News for the Smith College Community // February 25, 1999
Citing both a pressing national need for women engineers and a commitment to providing significant new opportunities for Smith graduates, the board of trustees last weekend approved a plan establishing the nation's first engineering program at a women's college.
The new Picker Program in Engineering and Technology is named for the late Jean Sovatkin Picker, a 1942 Smith graduate and former United Nations official, and her husband, Harvey Picker, a longtime Smith supporter whose $5 million gift has established an endowment for the program. Picker is chairman of the board of Wayfarer Marine Corporation and dean emeritus of the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. Additional support for the program has been provided by Rosemary Bradford Hewlett, who graduated from Smith in 1940, and the William R. Hewlett Trust.
President Ruth J. Simmons characterized the new engineering program as "a bold venture but an important one for a forward-looking women's college."
The first presentation of the new program will take place Thursday, March 4, at 5 p.m. in the mathematics lounge on the third floor of Burton Hall. Students interested in engineering, applied sciences and mathematics are invited to attend to hear from members of the Smith faculty and outside speakers about ways in which they can benefit from the engineering program. According to Malgorzata Pfabé of the physics department, summer internship opportunities will also be discussed and dinner will be served during the meeting.
"Women represent more than 50 percent of the college-going population but only 9 percent of the engineering work force," Simmons observed. "Clearly it's a matter of national import that our country not only produce more women engineers but also develop new, truly effective models for educating them."
A key issue, Provost and Dean of the Faculty John Connolly explained, is that women nationwide who enter college interested in science often don't persist in science fields. Smith has countered this trend: its students graduate with science majors at two and a half times the national average for men and women combined. Thus, Connolly believes, "a student's chances of leaving Smith with an engineering degree are likely to be much greater than they would be at a university."
Serious consideration of an engineering program at Smith began during the college's decennial accreditation self-study, which took place in 1996-97. As those discussions intensified, Simmons noted, it became apparent that enthusiasm for an engineering program at the college was quite strong, not only among faculty and students but among engineering educators at other institutions, industry representatives, accrediting agencies and alumnae.
Under the direction of a founding chairperson, to be named in the coming months, the Picker program is likely to focus initially on three fields: computer engineering, electrical engineering and environmental engineering. These fields build on existing faculty strength at the college in the areas of computer science, geology, physics and environmental science. The program will be on a par with other academic departments and programs at Smith and will report to the provost.
The college will offer its first engineering course, "EGR 100: Designing the Future: An Introduction to Engineering," this fall. The topic for the fall will be "Designing Intelligent Robots." The course has no prerequisites and is open to all students regardless of their future plans, according to Pfabé.
Fund-raising for the space and equipment needs of the program will be among the goals of comprehensive fund-raising campaign Smith expects to launch in the coming months.
The first engineering majors are expected to graduate in 2004 with bachelor of science degrees in engineering. Once all program areas are established, the college expects to have 100 engineering majors at any one time, graduating approximately 25 women per year.
Regardless of their specialization, Simmons notes, some Smith engineers are likely to be fast-tracked within agencies and corporations because of the high demand for engineers with strong liberal arts skills -- writing, speaking and analytical thinking. (In addition to Smith, only two other top-25 liberal arts colleges -- Swarthmore College and Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut -- offer engineering degrees.)
Some Smith students and alumnae have already pursued engineering studies. Since 1985 the college has offered an engineering minor, with emphases in chemical, civil, computer, electrical, industrial and mechanical engineering and in operations research. Smith had an active dual-degree program with the engineering college at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst from 1976 to 1991, and discussions are under way to create a new collaboration between the two schools. In addition, since last year the MacLean Program, a partnership with Dartmouth College, has enabled Smith students to earn both a bachelor of arts degree from Smith and a bachelor of engineering degree from Dartmouth in five years.
Focus is on Midwifery
"Of Women Born: The Rebirth of Midwifery in 20th-Century America," a conference examining the future of contemporary midwifery and placing it in anthropological, feminist and political contexts, will take place at Smith March 6 and 7. The conference, hosted by Smith's Sophia Smith Collection (SSC), marks the opening for research use of the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) records, which are housed in the SSC.
Among the conference participants are Valerie Lee, professor of English and women's studies at Ohio State University and author of Granny Midwives and Black Women Writers: Double-Dutched Readings; Charlotte Borst, professor of history at St. Louis University and author of Catching Babies: The Professional-ization of Childbirth, 18701920; Penfield Chester, midwife, teacher and author of Sisters on a Journey: Portraits of American Midwives; and Carol Leonard, midwife, co-founder and past president of MANA and co-author of Women's Wheel of Life: Thirteen Archetypes of Woman at Her Fullest Power.
