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News & Events for the Smith College Community
Campus Life July 8, 2021

‘Heralding Hope’: Summer at Smith

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Sasha Zeidenberg ’22 (left) and Olivia Davis ’22 lead a papermaking workshop for fellow student interns in the greenhouse at Capen Gardens. Photographs by Jason Kotoch

This summer, rising Smith seniors Olivia Davis and Sasha Zeidenberg have been spending their days in the greenhouse in Capen Garden—but they’re not tending flowers.

They have been busy creating a pilot papermaking studio in the space, using donated equipment and recycled materials—including plants grown on campus.

“I’ve never done anything on this scale or this official before,” says Zeidenberg ’22, who is majoring in biological sciences. “We’re trying to create a studio space that will be accessible to students for the foreseeable future.”

“It’s been fun to work on a project that’s so interdisciplinary,” adds Davis ’22, who is majoring in English language and literature with a concentration in book studies. “We’ve been meeting with people from the Smith Botanic Garden and a local papermaker, and getting resources from the community around us.”

Their internship project—a collaboration between the Design Thinking Initiative and the Botanic Garden of Smith College—is among the hands-on experiences the college is supporting during limited campus operations this summer. While many activities remain remote, Smith is offering an increased number of on-campus student jobs and in-person Summer Research Fellowship opportunities as a bridge to a fully in-person fall semester.

“We know we still have students who are experiencing challenges in terms of where they can work and how they can work,” says Baishakhi Taylor, dean of the college and vice president for campus life, noting that there are 188 students living at Smith this summer. “We wanted to make sure that all those who wanted or needed a job on campus could find one.”

Taylor says the return of in-person student research projects is a welcome milestone. The college is providing support for 186 students engaged in SURF projects in the sciences this summer—a record number and an increase over the typical 150 of previous years.

“It gives me so much hope that we are able to do the SURF program at Smith,” Taylor says. “This summer is really heralding hope.”

Laura Bickart ’23 is working on a SURF project involving DNA molecule catalysts in associate professor David Gorin’s chemistry lab. She says any qualms she had about returning to in-person research after a year of remote learning have quickly disappeared.

“I think it’s amazing the kind of research opportunities we have at Smith as undergrads,” Bickart says. “I have been especially impressed and grateful for the amount of trust that my research adviser gives me and my lab mate.”

Here are some additional examples of virtual and in-person activities at Smith this summer:

  • More than 200 high school students are participating in Smith’s Precollege programs on topics ranging from creative writing to microbiology. The program is offering two online sessions with 13 courses, and one in-person session with eight courses. All sessions feature after-class activities, with multiple opportunities to engage with other participants, as well as Smith students serving as class assistants and residential counselors. 
  • Smith Executive Education is offering three virtual and two self-directed online programs this summer that have drawn about 140 participants from more than 40 organizations. Professionals can engage virtually in interactive sessions on strategic decision-making, problem-solving and effective communication, or online at their own pace with video content, discussions, and exercises. Exec Ed has also launched a new online “Business Prep Program” for members of the Smith classes of 2021, 2022 and 2023, and is piloting new self-directed programs for faculty and staff starting July 14. Registration is available online
  • The college is launching a new three-year pilot program aimed at boosting research experiences for students in the humanities and social sciences. The HSS Labs program will initially feature four remote, faculty-led labs for 11 students this summer. The students will work as research assistants in education and child study, government, history and film and media studies. Joshua Birk, associate professor of history, is serving as faculty director of the program.
  • Residence Life, Dining Services and the Schacht Center for Health and Wellness are all providing services to students this summer. Olin Fitness Center, Lyman Plant House and the new Neilson Library are open to campus community members in Smith’s community screening program. The Smith College Museum of Art is open to students, faculty and staff by appointment. Julianne Ohotnicky, dean of students and associate dean of the college, says many students are also engaged in outdoor activities. “While the campus is quiet compared to the academic year, it offers a special time for our students to rest, play and explore Northampton and the Pioneer Valley area,” she says.

Back in the papermaking studio, Smith seniors Davis and Zeidenberg say activities such as testing out equipment and hosting workshops for fellow student interns have helped them adjust to being on campus again.

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Smith Botanic Garden interns Marge Poma ’23 (left) and Waleska Reyes ’23 try their hand at papermaking in a new studio being created in the greenhouse at Capen Gardens.

“It was a little strange at first to be meeting in person at Capen Gardens, and then it felt normal,” says Zeidenberg. “The Botanic Garden interns feel like my crew!”

Anticipating how the new papermaking studio will be used by the campus community once the college returns to in-person learning this fall is inspiring, adds Davis.

“Design Thinking is interested in recycled materials and usability. Then there is the Botanic Garden and plants. Then there are the arts studios,” she says. “There are just so many people who will be interested.”