Smith Announces Funding for 16 Innovation Challenge Proposals

This year’s Innovation Challenge grants will fund a range of programs, including cross-cultural coalition building, global wellness programming and body-positive workshops.

Established last year by President Kathleen McCartney, the Innovation Challenge grants support research, teaching and learning programs built around themes of inclusion, diversity and equity. This year, the college will fund and implement 16 projects chosen from 24 applications by a working group representing the president’s cabinet, students, faculty and staff.

Here’s an overview of this year’s Innovation Challenge award recipients.

Supporting Dreamers: Training of Trainers to Support DACA Students Attending Smith College and Other Pioneer Valley Colleges

The School for Social Work, Smith students’ Organization for Undocumented Students Rights and the college’s Center for Religious and Spiritual Life will train as many as 25 Smith students to act as Dreamer Supporters, who will then serve as resources for offices at Smith and at area colleges.
Primary applicant: Joshua Miller, professor, School for Social Work

Diversity and Inclusion at the Campus School
The Campus School will work with an outside professional to help define diversity and inclusion in a K-6 setting, articulate the importance of diversity in relation to the school’s mission and formulate a plan for changing school culture to better reflect this aspect of the mission.
Primary applicant: Clio Stearns, literacy and math learning specialist, Campus School

Wellness Goes Global
The Schacht Center for Health and Wellness will work with students to develop new health and wellness activities (such as ayurveda and soca-fusion dance), collaborate with Dining Services to initiate global cooking classes and host a Global Wellness Day featuring activities from around the world.
Primary applicant: Kristina Mereigh, associate director of wellness education, Schacht Center for Health and Wellness

POCheese
A play on the Smith tradition of “Senior Wine and Cheese,” this program offers student-facilitated gatherings where self-identified students of color gather in their houses to build cross-cultural coalitions in a supportive environment.
Primary applicant: Rebecca York ’18

African and Caribbean Students Career Network
Students, in partnership with one or more campus offices, will organize events and activities to assist African and Caribbean students with internship and career opportunities.
Primary applicant: Hilda Betty Nalwanga ’18

Workshop Series on Inclusive Philanthropy
Some 40-60 staff members (representing the offices of development, alumnae relations, student engagement and campus life) will participate in an interactive, three-part workshop series designed to increase understanding of diversity in philanthropy.
Primary applicant: Sandra Doucett, associate vice president for development

Striving for Equity and Inclusion in Campus Mental Health: Networks of Support for Students with Diverse Identities
The Counseling Service, in partnership with the Steve Fund and people across campus, will offer programming aimed at increasing student access to self-help resources, strengthening peer support networks and introducing staff and faculty to specific strategies for supporting students with a range of diverse identities.
Primary applicant: Kris Evans, associate director of counseling services

Moments of Pause: Fostering Conversation and Community Through a Reimagining of the Bathroom Break
Participants will examine the role bathrooms play in constructing boundaries around race, gender, disability and class by developing art installations and using emerging technologies in several existing all-gender bathrooms on campus.
Primary applicant: Zaza Kabayadondo, co-director, Design Thinking Initiative

Redefining Body Positivity at Smith College
Students trained in a special curriculum will lead a program of body-positive workshops, support groups and social media efforts, as well as a photo and media project.
Primary applicant: Emma Miller ’19

Pioneering Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Smith Athletics
The Sports Committee of Inclusion and Diversity will organize workshops, led by a diversity and inclusion educator, designed to help teams perform at the highest level by leveraging diversity and creating inclusive environments.
Primary applicant: Caroline Myran ’18

Coded Gardens: Exploring Barriers to Access Through Dialogue at the Botanic Garden
This project seeks to confront and subvert the perception that botanic gardens are white spaces by sponsoring listening sessions with each of Smith’s 11 Unity groups, one-on-one interviews with students of color and Unity Nights at major Botanic Garden events.
Primary applicant: Tim Johnson, director, Botanic Garden

Cooking Up Compassion
A series of four Monday dinners dedicated to building a peaceful and cohesive community through vegetarian meals, a brief meditation practice and speaker-guided discussions about compassion, kindness and empathy.
Primary applicant: Shailee Shah ’20

Mapping Identity in Unbalanced Landscape

This project seeks to increase understanding of identity issues by focusing on physical engagement with the campus through a Smith Campus survey board game, mapping, model-making and 3D maps.
Primary applicant: Tracy Tien, post-baccalaureate spatial analysis fellow

Supporting Equal Access to Educational Tools
Providing equal access to computing resources is an important way to enable students to work with each other, face to face, in their houses. This group will work with ITS to develop a pilot project in the hopes of reducing systemic barriers to educational access.
Primary applicants: Denise McKahn, associate professor, engineering

Friendship Bench and Friendship Circle
This project will pilot the creation of a Friendship Bench in one residential house which, when staffed, will be a place students can visit to ask a question or just chat. The Friendship Circle will expand the idea to campus.
Primary applicant: Stormi Smith ’20

Menstrual Options: Access and Autonomy
A coalition of students will provide workshops about the use, selection and care of menstrual cups and will offer the cups to students on a sliding-scale price.
Primary applicant: Millie Cook ’18