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News & Events for the Smith College Community
Campus Life October 29, 2021

A Celebration of Champions

Staff and students picking up glass mugs

What makes a champion?

Maybe it’s the professor who tells your class, “I care about you.”

Or maybe it’s the housekeeper, Karen, who “always reminds me to bring an umbrella when it’s raining. :-)”

At Smith, especially this year, champions are helping to create a community that cares.

A mid-October event celebrated that community by bringing together many of the 134 new students and the faculty, students and staff they’d nominated as “champions for Smith students,” for helping to foster a sense of belonging at Smith.

It was an opportunity to celebrate the little things that make a big difference.

“Chef Gerry always greets me by name and asks how I am, and genuinely wants to know.”

“They make sure that I eat well and healthy each day, preparing my special meals with care, even when they are extremely busy.”

Transitions can be challenging, said event host Floyd Cheung, Smith’s vice president for equity and inclusion. And micro-affirmations—those small acts of kindness that open doors to opportunity and inclusion—can really make a difference.

That’s especially true this year, as several nominators spoke of the particular anxiety that comes with being away from home at this stage of the pandemic.

“Anaan has listened and helped when I have needed the most support.”

“Professor Zaleski encourages me to be the strongest version of myself, as a student and young adult.”

Launched in 2019 by Smith’s Office for Equity and Inclusion and the Dean of the College’s office, the Champions for Smith program is designed to recognize those who’ve made a difference in the lives of new students, and to inspire similar acts of micro-affirmations among others. Each guest at the October event received a glass coffee mug and a small “Yes You” card that could be used to affirm someone else when the time was right. (“You matter even more than you know. Yes, YOU.” “Don’t forget: You are loved. Yes, YOU.”)

Glass mug with card inside "You Matter, Yes You"

For the new students and champions who gathered in Davis Ballroom, the event itself was an affirmation.

Lucy Thimme ’22 and Nora Paholak AC ’22 were surprised to learn they were being honored at the event. “I feel like an imposter!” exclaimed Thimme.

“‘Champion’ is such a big word,” Paholak agreed.

But their nominator, Camille Stanton AC ’23, insisted the honor was deserved.

“Being 27 and on campus, away from my own home—that’s a lot,” Stanton explained. “Especially since we started remotely last year, without an in-person orientation. The people I nominated have answered my questions—no matter what they were. They’ve gone to the dining halls with me...These things have meant a lot!”

“She actually helps me more than I help her,” Thimme remarked. “But it’s an interesting thing to recognize—this desire to help people with transitions, especially at this stage of the pandemic.”

Paholak agreed that small acts make a big difference. “As a general rule of thumb, especially as we return to school, what matters could be something very simple,” she said. “The things people remember don’t have to be grand.”