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Jennifer (Jen) Smedes

Smith Staff

Office of Alumnae Relations and Development

Philanthropic Officer

What brought you to Smith?
I am a graduate of Mount Holyoke College, and I always loved the Valley. When my family had the opportunity to move back to the area I sought out a position at Smith because, as an institution, it closely mirrors my beloved alma mater. I have been here since 2017.

How would you describe what you do here at Smith? 
I connect alums with Smith and with each other by sharing exciting news from campus. I match them with philanthropic projects that they find meaningful and impactful.

Please share something you are proud of about the impact of your work at the college.  
I worked with a group of six alums who all came to Smith from China in the 1990s. For most of them Smith was their first stop in the United States. They were interested in starting an endowed scholarship fund in memory of two biology professors who had a significant impact on their lives and careers. The experience brought them closer to the college and to each other. I was honored to assist them in making gifts that will have a meaningful impact on students’ lives. 

What’s your favorite spot on campus?
The Lyman Plant House and Conservatory. Not only does it have obvious aesthetic appeal, but it houses over 3,000 species of plants from all over the world that are used for teaching and learning. It’s a real gem.

How has your background prepared you for your current job at Smith?
I am a rare unicorn that has worked in fundraising since I graduated from college in 1996. However, I think that the best preparation for my work at Smith was my time as a student, and now as an alumna, of Mount Holyoke College. The students, the alums and the missions are so similar that when I meet and speak with Smithies I feel like I am with “my people.”

When you’re not working or traveling for Smith, what are you most likely to be found doing?
Walking my dog, Lana, chatting with neighbors, attending a youth sporting event, working in my yard, enjoying a beverage on my front porch and soaking up the sunshine.

What are you reading/watching/digging into these days? 
I plan to start studying how to play the piano again. It’s been 30 years!

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I am eager to visit Costa Rica for the beaches, ecotourism and biodiversity.

What’s a project you are passionate about?
I think that the geothermal campus energy project is so amazing. I am proud to work at a school that will essentially be carbon neutral by 2030 and will achieve this by eliminating on-campus fossil fuel combustion. This project is engaging to both faculty and students and is an unbelievable learning experience for Smithies. I can’t think of anything more timely or exciting!

What’s a fun fact about you?
I was the first in my immediate and extended family to attend college.

Favorite Smith tradition?
Ivy Day

Who would you most like to have dinner with?
Fellow Seven Sisters alumna Frances Perkins, who graduated Mount Holyoke College in 1902. She was the first female to serve in a U.S. presidential Cabinet and created Social Security. I cannot think of a better example of the power of a women’s college education.

About Jennifer (Jen)

Pronouns: she/her