The conference will take place in the reading room of the SSC in the Alumnae Gymnasium and in Seelye Hall 201. It is designed to appeal to a broad audience both within and beyond the college community, including students and scholars of history, American studies, women's studies, anthropology and sociology, as well as students preparing for careers in the health sciences.
The conference will also serve as the opening of an exhibit of material from the MANA collection in the SSC. Selected videos about midwifery and childbirth will be shown Saturday, March 6, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in Seelye Hall 201.
For further information, call the Sophia Smith Collection, extension 2970.
Ground Crew Says 'Let it Snow'
by Lisa Johnson AC
At daybreak during the January ice storms, while most members of the Smith community were still in bed, Bob Dombkowski, Physical Plant superintendent of grounds, and his staff had already put in several hours clearing the campus in preparation for the day. With 200 years of cumulative experience on the staff, hardly a situation comes up that someone hasn't dealt with. Still, 1999 is already down in the books as the worst year for ice any of them has seen.
For Dombkowski a storm starts the day before, as he monitors it on four Internet weather channels. By watching throughout the day he is able to estimate when an impending storm will hit campus and let his staff know what time to arrive the next morning. With careful planning they hope to avoid wasted time and midnight wake-up calls. Last month there were members of the grounds crew dealing with ice and snow for 30 consecutive days, up well before dawn and working for an average of 12 hours.
Although every storm is different, each sets off a chain reaction at Physical Plant. The crucial details are the estimated starting time and the specific kind of precipitation expected. For example, Dombkowski says, a storm that starts as snow and changes to freezing rain calls for letting it all fall before taking action. If the crews move too soon, the rain lands on blacktop, creating treacherous black ice. When the snow is allowed to remain, the ice forms on top of it; when it's all over, passageways can be cleared down to the asphalt. In a run-of-the-mill snowstorm the work starts with sanding and moves on to plowing and clearing sidewalks before off-duty custodians start running snowblowers. The campus takes about 12 hours to clear when students and staff aren't around; when they (and their cars) are, clearing typically takes 20 hours.
The numbers are startling. In an average year, four tons of salt (used minimally to keep the sand from freezing) and 100 tons of sand are strewn on campus walkways, parking lots and roads. As of mid-February of this year 30 tons of salt and 220 tons of sand had already been spread. All of this is distributed by a crew of 20 working with eight trucks, seven snowblowers and two tractors with either plows or brooms on their front ends. The sidewalks are given a barely perceptible layer of the sand/salt concoction -- enough to provide the grit needed for safety, but not so heavy a layer as is applied later. Once the equipment has done its part, the grounds crew with sand buckets and sturdy gloves sets out on foot to cover the six miles of campus sidewalks. As the freeze-thaw-freeze cycle continues, the sand piles up (and, of course, must removed in the spring).
If those numbers don't impress, perhaps this will: Imagine getting up in the middle of the night, driving through the worst part of a snowstorm to get to work and then finding yourself on a 12-hour road trip at an average speed of five miles per hour. Lights are flashing constantly and there is no scenery. At the end, you drive home, if you're lucky, somewhat faster, only to get up in the middle of the next night to start all over again.
Noted Economist to Speak Here
Jeffrey Sachs, Galen L. Stone Professor of International Trade and director of the Harvard Institute for International Development and the Center for International Development, will speak Wednesday, March 3, at 4:15 p.m. in Wright auditorium. His topic will be "What Have We Learned from the Emerging Markets' Financial Crisis?"
Sachs, described by The New York Times Magazine as "probably the most important economist in the world," serves as economic adviser to governments in Latin America, Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and the former Soviet Union. He is also cochairman of the Advisory Board of the Global Competitiveness Report and has been a consultant for the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program.
From 1986 to 1990 Sachs was an adviser to the president of Bolivia, helping to design and implement a stabilization program that reduced that nation's inflation rate from 40,000 percent a year to the current 10 percent a year. He has advised Poland's Solidarity movement on economic reforms and counseled Boris Yeltsin on issues of macroeconomic stabilization, privatization, market liberalization and international financial relations. Last year he delivered the keynote address at Japan's Liberal Democratic Party national convention, the first foreigner to do so in that party's 43-year history.
Sachs' current research interests include the transition to market economies in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, international financial markets, international macroeconomic policy coordination and macroeconomic policies in developing and developed countries.
The author of more than 100 scholarly articles and numerous books, Sachs has been a frequent contributor to The New Republic, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun and several magazines and newspapers in Latin America, Europe and Japan. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Harvard Society of Fellows, the Fellows of the World Econometric Society and the Brookings Panel of Economists.
