Launched in 2000, Smith’s Urban 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 Urban Education Initiative’s vision and strategy: The Smith College Mindich Teaching Fellowship, Project Coach and Community-Engaged Scholarship & Research.
About the Urban 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.
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.
The Mindich Fellowship is an intensive education pathway and teacher apprenticeship program that connects students with those working in education. As a Mindich Fellow, you will be a part of an active cohort of curious undergraduate students from across the five colleges who choose to engage deeply with educational issues.
In this first year, Mindich Fellows will participate in three experiences:
- a series of fall orientation sessions held on the Smith College campus
- a spring half-semester seminar (1 credit) at Smith College, EDU 201, which is held Tuesday evenings from 7:30–9:30 p.m.
This course provides an opportunity to reflect on your experiences in your placement and to explore the question of why has it proven so difficult in the United States to create more schools and districts where educational opportunity is distributed fairly. While we explore this question broadly by providing opportunity to reflect on what you learned in your placement, the course also examines the educational systems of Western Massachusetts as a case study to help us understand how educators and policymakers attempt to provide a quality educational experience for students when issues associated with their social and economic environment often present significant obstacles to teaching and learning.
Fellows who complete these three experiences will continue to be supported on the pathway with additional opportunities to connect with educators, policy makers, local nonprofits and community leaders, including the opportunity to participate in a 6-week May/June internship.
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 graduate students in a four-day per week 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.
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 afterschool program Tuesday–Friday from 3–7 p.m. and one Saturday per month. 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.
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.
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 Urban 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.