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People News, January 2024

Research & Inquiry

Read about the latest accomplishments of Smith students, faculty, staff, and alums

Snow covering the Lyman Plant House

Published January 22, 2024

Six students won awards in this year’s annual Elevator Pitch Contest sponsored by the Jill Ker Conway Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center. Winners and their projects on the contest theme of “Joy” were: Best 60-Second Pitch, Autumn Wilburg ’27 for “Public Speaking Club”; Best Hook Award, Camila Maldonado Franco ’24 for “Riding for Fun”; Share the Joy Award, Joanne Lee ’27 for “One Child at a Time” and Glory Divine Yougang Tahon ’26 for “Education as Joy”; Education Dividends Award, Nadira Talayee ’26 for “Empowering Afghan Girls”; Best 90-Second and Overall Pitch, Juliana Makonise ’25 for “Winter Bliss.” Judges were Denise Materre, vice president for alumnae relations, Deborah Wijnhoven, assistant dean of employer partnerships and career communities, and Susannah Howe, senior lecturer and director of Smith’s Engineering Design Clinic.

Smith's physics department earned a Bronze Award from the Physics and Astronomy SEA Change Committee for the department’s efforts to create a more inclusive and diverse physics program. The inaugural award recognizes the department’s work to consider “structural adjustments regarding equity, diversity and inclusion from an institutional perspective.”  Smith was one of 11 institutions nationwide to participate in the pilot Physics and Astronomy SEA Change program.

Chemistry majors Anne-Marie Martin ’25 and Breanna Sprague ’25 attended the 50th annual meeting of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Engineers in New Orleans. Martin won the Pfizer Poster Presentation Award in the undergraduate organic division for her poster, “Iron-Catalyzed Oxidative α-Functionalization Reactions of Ketones.”

Smith senior Miphi Milord ’24 was a participant in Afrotech’s TWIX College Reception held in Austin, Texas. The networking conference brings together students Afrotech says “will soon be innovators, creators and industry disruptors of tomorrow.” Milord is majoring in mathematical sciences at Smith.

Smith soccer player Kyla Warner ’25 was selected for Academic All-District Honors by College Sports Communicators for her performance on the field and in the classroom. Warner, who is majoring in biological sciences, now advances to the Academic All-American ballot.

Robin Belton, postdoctoral fellow and lecturer in mathematical sciences, is the recipient of a $3,000 grant from the American Mathematical Society for “Analyzing and Comparing High Dimensional Data with Graphical Descriptors.”

Quilts created by Rodger Blum, professor of dance, were on display through Jan. 6, 2024, in Interlaced: The Fabric of Art, an exhibition at Childs Gallery in Boston. The exhibit asked viewers to consider the connections between handmade objects and their value as art.

Andrea Estepa, research fellow in Reproductive Justice History and Popular Political Education, is a contributor to Hand Book: A Manual on Performance, Process and the Labor of Laundry, a new collection of writings and images from a performance and film set within a New York City laundromat.

Paula Giddings, Elizabeth A. Woodson ’22 Professor Emerita of Africana Studies, is serving as vice chair of the board of directors of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Tanya Lama, assistant professor of biological sciences, is among the experts contributing to The Codex of the Endangered Species Act, Volume II: The Next Fifty Years, which proposes ways the law can be prepared for future challengesLama’s lab at Smith is focused on the question of whether wildlife can adapt on pace with climate change.

James Lowenthal, Mary Elizabeth Moses Professor of Astronomy, gave a talk on protecting dark skies at the November meeting of the St. Louis Astronomical Society.

Javier Puente, associate professor of Latin American and Latino/a studies, is the recipient of the 2023 Marysa Navarro Best Book Prize from the New England Council of Latin American Studies for his book, The Rural State: Making Comunidades, Campesinos and Conflict in Peru’s Central Sierra, published by the University of Texas Press.

