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Words of Welcome for Sarah Willie-LeBreton

News of Note

Students, faculty, staff and alums share what they value most about Smith

Grecourt Gates with flowering azalea

Published June 27, 2023

For some, the essence of Smith is that particular place on campus where they go for quiet reflection.

For others, it’s the gatherings where college community members come together to share fun, food and friendship.

For still others, it’s the magic that happens in the classroom between students and professors—or when alums connect beyond the Grecourt Gates.

As Sarah Willie-LeBreton begins her tenure this month as Smith’s 12th president, we asked a sampling of students, faculty, staff and alums to share with her what they enjoy and value most about Smith.

Here’s what they had to say:

What Makes Smith Special:

“The beauty of our community is all the ways we are also connected with the larger world. We are dreamers, feelers, thinkers and doers. We endeavor to be part of creating a better shared world. We agree and disagree about how to do that. We lift each other up, and we push back, push toward change.”—EJ Seibert ’08, associate director for disability services

“Smith is large enough that its members feel they can have an impact. And Smith is small enough that its members feel they can have an impact.”—Christophe Golé, professor of mathematical sciences

“Our students, faculty and staff learn, work and live in a botanic garden. Our collections and gardens are being put to work, preserving threatened and endangered species, mitigating the effects of climate change and human-caused environmental degradation, preserving cultural heritage and addressing issues of social and environmental injustice. And our conservatory is one of Northampton’s secrets to getting through the long New England winters.”—Tim Johnson, director of the Botanic Garden of Smith College


“My students have been fantastic. They're curious, driven, and diligent. I've been especially impressed by the way they express care and support for each other in class. I also deeply appreciate how both teaching and research are valued at Smith, each informing the other.”—Samuel Ng, assistant professor of Africana studies

"Smith College Dining brings delicious diversity to students and staff, all with the feel of home cooking. Slippers welcomed/encouraged. Fresh meats and locally grown vegetables are just the beginning of the sensory syllabus of dining services. From the campus center to the quad, we got you fed."—Eric Wagner, cook at King/Scales.

”What I enjoy most about the Smith community is our camaraderie. Being open to meet new people through your local Smith club is a great way to make friends and feel more connected to the college.”—Kimie Matsudo Kester ’88, senior UI/UX designer, EBSCO Information Services

“Smith is a community of trailblazers and leaders committed to making a difference in the world. We possess the courage to do what others may not do, a resolve to go where others may not go, and a curiosity that inspires many to join us along the way."—Nicole Kenney ’05J, founder and CEO of It Starts With Me, LLC, a social impact consultancy, and Hey Auntie!, a digital wellness platform for Black women

Must Sees/Dos on Campus:

“My favorite spot on campus is on the lawn above the botanic garden adjacent to Chapin House. There is a ledge that I sit on during sunset or at night, and it has a beautiful view of Paradise Pond. It’s so peaceful!”—Destiny Smith ’24, sociology major; vice chair, Smith College Black Students Alliance

“One of the best lunches on campus all year is IS Day, when Smith’s international student community cooks dishes from home to share with the college community. Mark your calendar for Monday, Nov. 4, and get ready to eat some seriously delicious food made with love by some seriously amazing students. While the food festival itself is a blast, the behind-the-scenes connections between students and staff through cooking is really the best part.”—Caitlin Szymkowicz, associate dean for international students and scholars

“Smith’s library is the treasure of all treasures. Every library has its charm, but Neilson is above and beyond that. Two of my other favorite things on campus: the rock garden next to Sabin-Reed, and walking out of the Elm Street entrance to the Smith College Museum of Art and looking down into Northampton and then up, into the Holyoke Range. The view to me speaks volumes to the vision of the college in its youth, and the wisdom of the years.”—Jane Stangl, dean of the first-year class


“My favorite spot on campus is the path behind the President's House along the Mill River. I love walking my dog, Rosie, there and seeing Smith students and other members of the Northampton community enjoying the trail. Rosie loves the many dogs she meets and the attention and affection she gets from Smithies!”—Joanna May, vice president for enrollment

"I was thrilled to learn that attending gallery openings brings you joy. An art exhibition begins with an invitation. Therefore, I warmly welcome you to this fall's art gallery exhibition in the newly renovated Alumnae House. The gallery is my favorite place—described by alum artists as a lovely space and a hidden gem. The alum artist community and I look forward to getting to know you!" -Jónelle Dennis, advancement and art gallery coordinator, Alumnae Relations and Development

"We all share unique experiences and identities that shape the college as a whole. It is the simple act of getting to know students, staff and faculty that contribute to a holistic understanding of this remarkable place. My career has taught me that walking around campus and greeting everyone with smiles and hellos is a beautiful way to fully embrace this extraordinary community."—L’Tanya Richmond, dean of multicultural affairs

What We Value and Enjoy Most:

“The vulnerable fearlessness of our students in their efforts to be their most authentic selves; the interesting and passionate conversations with colleagues about how to be better teachers, administrators, humans; the slow (seemingly glacial) yet positive progress toward advancing social justice on this campus.”—Valerie Joseph, AEMES mentoring administrative director

“How deeply connected Smith students are to communities across the Connecticut River Valley and beyond. On a daily basis throughout the semester, students are leading robotics and STEM workshops in Springfield schools, creating web pages and promotional videos for community arts and social service centers; supporting recent refugees and immigrants; and initiating advocacy, research and service projects tackling inequalities across multiple intersections.”—Denys Candy, director, Jandon Center for Community Engagement


“I value Smith’s culture of resilience. The striving spirit of my peers and professors has made me feel that I can do the impossible. When I struggle to believe in myself, my fellow Smithies lend me the strength that I need. As a school that cultivates a space for historically disadvantaged communities, through this care, I feel that my talents can truly flourish. I value that Smith has allowed me to unleash my potential and keep going.” —Salma Vargas ’24, Africana studies major, Mellon Mays Undergraduate Research Fellow

"Smithies are inspirational! On campus, you'll be around some of the smartest, most passionate people you'll ever meet. And beyond the Grecourt Gates, you're joining a network of thinkers and doers who are committed to making the world a better place. We are excited to have you—and hope you're ready for the incredible adventure ahead."—Heather Rothenberg ’99, director, Program Management/Product Operations, YouTube