Deborah N. Archer ’93, ACLU president, professor of clinical law at New York University School of Law, and faculty co-director of the Center on Race, Inequality and the Law, looks back at her time at Smith and her career as she prepares to receive the 2022 Smith College Medal on Rally Day. “I am deeply proud—and honored—of whatever I have done to make this unjust world a more just place,” Archer says.
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Smith Medalist S. Mona Ghosh Sinha ’88: ‘Be true to your multidimensional self’
A champion for gender equality, Sharmila (Mona) Ghosh Sinha ’88 has parlayed a successful corporate career into creating sustainable social justice and women’s leadership organizations. In 2010, she founded the Asian Women’s Leadership University. Currently, she is board chair of Women Moving Millions, a community of individuals who have made a minimum million-dollar commitment to fund initiatives benefiting women and girls, as well as of the ERA Coalition Fund for Women’s Equality. Sinha is an executive producer of Disclosure, a 2020 documentary on trans rights. A trustee emerita of the Smith College Board of Trustees, she co-led the college’s successful $486 million Women for the World campaign.
Sinha will receive the Smith College Medal during Rally Day, which will be celebrated virtually on February 24 beginning at 1:30 p.m. The event will be streamed on Smith College’s Facebook page.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
During my years as an investment banker, as I was serving on the board of directors of a human rights group, I realized that my corporate training could greatly benefit nonprofits that were changing society. Today, I am committed to creating a gender-equal world by sharing sustainable best practices across sectors and investing in innovation. I bring the mission-aligned approach of nonprofits to the for-profit world to construct diversity, equity, and inclusion standards across companies and organizations that seek these values. I catalyze funding partnerships and invest in grassroots leaders who make change happen. Most of all, I enjoy facilitating opportunities for individuals and organizations to connect and build communities that amplify equality, which forms the foundation of my work.
What Smith lessons continue to resonate with you?
At Smith, I learned to believe in myself and risk dreaming about an equal future. I honed my skills as I worked in finance, restructuring, and now social justice. I still dream as I plan to disrupt the status quo—for my family, my friends, my mentees, and society at large. Learning to trust myself to take risks and dream of an equal future is the Smith lesson that impacts my life today.
What advice do you have for the senior class?
I have three pieces of advice for graduating seniors: First, never underestimate the importance of knowledge. Do your homework before a job interview or a protest march, talk to people, dig deep into topics that interest you, and stay curious. Second, always live your values. Listen to and consider opinions that differ from yours to help shape your own narrative, but stay rooted in and optimistic about what you believe in. And third, you can be a banker and an artist or a computer scientist and a soccer star. Being true to your multidimensional self makes work and life much more fun and fulfilling.
What does receiving the Smith Medal mean to you?
My Smith experience put me on the path to becoming a social-change leader. I am humbled and grateful for Smith and accept the Smith Medal on behalf of all the causes I represent.
Is there a particular issue that you would like to see Smithies work together to solve?
The COVID pandemic has exposed the injustices faced by women with overlapping and intersectional gender/racial/sexual discrimination in their homes, workplaces, and societies. Patriarchal systems across the globe must be disrupted for every human being to be able to thrive. Let’s start at home by codifying the Equal Rights Amendment into the U.S. Constitution. Across the globe, let’s remove existing biases that hamper diversity in leadership and instead create pathways for success. As we listen to changemakers who are proximate to the biggest social failures of our time, let’s collectively fund solutions to remove barriers that prevent and slow progress.
As part of Rally Day, the board of trustees is pledging to give a collective gift of $450,000 in support of financial aid if at least 2,022 donations are made to The Smith Fund before the end of the month. Why is supporting Smith important to you?
My journey at Smith and into the world would not have been possible without the generosity of an alum, unknown to me. I pay it forward by mentoring Smith students and financially supporting scholarships and innovation. Every Smithie who has enjoyed the privilege of being a Smithie and will benefit from our incredibly supportive network must continue this tradition and “pay it forward” in whatever capacity they can, as our legacy and our gift to the world.