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Welcome for the Spring Semester

Presidential Letters

Published February 15, 2021

Dear Smith community,

As we begin this new semester, it may not feel as though much has changed in nearly a year—we are still wearing masks, still standing six feet apart, still washing our hands nonstop and still adapting to the social isolation the pandemic has demanded of us. We are also aware that some members of our community have struggled and experienced loss. There has never been a more important time to support one another and to practice self-care.

I have looked to poetry, as I often do, as part of my self-care. The poet Ross Gay, who gave an inspirational reading at Smith several years ago, has a new collection of essays, The Book of Delights, in which he chronicles his year spent “thinking and writing about delight every day.” His touching entries include observations about his mother, pop culture, his garden—even politics. Reading this book provided great solace to me, as his practice became my practice.

I take delight in seeing light in the houses because it is a sign that at least some students have returned. With only 109 students on campus in the fall, we missed so many of you—and continue to miss those of you who have not returned. Maybe one can take delight in missing someone because it signifies love.

I take delight in the dedication of faculty and staff who have worked tirelessly to prepare for the new semester with innovative courses, delicious food, a beautiful campus and lots of supportive programming.

I take delight in the ways that staff members have worked together, across teams, to ensure a safe and healthy environment for all of us this spring.

I take delight in seeing people wave to one another while walking through campus—a simple, friendly gesture that seems to say, we are all in this together.

I take delight during Zoom meetings in stealing a look at a rather large red-bellied woodpecker enjoying the suet hanging on our bird feeder.

I take delight in the promise of Smith traditions that await us, even if they are virtual; they connect us to one another and to this institution. This first week of the semester, we will host virtual Rally Day on Feb. 18. I hope you will join me as we celebrate the great class of 2021 and honor four Smith medalists, alums whose contributions have made our world incalculably better. And students, just because we all cannot be together in John M. Greene Hall doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear your best hat or get dressed in your graduation robes for the first time. As you know, I will have some exciting news about our honorary degree recipients—including our Commencement speaker—that I am sure you will want to hear.

Seniors, the pandemic has disrupted your last three semesters at Smith; I know this is not the way you envisioned your final semester at the college, but we will do everything we can to make it special. And please know that we hope to have an in-person, student-only Commencement ceremony if Massachusetts guidelines will allow us to do so. For friends and families, and those seniors who cannot join us in person, we will make sure you can participate virtually. Class of 2021, we will work with you to make your Commencement a memorable and meaningful celebration of all you have accomplished individually and as a class. Stay tuned for more information.

In his April 17 entry, Ross Gay muses, “. . . this is just a hypothesis, though I suspect there is enough evidence to make it a theorem—that our delight grows as we share it.” So let us share our delights with one another this spring.

Delights abound on this campus, even during a pandemic.

Stay safe and be well,