Since she became director of Smith’s Wurtele Center for Leadership last July, Erin Park Cohn ’00 has overseen a process aimed at engaging the Smith community in shaping the center’s mission, programs and partnerships.
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Campus Champions: Welcoming New Students
Talbot House President Gav Bell ’20 and housekeeper Paula Pawloski “went above and beyond” in providing support and advice, says Schenck, who hails from New York City.
Pawloski, for example, “told me which dining halls she thought were the best and how to apply for my work-study job,” Schenck says. “I have three cats back home, and when I mentioned I was homesick for them, she showed me a picture of her cat. She’s just super kind.”
Bell shared a high-energy love for Talbot House traditions with Schenck, and offered a sympathetic ear when things were not going smoothly. “Gav made me feel I always had someone I could go to,” Schenck says.
For their role in helping her adjust to life at Smith, Schenck nominated both Bell and Pawloski as Champions for Smith Students. The new recognition program, co-sponsored by the Office for Equity and Inclusion and Dean of the College Susan Etheredge, invited entering students to nominate people who made them feel especially welcome during their first weeks on campus.
Nearly 100 new Smithies answered the call by nominating students, faculty and staff. At a celebration in October, champions were given a specially designed glass mug in honor of welcoming behaviors, both large and small.
“The program confirms that those behaviors matter a lot to students,” says Floyd Cheung, Smith’s vice president for equity and inclusion and professor of English language and literature. “Even if they weren’t nominated, we know there are lots of people on campus who are helping new students.”
The champions program is part of ongoing efforts to make Smith a more inclusive community, Cheung says. “The theory behind this is that you can improve a climate by promoting ‘micro-affirmations’—those small acts of opening the doors to inclusion,” he adds.
Pawloski, who has worked at Smith for more than a dozen years, says it was inspiring to be named a champion: “How cool is Eva, to take time out of her busy college life to name me?”
Pawloski views helping students as an integral part of her job. “I’ve been a college student living away from home, and I’ve lived in Northampton for most of my life, so I know my way around,” Pawloski says. “The students are kind enough to make me welcome in their space, so the least I can do is return the sentiment.”
House President Bell also appreciates the new champions program.
“I’m grateful that this question was asked,” says the Smith senior, “and that the Office of Equity and Inclusion as a whole cares about taking a moment to recognize some of the smaller, good things that are happening between individuals on this campus.”