Sachs graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College in 1976 and received his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University. He joined the Harvard faculty as assistant professor in 1980 and was promoted to associate professor in 1982 and professor in 1983.
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Chapel is Busy With Programs
Dean of the College Maureen Mahoney, chair of the search committee for a dean of religious life, reports that the committee is narrowing its list of candidates and hopes to have finalists on campus during the week before spring break.
-- In the meantime this semester's interim dean of religious life, Elizabeth Carr, who is also a chaplain to the college and adviser to Catholic students, reports that chapel activities are flourishing:
-- The heads of religious organizations recently presented a panel on religious diversity to the residential life staff.
-- Special African-American, Hindu and Ash Wednesday worship services were held in the chapel during February.
-- A quiet space for people of all or no religious traditions has been created upstairs in the chapel opposite the Mandir, or Hindu prayer space. It is open to everyone from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily for meditation, prayer, or reflection.
-- Along the same lines, the chapel is offering quiet music and "Silence for the Soul" each Monday from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.
-- Two chapel lecture series are continuing this semester. David Cohen of the mathematics department will speak March 4 as part of the "What is Education For?" series. The "Spiritual Underpinnings of Social Activism" series includes programs in Baha'i, Jewish and Hindu and Christian traditions. June McDaniel, professor of religious studies at the College of Charleston, will present on March 7 "Saints, Sages and Gurus: Some Female Mystics of India and Their Social Roles." Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service and visiting professor of urban studies and urban affairs at Queens and Hunter Colleges, will speak about the Jewish roots of her activism on March 23. And Sandra Rivera, director of the Mega Dance Company at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, will come to campus on April 17.
-- Carr is organizing a group of "adjunct chaplains" into a working group to focus with chapel staff on the spiritual and religious life on campus. It includes Buddhist, Hindu, pagan/earth-based religion, Eastern Orthodox, Quaker, Inter-varsity, Campus Crusade for Christ and Lutheran/Episcopal Fellowship members, and will soon include a Muslim as well. Mentha Hynes, interim assistant dean of multicultural affairs, joined the group recently to help plan February's African-American worship service organized by the BSA for Black History Month.
Indian Scholar to Lecture
Romila Thapar, this year's William Allan Neilson Professor in the Department of Religion and Biblical Literature, will present "Death and the Hero," the first of three Neilson lectures, on Monday, March 8, at 4:30 p.m. in Wright auditorium.
Thapar, emeritus professor of history at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, is one of the world's foremost authorities on ancient and medieval India. She is a prominent figure in India's current struggle over the interpretation of its past.
In her lecture Thapar will use slides to illustrate and discuss the stones used to mark the deaths of women who have immolated themselves on their husbands' cremation pyres.
Thapar was invited to Smith as a Neilson professor "because of her profound importance to the study and understanding of one of the world's oldest living civilizations," says Dennis Hudson, professor of world religions.
As teacher, writer and speaker during her career, Thapar has served as general president of the Indian History Congress, honorary fellow of Lady Margaret Hall at Oxford and fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society. She has held honorary and visiting professorships at the universities of Chicago, Beijing, Pennsylvania, California, Berkeley and Cornell as well as at Oxford and the Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, Paris. A distinguished scholar-in-residence at Five Colleges in 1992, she received an honorary degree that year from Mount Holyoke College. Thapar is the author of the first volume of Penguin's History of India and two textbooks for middle school Indian students, Ancient India and Medieval India.
Thapar's Neilson lectures will continue on March 22 with "The Raid on the Somanatha Temple: The Aftermath" and on March 29 with "Shakuntala: The Biography of a Narrative." She will also teach a four-part seminar, "Rethinking the Beginnings of North India History," in April and May.
Activist To Tell Her Story
Back in 1954 Anne Braden and her husband, Carl, were charged with sedition when they purchased a house in a segregated white neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky, in order to sell it to an African-American couple. Carl was sentenced to 15 years in prison. (He served eight months and the conviction was reversed three years later.) The Bradens were charged again in 1967 for rallying against strip-mining in Pike County, Kentucky. During their court case the couple succeeded in having Kentucky's outdated sedition law declared unconstitutional.
Anne Braden, 73, who has spent most her life supporting civil rights, will give a lecture, "Fifty Years of Struggle for Civil Rights in the South," on Thursday, March 4, at 4 p.m. in Wright Hall auditorium.
