News for the Smith College Community //January 20, 2000
Record-Setting Rower to Address Convocation
Tori Murden '85, who recently became the first woman and the first American to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean, will give the address at this year's All-College Meeting. The convocation, which will take place January 24 at 4:30 p.m. in John M. Greene Hall, is the traditional kick-off event for the spring semester. Murden's talk is titled "Try the Fair Adventure."
Murden, a former Smith crew team member, made history on December 3 when she completed her 2,962-mile trans-Atlantic journey, rowing from the Canary Islands, off the coast of Morocco, to the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, in 81 days.
Murden's first trans-Atlantic attempt, a west-to-east venture that began off the North Carolina coast in 1998, was cut short 600 miles from her destination after Hurricane Danielle imperiled her life, capsizing her boat 15 times and once hurling it end to end. Still, on that journey, Murden managed to row 3,043 miles in 85 days, setting a world record for most days at sea by a woman and most miles rowed continuously by an American.
During her recent successful attempt, Murden's boat capsized only once, when she encountered stormy seas caused by nearby Hurricane Lenny. She was greeted at the harbor of Pointe-a-Pitre in Guadeloupe at about 8:46 a.m. by a crowd of journalists, friends, tourists, and a customs official, who ceremoniously stamped her passport before she disembarked from her 23-foot boat, the American Pearl. Since then, Murden has attracted international media attention, receiving a congratulatory call from Vice President Al Gore and making an appearance on CBS television's Late Show with David Letterman.
For Murden, rowing and social activism are closely connected. "If you know what it means to be out in the middle of an ocean by yourself, in the dark, scared, then it gives you a feel for what every other human being is going through," Murden has said. "I row an actual ocean. Other people have just as many obstacles to go through."
Murden learned to row in her first year at Smith, where she majored in psychology. Following graduation, she earned a master of divinity degree from Harvard and a law degree from the University of Louisville. She has worked as a public hospital chaplain, a homeless shelter director and a city government administrator and currently serves as the development director for the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky, an organization that promotes youth development and race relations.
Murden is a member of the "Sector No Limits Team" of elite athletes committed to high-endurance endeavors. In addition to her trans-Atlantic feat, Murden is the first woman to climb to the summit of Lewis Nanatuck in Antarctica, and the first woman and first American to cross-country ski to the geographic South Pole. "I really hope my greatest accomplishments will be on land," Murden recently told the Louisville Courier Journal. "I don't think they'll be athletic accomplishments, and I don't think they'll be anything the news media will come to cover. I hope they'll be meaningful from the human perspective."
Learning with Legos 101
During the fall, 16 Smith students abandoned the pencil-and-paper approach to education and instead learned by working with Legos. As participants in Engineering 100, Designing the Future, the first class offered in Smith's engineering program, the students used Legos (actually, Lego MindStorm HandyBoard kits) to design and program robots. Their work, which was exhibited in McConnell Hall on December 14, produced elaborate machines that could play with animals, for instance, grab a randomly placed object, or sort bricks into boxes by color.
Fun as it sounds, the construction of robots was no easy task, says Ileana Streinu, an assistant professor of computer science. "Translating power into motion using gears, building for function and stability, showing intelligent behavior via programming -- these are far from trivial tasks even in highly structured environments," says Streinu, who teaches the class with associate professor of physics Doreen Weinberger.
"Some things may seem basic, but there's a lot behind it," adds Jessica Lee '01, one of the students in the class. Lee and her classmate, Sarah Lee '02, together created a "watchdog" robot, constructed to catch burglars. Equipped with a light sensor, the robot was designed by Sarah and Jessica to detect light and move toward the source. When the robot's front bumper hits the source, it triggers an alarm, exposing the intruder.
