project Coach, we wrestle with critical questions in youth development, particularly for children born into disadvantage. In the Education Initiative, we address the critical question of education equity across the widening socioeconomic schism in American society. Our students, youth coaches and staff regularly present at conferences and are engaged in state and federally funded research that delves into essential questions about equity, education and social justice.

The Smith College Mindich Teaching Fellowship

The Smith College Mindich Teaching Fellowship introduces students from Smith and other liberal arts colleges to the unique challenges of classroom teaching and its power to change the course of a child’s life. The program integrates best practices of university-based teacher education and school-based teaching practica during the one-month apprenticeship. Over the past 20 years, the program has advanced a diverse cohort of Smith students on pathways that have led to urban teaching and education-centered careers. Many aspects of the program are made possible through generous funding honoring the legacy of Dan Mindich, a high school English teacher and lifetime educator who loved teaching and learning. Smith students will be named Mindich Fellows—a title that honors Dan’s belief that students benefit the most when teachers work in communities where they learn together and support each other.

Read the Grécourt Gate article: Julie Destine ’21: Finding Her Place in the Classroom, a 2019–20 Mindich Fellow who reflects on her experience in the fellowship, which included four weeks of teaching in a New York City classroom, and how it has shaped her thinking about her future and career.

About the Fellowship

The Smith College Mindich Teaching Fellowship provides an opportunity to engage deeply in the practice and lived experience of teaching in schools. This immersive experience (in person during J-Term 2023) links current Smith students to a network of Smith alums and teacher-mentors working on the leading edge of school reform. Upon completion, you’ll join a unique community of nearly 1,000 Fellowship alums working in schools across the nation and around the world. Many aspects of the program are made possible through generous funding honoring the legacy of Dan Mindich, a high school English teacher and lifetime educator who loved teaching and learning. Smith students will be named Mindich Fellows – a title that honors Dan’s belief that students benefit the most when teachers work in communities where they learn together and support each other.

The Mindich Fellowship occurs through participation in two Smith College classes: 1-credit practicum placement with one of our trusted school partners nationwide (may be repeated for credit) and a 3-credit seminar with Professor Sam Intrator (optional). Mandatory Orientation Sessions: Thursday, November 17th AND Thursday December 1st, 7:00-8:30 PM.


Interested? Next Steps:

Complete the Mindich Fellowship application by Monday, November 7th @ 11:59 PM. This is a competitive opportunity. No extensions will be offered.
● If accepted, we will help you register for EDC 298 (Interterm): Rethinking Leadership & Policy Practicum (1 credit)
● If accepted, we will help you register for EDC 299 (Spring): Rethinking Leadership & Policy for Tomorrow’s World (3 credits). Mondays 3:30-6:00 pm.

Point of Contact: Graeham Dodd, Director of the Education Initiative:

Project Coach

Project Coach, Smith’s nationally recognized youth development and leadership program, connects the resources of the Smith community to a Smith-created community-based youth development program. Through a cascading mentorship model, teens from city schools are supported, tutored and connected to Smith staff and students in a youth leadership program that prepares teens to be coaches and leaders in their communities and in their own lives. Project Coach teens coach recreational sports leagues in socioeconomically underserved communities, closing the “play gap” for poor children while building their own life and leadership skills.

Project Coach Supporters include:

  • Baystate Health

  • Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Public Health

  • The Kate Risley Foundation

  • Mass Mentoring Partnership

  • Mass Mutual

Smith undergraduate and graduate students participate in Project Coach in the following roles:

Project Coach Graduate Fellows: Graduate fellows work as coaches and team leaders in Project Coach’s after-school program. For their participation in the program, fellows receive tuition waivers equal to the cost of their grad programs in either teaching or exercise and sport science. Learn more about the graduate fellowship.

Jandon Project Coach Undergraduate Teaching Fellows: Teaching fellows work one-on-one with Springfield yourth providing mentorship, enriching educational experiences and tutoring support while participating in a cohort experience designed to encourage students to think deeply about teaching in urban schools.

Jandon Project Coach Research Fellow: The research fellow works alongside faculty and community researchers on projects underway in Project Coach. 

Jandon Project Coach Nonprofit Leadership Fellow: This fellow apprentices with the Project Coach leadership team in running the organization. 

Jandon Project Coach Nonprofit Communications/Development Fellow: In this role, the fellow works with the Project Coach leadership team to support communications. 

To learn more about Project Coach and how you can become involved, please contact Brittany Gaetano (



Project Coach graduate Michael Carter

Project Coach Fellows have gone on to serve as teachers, to create after-school programs and schools, and to work in education policy around the world. For example, Michael Carter, a Springfield, Massachusetts local and 2013 Project Coach Fellow, went on to work as a teacher and administrator at KIPP schools, and then as education director of a California-based out-of-school-time program. He recently returned to KIPP in Oklahoma City as a Fisher Fellow and founding school leader for KIPP OKC Elementary School.

“Project Coach showed me that by truly investing in young people—going to their games, meeting their families, genuinely asking about their day—you build a relationship with young people that not only transforms them academically, but transforms the world in which they live.”—Michael Carter ’13

About the Project Coach Fellowship

The Project Coach (PC) Graduate Fellowship in Teaching or Exercise & Sport Science is designed to prepare aspiring educators and coaches through firsthand experience in mentorship and sports-based youth development.

We believe that to be a good educator or coach one must understand the socioecosystem of a child’s life—the 20 percent of the time they spend in school as well as their crucial out-of-school experiences. Project Coach Fellows work in Smith College’s nationally recognized youth development program that provides free after-school recreation and academic support to children and teens in Springfield, Massachusetts. The fellowship is a singular opportunity for aspiring teachers to explore the critical factors that shape a child’s life.

PC Fellows work as mentors, coaches and team leaders in Project Coach’s afterschool program. Fellows receive academic-year tuition waivers equal to the cost of their grad programs. Fellows must pay for summer course tuition if their graduate program requires it.


MAT Fellows complete their MAT degree in one or two years and graduate with Massachusetts licensure. ESS Fellows complete their ESS degree in two years. Smith College graduate programs are open to all genders.