As a writer, editor, leader and organizer of civil liberties organizations, working with groups like the Southern Conference Educational Fund, Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and Kentucky Rainbow Coalition, Braden has made it her life's work to fight injustices brought about by racially prejudiced laws and actions. As a result of her activism, she was labeled for many years as a subversive and communist. Only recently has her work been recognized with an award from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Alumnae Achievement Award from her alma mater, Randolph-Macon Women's College in Lynchburg, Virginia. Braden is co-chair of the Southern Organizing Committee for Economic and Social Justice.
Her talk is coordinated by members of the anthropology, Afro-American, sociology, philosophy and women's studies departments.
Spring Flowers Are Blooming
Two special events will be added to this year's spring bulb show. There will be an evening just for Smith students, faculty and staff and their partners and children and members of the Friends of the Botanic Gardens on March 10 from 6 to 9 p.m., when the greenhouses will be illuminated. A second program, "La Noche de las Flores," will be offered on March 12, also from 6 to 9 p.m., with a Spanish flair -- Spanish-language tours of the greenhouse by Smith students and staffers, presented to welcome members of the Pioneer Valley and Five College Latin-American community.
The bulb show opens Friday, March 5, at 7 p.m. in Seelye 106 with "Ground Covers and Bulbs: The Finishing Touches," a lecture by renowned horticulturist Mary Ann McGourty. She and her husband, Fred, are co-owners of Hillside Gardens, a nursery in Norfolk, Connecticut, specializing in uncommon perennials and perennial garden design. The couple recently developed a spectacular new cultivar of Cimicifuga racemosa known as "Hillside Black Beauty." Mrs. McGourty has contributed articles to various publications, including American Horticulturist and several Brooklyn Botanic Garden handbooks. She has also served as a horticultural consultant for several book publishers.
The lecture will be followed by a reception and refreshments in the Lyman Conservatory, which will also be illuminated for the occasion. The bulb show will be open to the public from Saturday, March 6, through Sunday, March 21, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will feature a spectacular array of forced bulbs that ordinarily bloom at different times throughout the spring. Visitors will have a rare opportunity to see crocus, hyacinths, narcissi, irises, lilies, tulips and other bulbs in full bloom simultaneously, and to catch an early glimpse of what the coming spring holds.
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"A fascinating and provocative book that is bound to generate interest, controversy and debate" -- thus John D. Graham, director of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, describes Environmental Cancer -- A Political Disease? Written by Stanley Rothman, Mary Huggins Gamble Professor Emeritus of Government at Smith and director of the Center for the Study of Social and Political Change, and S. Robert Lichter, president of the Center for Media and Public Affairs and adjunct professor of political science at Georgetown University, the book has just been published by Yale University Press.
"What causes cancer is one of the most politically charged and controversial [questions] of recent decades," says the book's publicity announcement. "An accompanying question often presented by the media [asks what] proportion of cancers have their source in our environment." Lichter and Rothman draw on surveys of cancer researchers and environmental activists and discover sharp differences between the two groups' viewpoints on environmental cancer. Comparing the views of these two groups with press reports over two decades, the authors find that the media frequently cite the views of environmental activists as though they were the views of the scientific community. Lichter and Rothman conclude that the public has sometimes been misinformed about expert opinion on cancer risks.
Carolyn Scerbo Kaelin '83, director of the Comprehensive Breast Health Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, is "the youngest of the seven female surgeons who head seven of the 10 local breast centers," according to a story in the February 2 Boston Globe. In the story, Kaelin reflected on how different the medical world is for women today than it was just 10 or 15 years ago, although she admits there were times when "she sensed she was not getting equal treatment." According to the story, Kaelin "did not officially decide to go to medical school until her junior year at Smith College, when she realized that she might have a greater immediate impact on people's lives as a physician than as a lawyer-legislator, a career she had been leaning toward." Kaelin attended Johns Hopkins Medical School.
Kids' Night Out
The next Kids' Night Out is Friday, March 5. The cost is $10 for the first child registered from a given family, and $5 for each additional sibling. Register at the information booth on the first floor of Ainsworth gym or call Kim Bierwert at extension 2722. Preregistration is preferred, but walk-ins are welcome. Check in by the glass doors at the entrance on the first floor of Ainsworth.
There will be no Ecumenical Christian Church morning worship services on the spring-break Sundays, March 14 and 21. Services will resume on Palm Sunday, March 28, at 10:45 a.m.
500 Speak Out on Visual ID
More than 500 people have thus far taken part in the visual identity survey on the college's home page. The survey, at www.smith.edu/vid, asks members of the Smith community what things about the college they find particularly notable. It will be removed from the Web on February 28. The visual identity project is being overseen by Chief Public Affairs Officer B. Ann Wright. Her committee is gathering information and discussing the application of the new program with representatives of many college departments.
