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News & Events for the Smith College Community
Campus Life March 10, 2021

Marking a Year of Challenge and Change

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In March 2020, when Smith moved into remote learning mode during the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, few would have predicted it would be a year before students, faculty and staff would return to campus.

Few also would have predicted the many ways the college community would remain vibrant during a time of isolation and uncertainty.

In a message sent on March 10, 2020, as students were preparing to leave campus, President Kathleen McCartney cited the Smith community’s determination to “meet this challenge with resilience, creativity and abiding care for one another.”

This month, the college will acknowledge how students, faculty and staff have succeeded in meeting the challenge amidst the stresses and losses of the pandemic.

Commemorating those experiences is about celebrating, as well as mourning, says Floyd Cheung, vice president for equity and inclusion and professor of English language and literature and American studies.

“I am deeply moved by the creative and kind ways that members of the community have supported one another all year,” says Cheung, who helps lead the college’s Virtual Community Engagement Team. “At Smith, we have stayed focused on our shared educational mission, while discovering new ways to stay connected—even at a distance.”

This month, two commemorative programs will give college community members opportunities to reflect on the past year:

  • The Smith 2020 Memory Book provides symbolic space for students, faculty and staff to reflect, mourn, recognize each other and share hope for the future.

Submissions will be crafted into individual pages to be displayed on campus and via Smith social media. These pages will ultimately be collected and bound into a book housed in the College Archives that will serve as a lasting memorial for all that the college community has gone through in the past year—and all that it aspires to be in the days to come.

  • All members of the community are invited to a virtual Smith community gathering, “COVID-19 Memorial, One Year Commemoration: Cultivating Critical Hope” at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 18. Sponsored by the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, Counseling Services and the Department of Religious Studies, the commemoration will focus on reflection and healing, with time for participants to acknowledge sources of grief and gratitude during the past year. President McCartney will speak at the event. Following the gathering, community members will be invited to help create a physical installation on campus.

In addition, the Smith College Archives continues to invite submissions of artwork, narratives and video for “The COVID-19 Chronicles,” a collection of personal experiences of the pandemic. And the Smith Stichers’ Smith COVID-19 Patchwork Blanket is collecting knitted and crocheted squares from interested students, faculty, staff and alums for a quilt that will tell the story of the community during the pandemic.

College-wide commemorations are an important way to cope with loss and generate hope, says Matilda Cantwell, chaplain and director of the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life.

“We build resilience through acknowledgment of our joys and sorrows,” she notes. “That is how we build a strong community.”