During Interterm this year, students were offered a new sequence of design thinking and entrepreneurship courses aimed at giving them tools for finding creative solutions to complex problems.
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Learning Across the Lifespan at Smith
As executive director of nondegree programs at Smith, Dina Venezky ’92 leads a team that is working to expand learning opportunities for high school, college and executive women.
Building on the success of Smith’s existing precollege and executive education programs, Venezky’s office has, over the past year, designed new online webinars, workshops and a new “Business Preparedness” program that is enrolling participants for next spring.
“It’s exciting to be trying out new ways to empower women leaders across their lifespan,” says Venezky, who came to Smith in 2018 from executive education at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “We’ve been partnering with a lot of other departments and programs at Smith to help us grow, and we’re grateful for that support.”
Here’s what else she had to say about her work at the college:
Can you describe some of the precollege programs under your umbrella?
“Our programs for high school students are designed to give young women a taste of what college is like—and what an incredible place Smith is. In addition to our summer science and engineering program, which is four weeks long and just celebrated its 30th summer, we have two-week programs in women, gender and history; creative writing and field studies; and food justice; as well as a week-long college application workshop. In the women and gender program, the students even get to use the archives. To think that as a high school student, they can have access to Smith’s resources—it’s pretty amazing!”
You’ve also designed a new business program for college women?
“We’re launching a weeklong ‘Business Preparedness’ program for 30 college students in May 2020, with five full scholarships for Smith students. Our initial thought was to create a pre-M.B.A. program. But in working with the Lazarus Center for Career Development, which runs similar programming to help Smith students, we realized what’s needed is a program to help liberal arts students learn business skills that they can immediately apply in their internships and jobs. For example, a financial simulation game where participants will build their own company will help introduce finance concepts and vocabulary. A consultant will then take them through how to read and create basic financial documents. They will also walk through case studies as they practice decision making and work on communication skills. The goal is to learn about the business language needed to apply the analysis they’ve gained from their liberal arts education.”
What’s new with Smith’s executive education offerings?
“We’re having a lot of fun designing new programs to empower women. We are making a few changes to our successful core programs for emerging managers. We are also building new opportunities to meet women’s needs. For example, we’re launching full-day programs for women in cities around the country. And we’ve created free webinars and new online programs in design thinking, building trust and sustainability. A fourth online program is being developed with an alum and will launch in January to help more women serve on boards. And our fifth online course is being created to help women network through fantasy sports leagues. We’ve heard a lot of women starting out on Wall Street say they are missing conversations because they don’t participate in fantasy sports leagues. This course will help everyone get ready for March Madness.”
What’s it like for you as an alum to be doing this work at Smith?
“Coming back here has been a wonderful opportunity to reconnect. What I say to other alums out there is: ‘Smith is so amazing and it’s such an honor to talk with everyone; please keep connecting.’ In fact, we’re looking for people who want to serve on panels, do webinars and be mentors. Next year is our 40th anniversary, and we are excited to create new programming to celebrate. My team is full of people who are curious and have a learning mindset. The growth is very exciting!”