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Smith College Announces New Building to House Student Leadership & Career Development Centers

Innovative mass timber building to be named for former Smith president

Published November 14, 2023

View from across Paradise Pond. Perched on a hillside, Kathleen McCartney Hall will overlook Paradise Pond at Smith College. Credit: TenBerke, Architect: TenBerke

(NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – November 14, 2023) — Building on the College’s legacy of developing leaders ready for the world’s challenges and connecting a liberal arts degree with student career success, a new Smith College building will house the Lazarus Center for Career Development and the Wurtele Center for Leadership. The vision for the new building comes from Smith’s commitment, as part of its equity imperative and value proposition, to provide every student with leadership development and career education that integrates liberal arts learning with applied experiences from their first day, equipping them to explore and pursue their purpose in an evolving world. 

More than seventy percent of incoming first year students at Smith report that connecting their undergraduate education to their career aspirations is a central and compelling reason for attending college. From its hillside location overlooking Paradise Pond, Kathleen McCartney Hall – named for Smith College’s 11th President – will create an integrated and inclusive central hub, where students feel supported in a wide range of career pursuits.

“At Smith, students learn the ways in which seemingly disparate topics inform each other, helping them think of different ways to address society’s challenges. Career readiness is a response to and an amplification of the liberal arts, preparing students with the agency and agility to bring their interests, gifts and talents to an increasingly complex world. In this new building, the college’s commitment to career development as furthered in the Lazarus Center for Career Development and its belief in the power of women’s leadership, exemplified in the Wurtele Center for Leadership, will take another step forward,” said Smith President Sarah Willie-LeBreton. “Kathleen McCartney Hall is being thoughtfully designed to provide students with access to resources and the skills necessary for a lifetime of changing career opportunities.” 

The college selected the values-driven and women-owned architecture studio TenBerke to design the project. TenBerke’s Senior Principal Arthi Krishnamoorthy describes the design of the new building as “overtly welcoming, inviting the students to discover the Centers, and making room for them to develop their own voice and their own path in life.” TenBerke designs projects to be instruments of meaningful and sustainable change – a principle that aligns with Smith’s values. “We could not have found a better partner to design this building,” said David DeSwert, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration. “TenBerke designed a building that will bring together students, advisors, and employers in a sustainable, purpose-built environment. It will convey a sense of welcome and intent for all who enter it.”   

Kathleen McCartney Hall, projected to cost $32 million, will be funded by the college’s capital funds and generous philanthropic support, initiated by a lead gift from alumna Margaret Wurtele ’67. In addition to providing space for Lazarus Center and Wurtele Center employees, the 15,000 square foot building will include space for student work, peer advising, and recruiting. Built with purpose and flexibility, there are rooms for collaborations, interviews, workshops, and a lending closet for professional attire. A rooftop terrace surrounded by a living roof will provide space for formal functions and informal activities. “This building tells a story. From the moment prospective students come to campus for a tour, they can see with transparency so many ways to turn their academic and co-curricular experiences into the futures they are just beginning to imagine,” said Alexandra Keller, Interim Dean of the College and Vice President for Campus Life. “When current students can see other students engaging in the programming of both centers from the outside, as they pass from their houses in the quad to class, or duck into the campus center for a coffee, the building says: everyone belongs here.” 

Bright and welcoming interiors. A warm and eclectic palette and mix of soft furnishings will invite students to drop-in and linger. Credit: TenBerke, Architect: TenBerke

The design and construction of the building will support and make evident the college’s commitment to sustainability and accessibility. The use of a mass timber structural system will reduce the embodied carbon in construction materials and will be a visible design feature. The building will be highly energy efficient and zero energy ready, connecting to Smith’s forthcoming geothermal energy system upon its completion. Other sustainably built Smith College buildings are LEED gold certified Neilson Library and Bechtel Environmental Classroom, the fifth building in the world to be certified as a Living Building. The landscape surrounding Kathleen McCartney Hall is designed based on the principles established in the College’s landscape master plan and will provide a universal access from Chapin Lane to College Lane. Groundbreaking is scheduled for March 2024 with building completion by fall 2025.

About Smith College:

Founded in 1871, Smith College opened in 1875 with 14 students. Today, it is one of the largest women’s liberal arts colleges in the United States, educating women of promise for lives of distinction and purpose. Smith enrolls more than 2,500 students from nearly every state and more than 65 other countries to cultivate leaders able to address the complex, urgent problems of today. As a global community of scholars, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, activists and humanitarians, Smith is pushing the world forward. More information at

About Lazarus Center for Career Development:

Named for Shelly Lazarus ’68, Chairman Emerita of Ogilvy & Mather, the Lazarus Center for Career Development is committed to inclusive excellence in career education–integrating liberal arts learning with work-learning experiences and skills development from day one through graduation and beyond. The center has three focus areas: networks, career planning, and experiential learning. 

About Wurtele Center for Leadership:

The Wurtele Center for Leadership, named for arts advocate and author Margaret Wurtele ’67, embraces and advocates for a collaborative approach to leadership. The center designs workshops, programs, talks and other learning experiences to equip all members of the Smith community with the creativity, courage, and collaborative capacity to lead positive change at scales both large and small.

About TenBerke:

TenBerke is a New York-based architecture studio united by values. The practice is bound by the promise that architecture must build toward dignity and decency, that the truest measure of good design is the good that it does the world. And that it must be good in these ways: inspirationally, imaginatively, sustainably, responsibly, delightfully. TenBerke has worked on dozens of campus projects over the last 20 years with high ambitions for social and environmental sustainability, including buildings at Harvard, Yale, University of Arkansas, UPenn, University of Virginia, and SUNY Fredonia, among others. Since 2021, TenBerke has completed the adaptive reuse of a 1960s library stacks building into Harvard Lewis International Law Center; re-envisioned Princeton University’s campus social infrastructure with two new Residential Colleges, the firm’s most significant project to date; and opened the two hybrid-CLT Brook Street Residence Halls at Brown University this fall. TenBerke’s Princeton University Residential Colleges have been recognized with an AIA NY 2023 Design Award, a SCUP 2023 Excellence Award, a SARA NY 2023 Design Award, and a SARA National 2023 Design Award.