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May 18, 2004

Living and Learning: Community College Women Spend June at Smith for the Full College Experience

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- Older students are a rapidly growing segment of the college-going population, but few of these nontraditional-aged students have the opportunity to go to school full-time. From June 1 to July 3, Smith College's Community College Connections (CCC) program will give 21 women from five community colleges across the country the chance to focus exclusively on learning.

Now in its 15th year, CCC is designed to free participants from the pressures of the outside world so that they can immerse themselves in a rigorous academic environment.

"The purpose of the program is to provide students at community colleges with the residential [college] experience, of being in a 24-hour-a-day learning environment," said program director Holly Davis. "The women can then decide whether they are interested in going on to a four-year college."

Davis notes that 80 percent of CCC students have gone on to graduate from a four-year institution. And while the program is not a recruiting measure, she says 10 percent of the students have come to Smith, "after falling in love with the campus."

The program, aside from a small registration fee, is free to the students.

"Part of the idea is that women at community colleges often have jobs or children, and this is an opportunity to simply be a student -- they're freed from other obligations," said Davis.

The 2004 students, ranging in age from 18 to 77, include those who identify as African-American, Caribbean-American, Asian- and Native-American, as well as some who identify as Latina, from backgrounds including Cuban, Puerto Rican and Venezuelan. The group also includes a student from Bulgaria and another from Bosnia.

They come from Holyoke Community College, Holyoke, Mass.; Capital Community-Technical College, Hartford, Conn.; Springfield Technical Community College, Springfield, Mass.; and Miami-Dade Community College, Miami, Fla.

The students will take two interdisciplinary classes during the four-week program. The courses are team-taught by professors from Smith and from Holyoke Community College. This year's courses are "Banned in the USA," taught by Smith English professor Michael Thurston and Holyoke Community College professor and lawyer Kelly O'Connor. The class will focus on literary texts that have been banned in the U.S., as well as the legal implications of free speech and issues of censorship.

The second class, titled "A Mind for Writing: Psychology, Neurobiology and the Art of the Personal Essay," is a writing-intensive course that will explore the human drive to communicate and the personal essay as a specific form of communication. Taught by Smith professor Michele Wick and Holyoke Community College professor Fred Cooksey, the class is a combination of "neuroscience and writing," says Davis.

"This class looks at what enables people to write, the connections among writing, cognition and emotion, and the psychological and neurological underpinnings of a good writer," she continued.

The students are the reason Davis continues to work with the program.

"After 14 years of working with the program, I continue to find it enormously satisfying to witness women from such diverse backgrounds discovering strengths and capabilities they never before recognized in themselves," she says.

"The program seeks to identify and serve students who are the first in their families to go to college, most of whom have never considered the possibility of attending a four-year college."

Smith College is consistently ranked among the nation's foremost liberal arts colleges. Enrolling 2,800 students from every state and 60 other countries, Smith is the largest undergraduate women's college in the country.


Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Marti Hobbes
News Assistant
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174

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