The construction process was not without complications, students acknowledge. However, as they identified and fixed problems in their robot's design and programming, they found they were not only improving their machine -- they were also developing their problem-solving skills. "I'm not an engineering major -- I'm an economics major," notes Jessica Lee. "But I think that the way engineers solve problems from day to day is important. [Learning problem-solving skills] will definitely be useful to other courses and other problems." Sarah Lee agrees: "This is the most applicable course I've ever taken."
Enhanced problem-solving skills weren't the only benefits students in Designing the Future took from the class: they also received a good deal of publicity. As students in the first class offered in Smith's pioneering engineering program, Jessica, Sarah, and their classmates garnered both local and national attention. "Reporters just came to class," Jessica says. "I've been interviewed by the Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, and the Hampshire Gazette." Sarah adds, "It was definitely cool to be in the first class."
Hold the Hot Sauce, But Not the Fun
Whoever said there's nothing to do at college but drink hasn't seen Chilipeppers, a bright, bold Web site dedicated to promoting alcohol-free events around the Five College area. Proclaiming itself to be "hot without the sauce," the splashy site features -- in addition to a dancing chili pepper clad in sunglasses and Bermuda shorts-a list of links directing students to the nonalcoholic version of fun in the Valley.
The site is divided into 10 categories: dances, stress busters, performances, parties, outdoor fun, movies, music, cultural events, miscellaneous, and road trips. Updated weekly, the site offers a constant and diverse stream of activities. During the week of December 8, for example, a student could choose to watch a fall festival of one-acts at Smith, spend an evening at Amherst College's Experimental Theater, or listen as the Five College Early Music Collegium performed French Renaissance music in Sweeney Concert Hall. Also available were opportunities to learn the Argentine tango at Northampton's Gotta Dance studio, listen to local writers reading from their works at the "Gallery of Readers" in Neilson Browsing Room, or listen as Yale fellow Judith Weisenfeld discussed "Saturday Sinners and Saints: Religion in 1930s and 1940s Race Movies" in Smith's Seelye Hall. Coffeehouse concerts, kayak rolling lessons, and various colleges' movie nights were also advertised.
Initiated and coordinated through Smith, Chilipeppers is a Five College-sponsored project. Look for more Chilipeppers information around campus -- thanks to a grant from the Governor's Highway Safety Bureau, organizers are improving the site's visibility through promotional giveaways -- or just visit Chilipeppers on line at http://chilipepperslive.org.
Students Build Virtual Homes
By Adele Johnsen '02
Flashy, funny, sleek, and sometimes pretty strange, these sites often serve to showcase sides of Smith students their professors and classmates have never seen before. One student uses her "virtual-land home" to reveal her fascination with The Hudsucker Proxy, tae kwon do and ballroom dancing. Another devotes an entire page, titled "Phlegmily Revealed!", to the explanation of a middle-school nickname.
A third has constructed a site to serve as a library of scripts written for her original television show The Sad and the Pathetic. The show, which boasts more than a dozen episodes, is centered around "my life and the lives of my friends," the student explains. "I have a feeling that it will be bigger than Seinfeld. I just need time."
For all Web site authors, homes in cyberspace are opportunities for self-expression. That expression is inherent even in the site's design. One student's page is designed like an artist's palette, with each colorful splat of paint representing a different section of her site. Another's site plays with animation, the first page featuring a hula girl swinging her hips and swishing her grass skirt, around...and around...and around. Forms of expression carry into the content of the sites, where entire pages are devoted to favorite causes, countries, organizations, and musical groups, ranging from Prism to Ani Difranco topurple cows. Emily, the apparently self-appointed "official Purple Cow representative to Earth," runs "the Official Website of the Purple Cows." Another student, a geology and government major, devotes her site to photos of her Five College Volcanology trip, an "Earthquake Paranoia" page, and a page of Volcanology poetry -- replete with strict rules for that particular form of verse. Of course, there are pages dedicated to more serious forms of self-expression, featuring poetry and prose and images of students' original artwork and computer animation.