Paul Wetzel, field station manager and curriculum administrator for Smith’s Center for the Environment, Ecological Design and Sustainability, has been elected to the Select Board of Williamsburg, Massachusetts. Wetzel, who has served on a number of town boards and committees, manages Smith’s 250-acre Ada and Archibald MacLeish Field Station in Whately.

Alison Laughner ’19 is a new associate at Bulkley Richardson law firm in Springfield, Massachusetts. Laughner, who majored in government at Smith and earned a law degree and an M.B.A. from Western New England University, will handle trusts and estates and family law for the firm.

Ellie Mason ’18 has been selected for a 2023–24 Washington Sea Grant Hershman Fellowship to support her work with the Makah Tribe on climate resilience and planning projects on the Makah Reservation in Neah Bay, Washington. Mason earned her Smith degree in environmental science and policy and previously worked as a fellow for the Island Institute in Tenants Harbor, Maine.

Carolyn Mak M.S.W. ’16 is the recipient of the 2023 School Social Work Achievement Award from the Ontario Association of Social Workers. Mak is director of wellbeing and school counseling at Branksome Hall independent school for girls in Toronto.

Garrett Bradley ’07 is the recipient of the 2023 Eye and Art Film Prize. An international jury described her work as “courageous and visually compelling.” As part of the award, Bradley’s films will be exhibited at the Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam. Bradley, who majored in religion at Smith and earned a master of fine arts degree at the University of California Los Angeles, is an award-winning filmmaker and educator. 

Angelia Washington M.S.W. ’03 has made history as Jacksonville, North Carolina’s longest-serving female city council member. Elected to the council in 2011, Washington is the second African American woman to serve on that governing body.

Sierra Bainbridge ’99 gave a talk in November at the New York Botanic Garden on “Learning from Rwanda: Designing for One Health” about her experience overseeing design and construction of the Butaro Hospital in Rwanda. Bainbridge, who majored in art, architecture and urbanism at Smith, earned a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Pennsylvania and co-founded the MASS Design Group.

Sarah Emond ’99 has been elected to serve as president of the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review in Boston. Emond, who majored in biological sciences at Smith, earned a master’s degree in public policy from Brandeis. She previously led strategic operations for the ICER.

Kate G. de la Garza ’97 is the new executive director of Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services in Ithaca, New York. A government major at Smith, de la Garza earned a master’s degree in urban studies and public administration from the University of Washington Seattle and most recently served as a vice president and senior relationship manager in community lending at KeyBank.

Krista Bessinger ’94 has been named head of investor relations for Genpact global professional services firm in New York.  Bessinger, who earned her Smith degree in anthropology, had served as head of investor relations for Twitter and head of financial planning and analysis for YouTube.

Thelma Golden ’87, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, has been awarded the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize in recognition of her continuing contribution to the arts. Golden, who majored in African  American studies and art at Smith, said “working in service of artists in general, and very specifically Black artists, has allowed me to engage broadly in the world.”

Christine Harley ’85 is the new vice president for business development at Boston Government Services in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Harley, who earned her Smith degree in economics, brings more than 30 years of experience in business development and operational experience at engineering, environmental and contracting firms.

Francene Hill ’82 published a piece in Sisters from AARP about her late mother’s service to the War Department in WWII. Hill, who earned her Smith degree in psychology and a master’s degree in family studies from Penn State, uncovered information about her mother’s wartime service while doing genealogical research.

Judge Heidi Brieger ’79 is the new chief justice of the Massachusetts Trial Court. Brieger, who has served as chief justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court since 2021, earned her Smith degree in American studies and government, and her law degree from Boston College.

Jan van der Voort Portman ’78 was honored as one of the 2023 Women of the Year by the  Cincinnati Enquirer for her conservation work, including helping to raise $10 million for Cincinnati’s Crown walking and riding trail. Portman, who majored in geology at Smith, earned a master’s degree in geological sciences at Harvard University.

Smith Medalist Ann Stringfellow Masten ’73, who is a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Institute for Child Development, is the recipient of the 2024 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Psychology for her work on how people develop resilience. Masten, who majored in English language and literature at Smith, earned a Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Minnesota Minneapolis.