Ada Comstock Scholars Program
The Ada Comstock Scholars Program enables women of nontraditional college age to complete a bachelor of arts degree either part-time or full-time, with flexible options for course loads, special academic advising, career counseling and housing. Ada Comstock Scholars have come to Smith from all parts of the United States and as far as Asia and Africa. Ada students attend the same classes and fulfill the same requirements as all other Smith undergraduates.
Explore the Ada Comstock Scholars Program
How the Program Works
Many women choose to work or raise a family rather than complete an education, but they later wish to return to earn a degree. Established in 1975, the Ada Comstock Scholars Program allows nontraditional students to complete a bachelor’s degree either part-time or full-time. Each Ada Comstock student attends the same classes and fulfills the same requirements as all other Smith students. The program provides academic advising, orientation programs, peer advising, a center for the exclusive use of participants in the program and some housing. Career counseling and academic assistance are provided through offices available on campus. Financial aid is available to all admitted students based on demonstrated need.
Important Academic Information
Regardless of how many credits you have transferred or earned, whether you are a sophomore, junior or senior, you are a member of the Ada Comstock class. It is important to put the letters “AC” after your name on all official college correspondence to designate that you are an Ada Comstock Scholar.
The class designation of AC applies until your last 2 semesters when you are given a class year designation. For example, class designation becomes AC + the year of graduation (that is, for seniors this year: Class of AC ’18). Upon entering your final year at Smith, you have dual membership in the Ada Comstock class and the senior class.
This program was developed to assist entering Ada Scholars with their transition to life at Smith College and Northampton. The program is operated by current Adas who are paired with one or more entering Adas, providing new Adas an opportunity to become connected to the Ada community before classes begin. Peer Mentors are available to answer questions ranging from logistical issues to basic academic concerns. During orientation, there is a lunch for everyone to meet and there may be other events to support mentorship throughout the year.
About the Program
About Ada Comstock
Born on December 11, 1876, in Moorhead, Minnesota, Ada Comstock was the eldest of three children. As a bright, vivacious child, her father, a successful lawyer, recognized her capabilities and potential and set about to cultivate them by encouraging an early and sound education for his daughter.
Ada completed her high school education at the age of 15 and went on to college. In 1895 she transferred from the University of Minnesota to Smith College, where she completed her last two years of undergraduate study. As a Smith student, Ada often questioned the established rules and norms of college life. While a resident of Hubbard House, she was given a case of champagne, which the housemother felt should be given away. Instead, in a move characteristic of Ada's spirit, she decided to store it in the water cooler to refresh her friends!
After graduating from Smith in 1897, Ada went on to a graduate program at Moorhead State Normal School, where she became certified to teach, and then entered Columbia University for graduate work in English, history and education. In 1907, after teaching rhetoric at the University of Minnesota, she was appointed the university's first dean of women. In that capacity, she was instrumental in improving the quality of life for the women of the college, arguing persistently that a college was responsible for one's physical and intellectual well-being.
In 1912, Ada came to Smith to serve as the first dean of the college and to teach English. One of the most important tenets of her educational philosophy was the inculcation of self-respect in young women, one aspect of which was knowing how to employ oneself. Ada strongly believed that a college education should inspire women to take part in shaping the world.
In 1917, when the presidency of Smith College became vacant, Ada was given the responsibility of Smith's operation for approximately six months. The chance to become the president of a women's college presented itself in 1923, when Radcliffe offered Ada the position of its first full-time president. Under President Comstock, Radcliffe launched a nationwide admission program, improved student housing, constructed new classroom buildings and expanded the graduate program.
In 1943, at the age of 67, after achieving what she set out to accomplish at Radcliffe, Ada stepped down from her presidency. Shortly thereafter she announced her marriage to Wallace Notestein, Sterling Professor Emeritus of History at Yale University, a man she had known since her days at the University of Minnesota.
In retirement Ada was involved with the Smith College Board of Trustees, worked on plans for the graduate center at Radcliffe, did extensive educational committee work, administered a two-career household and traveled extensively with her husband. She remained active in her work for higher education for women until her death at 97.