The construction of a Web site can be a long and frustrating process -- why do so many Smith students choose to undertake it? "I'm not really sure what my motivation for having a site is," one Web author confesses. "I think it's a combination of narcissism, boredom, and the fact that I'm a die-hard techno-weenie procrastinator." Others have more serious reasons: a Web site, accessible from any computer, anywhere, can serve as a bridge between Smith and home. Friends from school are virtually introduced to life in Texas, California, or countries abroad. Likewise, friends from home can log online and learn more about life at Smith. Even Smith alumnae use the Web to maintain a connection between school and home. On Web sites included in 1996 Smith alumna Eszter Hargittai's Ring of Smith Alumnae, Smith graduates have posted pages devoted to their happy memories of years here. Hargittai herself runs a page that functions as a tribute to Hopkins House. Featured on the site are pictures of the house, reunion updates, and online interactive forums (such as the Hopkins House tea and conversation room, "where you can catch up on what fellow Hopkinsites around the world are up to").
Links to many Smith student pages can be found on the Daily Jolt (http://smith.dailyjolt.com) at http://smith.dailyjolt.com/smith_student_pages.html. To see Hargittai's Ring of Smith Alumnae, go to www.princeton.edu/~eszter/Smithies. Her Hopkins page is located at http://turing.csc.smith.edu/~hargitta/hopkins.
Econ Prof to Become New Dean
Associate Professor of Economics Charles P. Staelin has agreed to serve a three-year term as Dean for Academic Development, succeeding Donald Baumer in that post beginning this summer.
Staelin, who joined the Smith faculty in 1981, has served on numerous committees for the college. Until last year, he was a member of Faculty Council, the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation, and the Committee on Academic Priorities. He has also served on the college's Self-Study Task Force on Information Resources, the Committee on Community Policy and the Advisory Committee on Faculty Appointments. In 1987-88, Staelin directed the Jahnige Social Science Reserach Center and served as interim director of Information Systems from January 1990 to November 1992. He was the acting director of Educational Software and Technology at Smith from December 1992 to August 1993.
As Dean for Academic Development, Staelin says he will focus on the scholarship and teaching aspects of faculty development, with particular concentration on technological support. "I have a natural interest in teaching and technology," he says.
Staelin says he feels fortunate to serve in his new position at a time when the college's resources seem abundant. "This is just a really interesting time for the college," he said. "We have access to resources for doing wonderful things." He welcomes the opportunity to assist in the further development of new programs such as the Picker Program in Engineering and the Kahn Liberal Arts Institute, he says. "It's a great time to have a hand in moving these initiatives forward," he said.
Staelin has published several articles, papers and reports on economic theory and development in the U.S. and abroad. He has garnered research grants from the U.S. Agency for International Development and a fellowship program of the Indo-U.S. Subcommission on Education and Culture.
Staelin studied economics at the University of Michigan, from which he received a doctorate in 1971. He has also taught at UMass, Amherst and Mount Holyoke colleges. Staelin will assume his new post July 1.
SSW Center to Reach Out
Challenged by dramatic shifts and changes in national health care and social work, the Smith College School for Social Work (SSW) has quickly developed a bold solution: the school recently opened its Center for Innovative Practice and Social Work Education, a revolutionary fieldwork program designed to provide SSW students with hands-on experience necessary to become effective advocates of social work education.
The center, which launches this month, was also designed to fulfill one of the school's more revolutionary aims: to alter the structure of today's social work system. With a goal of "respond[ing] to the needs of vulnerable and marginalized populations," the new center functions as a direct challenge to the current system, which expends resources largely on "the healthiest clientele with the fewest complicating contextual problems," according to a center brochure.
To head the center, the SSW needed an innovator, someone with both education- and field-based experience, someone who cared about the needs of vulnerable and marginalized populations.
Georgina Lucas, who was hired as the center's director December 1, was most recently an associate professor-in-residence at the University of Connecticut's School of Social Work. She also taught in the school's administration program and provided field supervision. An expert in aging and health care, Lucas developed a specialization in aging at UConn's SSW. She also created internships and curricula for certificate programs, served on the admissions committee, and facilitated preparation of the school's reaccreditation.
