Just a few years ago, Ketty Munyenyembe ’20 was well on her way to a career in international studies. But after transferring to Smith, she discovered a passion for scientific research. Now she’s heading to a Ph.D. program at Yale, where she’ll investigate the evolution of microbial pathogens—including COVID-19.
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Staying Connected: Smith House Leaders Step Up
For Sessions House President McKensie Murray ’21, one of the hardest things about moving off campus in response to the coronavirus was “having to leave our tight-knit house community.”
Just days before she left Smith, Murray got her housemates together to buy stamps and share address lists so they can send letters and post cards to each other over the coming weeks.
They also bought small gifts to send to housemates who are seniors, anticipating that members of the class of 2020 will be feeling the loss of on-campus community especially deeply.
“I’m going to be organizing the pen pal partners so that everyone writes at least one letter,” said Murray, in a recent phone call from her family’s home in Florida. “I love my house community and I wanted a way to give back.”
She’s not alone. Leaders of other Smith houses have also found creative ways to help students stay connected while they study remotely for the remainder of the semester. From blog posts to virtual teas, their efforts are designed to maintain the fabric of mutual support that’s at the heart of Smith house culture.
Becky Shaw, associate dean of students, said house leaders held a brainstorming session before they left campus, and will continue to volunteer their time in the coming weeks to maintain links with fellow students. “They are doing it out of love for their houses,” Shaw said.
Albright House President Urvi Savant ’21 is organizing Zoom calls and a weekly blog for her housemates.
“Going from a big house where you live in close quarters and see your friends all the time to sitting home alone is a jarring transition for anyone,” said Savant, who is now at home in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. “Hopefully, with these initiatives I'm trying, I can find an effective way to continue to provide support to my residents and help them feel a little less isolated.”
For Sydney Pine ’20, creating a weekly newsletter for Lamont House residents is part of her own Smith legacy.
“While, as a senior, I will not be returning to campus, I think the newsletter will help people stay connected with each other and feel connected to the house community,” said Pine, a government major who hopes to begin working in New York City this summer as a litigation paralegal.
Pine—who hails from El Paso, Texas, but is currently staying with her aunt and uncle in Dennis, Massachusetts—hopes the newsletter will help students feel less “disjointed” when they do return to campus. “This will enable residents to keep up with each other,” Pine says, “and foster the same sense of community that we have worked to build in the house.”