Student Opinions Count
A number of Smith students have received a Cycles survey in the mail this week. Why take the time to complete it? Because every returned survey makes a difference and contributes to a more accurate picture of how Smith students feel about their college experience. Each individual response is especially important for this survey as only about one-third of the student body is asked to participate. Names are chosen at random. All responses are treated with utmost confidentiality. We are interested in building an overall campus profile rather than in considering individual responses, so students are encouraged to respond freely and honestly.
The purpose of the Cycles survey is to monitor students' concerns and assess their satisfaction with various aspects of the college experience. According to Maureen Mahoney, dean of the college, the results are used by administrative offices and planning and policy-making groups to identify problems and make changes and improvements. In addition to participation by each of the Five Colleges, this year's survey will be administered at 20 other highly selective private schools, making possible some valuable cross-college comparisons. In addition, because the survey has been conducted annually since 1975, it is possible to look for long-term trends and changes in student perceptions and experiences.
Students who received the Cycles survey are asked to please take a few minutes to complete it. This is one of your best chances to express your views. Every single completed survey counts! If you have questions, or if you have misplaced your survey and need a replacement copy, please call the Office of Institutional Research, ext. 3021.
Because of the turnaround time on Pap tests, none will be done at the Health Service after April 30. They will resume again in September. Please schedule your Pap test before April 30.
The Smith Croquet Club will be selling "mid-term care packages" at the student mail center March 3 and 4 for delivery on campus during the weekend before midterms. You can also order from members of the team or from Annie at extension 5509.
All students who wish to remain in campus housing during spring break-Saturday, March 13, through Sunday, March 21 -- must complete a vacation-housing request form in the Office of Student Affairs, College Hall 24, no later than 4 p.m., Monday, March 8.
The following houses will remain open during the break: Albright, Chase, Cutter, Dawes, Duckett, Friedman, Gillett, Lamont, Lawrence, Morris, Northrop, Talbot, Tenney, Ziskind and 150 Elm. Students residing in non-vacation houses who wish to stay for the vacation must make arrangements with students in open houses to stay in their rooms and obtain their room key.
A $25 fee will be charged for spring-break housing, $15 of which will be nonrefundable and help cover the cost of housekeeping. All students residing in vacation housing will be issued a vacation key, available in the Office of Student Affairs on Wednesday and Thursday, March 10 and 11, during regular office hours. The remaining $10 deposit will be refunded pending return of the key to the Business Office, College Hall 05, by 4 p.m. on Friday, March 26. (Ext. 4940.)
International Study Deadline
The deadline for meeting with Associate Dean for International Studies Cathy Hutchison to obtain permission to attend a non-approved international program starting in the spring of 2000 is Monday, March 1.
The Counseling Service is offering a playshop for students interested in having fun, decreasing their stress levels and reviving their tired minds, bodies and spirits. It will be held in Wright common room from 4 to 6 p.m., Wednesday, March 3. Please bring a scarf.
Spring appointment interviews for students interested in serving on all-college committees for the 1999-2000 academic year will take place in the SGA office, Clark Hall, Monday through Friday, March 1-5. (Kendra Grimes, ext. 4958.)
The Fine Arts Council is offering 10 tickets at $9 each for Smith students wishing to attend the performance by Shizumi at UMass's Bowker Auditorium on Saturday, March 6, at 8 p.m. A consummate master of ballet, modern dance, Japanese folk dance and Noh and Kyogen theater, Shizumi explores timeless themes-the moon, love, the seasons-in a spellbinding synthesis of Japanese dance, theater, art and literature. Tickets are on sale at the SGA Office, Clark Hall.
The student affairs office is sponsoring a skiing and snowboarding trip to Mount Snow in southern Vermont on Sunday, March 7, for students, other Smith community members and their friends-whatever their abilities on the slopes. Bus transportation will be provided. The group rate is based on a minimum of 20 participants. Group-rate package options include: lift only, $38; lift and ski or snowboard lesson, $62; lift and ski rental, $64; lift and snowboard rental, $67; lift, ski rental and lesson, $88; lift, snowboard rental and lesson, $91; learn-to-ski or -snowboard package, $38. Children's rates available upon request. Sign up (first-come, first-served) and pay in full in the student affairs office, College Hall 24, before Thursday, March 4.
SGA spring elections have been postponed until April 14-15 to accommodate any changes to the SGA constitution voted in during the week of February 23. Some cabinet positions are expected to change, so sign-ups will not be held until the modified constitution has been ratified.
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AcaMedia staff: Ann Shanahan, co-editor; Cathy Brooks, layout; Mary Stanton, calendar/notices; Eric Sean Weld, co-editor
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