"She has exceptional references underscoring her ability as a collaborator and innovator," says Smith SSW Dean Anita Lightburn of Lucas. "Her leadership has resulted in the development of national programs for initiatives that address aging and urban youth education, eldercare, the economic security and health care of older Americans and case management for the chronically ill."
Lucas received a master of social work degree from the University of Connecticut and training in the business schools of the University of Connecticut, Northwestern University, Columbia University, and Babson College.
Ford Grant to Fund Women's Studies
Using funds from a recent grant of $205,000 from the Ford Foundation, the Five College Women's Studies Research Center is preparing to launch a major new project. The project, titled "Institutionalizing Global Women's Studies," will work to reshape the perspective of women's studies, developing more courses directed toward international and gendered issues.
Dedicated to the advancement of women's studies in the college curriculum, the Women's Studies Research Center also works to link scholarship and activism to meet the needs of women in all communities, both local and worldwide. Less than a decade old, the center has already become "a nexus for one of the largest concentrations of women's studies scholars in the country -- more than 350 faculty teaching in fields from Anthropology to Zoology," according to a press release issued by the research center.
"The five colleges have become a magnet for innovation in women's studies," says center director Gail Hornstein, "and scholars from all over the world seek to join in our work."
The Women's Studies Research Center used a previous grant from the Ford Foundation to invite seven researchers to the center from Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and South Asia. From 1995 to 1998 the researchers worked with the the center's staff and more than 100 Five College faculty to "recast area studies courses to better reflect the situation of women worldwide, and to make women's studies courses more international in scope," says the press release.
Now, with its new Ford grant, the center will endeavor to improve upon its last project. Like that project, "Institutionalizing Global Women's Studies" will also rely heavily on the contributions of international scholars. Specifically, the funds will be used to bring two or three international scholars to the center each year for the next four years. During their semester-long residences, the scholars will "help to infuse women's studies here with a more profound international perspective."
Hornstein adds that the project "represents an important next step for the center in advancing women's studies locally and worldwide."
Track and field
Sources of further information, if any, are indicated in parentheses. Notices should be submitted by mail, by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by fax (extension 2174).
Honorary Degree Nominations
The review process is lengthy. It will not be possible to guarantee that a nominee will receive an honorary degree or provide a timetable for when the degree would be awarded. All nominations will receive careful consideration.
New Performance Appraisal Team
Museum of Art
Faculty and Staff
Campus School Open Houses
Alumnae House Teas
House Community Advisor
SSSP Summer Jobs
"Excavating the Museum II: H.H.
Wilder and Early 20th-Century
Sources of further information, if any, are shown in parentheses at the end of event descriptions. An asterisk following a listing indicates that the event is open to the public. Admission charges, if any, are listed when known. Items for this section must be submitted on Event Service Request Forms.
Sunday, January 23
Morning worship in the Protestant tradition with Interim Protestant Chaplain, the Rev. Leon Burrows and student liturgists presiding. Prayers and light breakfast in Bodman Lounge at 10 a.m. All welcome. 10:30 a.m., Chapel *
Association of Smith Pagans meeting. Organization for those who practice nature-based religions. Seekers welcome. 4 p.m., Lamont basement
Roman Catholic Eucharistic Liturgy Fr. Stephen Ross, OCD, celebrant, priest/scholar-in-residence; Elizabeth Carr, Catholic chaplain. All welcome. 4:30 p.m., Chapel *
Other events and
Monday, January 24
Other events and
Yoga class Noncredit, for students. Limited to 40. 4:45-6 p.m., Davis ballroom
Tuesday, January 25
Welcome-back meeting for students returning from leave of absence to discuss important academic issues, policies and changes. 5 p.m., Seelye 201
SGA Senate meeting Open forum. All students welcome. 7:15 p.m., Seelye 210
Other events and