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A Culture of Care >> Read Smith’s plans for the fall 2021 semester.

Presidential Colloquium Series

The Presidential Colloquium series regularly features influential thought leaders in a variety of fields—from poets and writers to economists and policy experts—to share their expertise, offer insights and inspire discourse on key social, political and global topics that call for our attention. In 2021–22, colloquium events will be offered in concert with Smith’s Year on Democracies.

This year’s lectures will be presented in person and also livestreamed on Smith College’s Facebook page. All lectures are free. Please note that a Facebook account is not required to view the livestream.

Upcoming 2021–22 Events


Maria Hinojosa

Tuesday, November 16, 2021
5 p.m. Eastern, Sweeney Concert Hall, Sage Hall

As the first Latina reporter in many newsrooms, Maria Hinojosa dreamed of creating independent journalism that explored the diverse American experience. To that end, she created the Futuro Media Group, a nonprofit organization that creates content about the new American mainstream to empower people to navigate an increasingly diverse world. Hinojosa is the anchor and executive producer of the Peabody Award-winning Latino USA, distributed by PRX, and co-host of In The Thick. She is also a contributor to CBS Sunday Morning and a frequent guest on MSNBC. Hinojosa’s career includes reporting for PBS, CBS and CNN, and anchoring the Emmy Award-winning Maria Hinojosa: One-on-One. She is the author of two books and has won many awards, including the Ruben Salazar Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.


Masha Gessen

Tuesday, February 15, 2022
5 p.m. Eastern, Carroll Room, Campus Center

A trenchant observer of Russia and its history, Masha Gessen is the author of 12 books, including the National Book Award-winning The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia and The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. Gessen’s latest book, Surviving Autocracy, has been described as a bracing overview of the calamitous trajectory of American democracy under the Trump administration. A staff writer at The New Yorker, Gessen has covered political subjects including Russia, autocracy and L.G.B.T. rights, among others. They have taught at Amherst and Oberlin colleges and currently serve on the faculty at Bard College. A recipient of many awards, including Guggenheim and Carnegie fellowships, Gessen has lived in New York since 2013.


Annette Gordon-Reed

Thursday, March 31, 2022
5 p.m. Eastern, Carroll Room, Campus Center

Annette Gordon-Reed is a professor of history in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard Law School, and the award-winning author of six books. The first African-American recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for history, for The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, she is also the author of On Juneteenth, which sets out to capture the importance of the holiday to American history. Gordon-Reed’s honors include the National Humanities Medal, a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Fellowship. She was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is a member of the Academy’s Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences. In 2019, she was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society.


Jennifer Rubin

Tuesday, April 12, 2022
5 p.m. Eastern, Carroll Room, Campus Center

Jennifer Rubin is an opinion writer for The Washington Post. She covers politics and policy, foreign and domestic, and provides insight into the conservative movement, the Republican and Democratic parties, and threats to Western democracies. She is the author of Resistance: How Women Saved Democracy From Donald Trump, which Kirkus described as “an excellent contribution to the literature of contemporary electoral politics.” Rubin is also an MSNBC contributor and frequent guest on syndicated radio programs. She came to The Post after three years with Commentary magazine. Prior to her career in journalism, Rubin practiced labor law for two decades, an experience that informs her work.

Previous 2021 Events


Carol Jenkins

Tuesday, September 21, 2021
5:30 p.m. Eastern, Sweeney Concert Hall, Sage Hall

Carol Jenkins is co-president and CEO of The ERA Coalition and the Fund for Women’s Equality, sister organizations dedicated to the passage and enactment of the Equal Rights Amendment. She is also a writer, media analyst, commentator and speaker on media issues, as well as an Emmy Award–winning journalist and documentary producer. Founding president of the Women’s Media Center, she served on the board of The African Medical Research Foundation, the largest health organization on the African continent. Her commentary has appeared in print and digital platforms including Jenkins is also the co-author, with her daughter, Elizabeth Hines, of Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire, which was named Best Nonfiction Book by the American Library Association’s Black Caucus. This colloquium is presented in conjunction with Smith College’s observance of Constitution Day.


U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi

Wednesday, September 8, 2021
8 p.m. Eastern, John M. Greene Hall


Nancy Pelosi is the 52nd speaker of the House of Representatives, having made history in 2007 when she was elected the first woman to serve in that role. Now in her third term as speaker, Pelosi made history again in January 2019 when she regained her position second-in-line to the presidency, the first person to do so in more than 60 years. For 33 years, Pelosi has represented San Francisco in Congress. As speaker, Pelosi has led the Congress in passing the Affordable Care Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and in repealing the discriminatory “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, among other key accomplishments.



Jennifer Ho

Not Your Model Minority: Fighting Anti-Asian Racism and Yellow Peril Rhetoric in COVID Times

Wednesday, May 5, 2021
7 p.m. Eastern, online event 


Jennifer Ho is the daughter of a refugee father from China and an immigrant mother from Jamaica, whose own parents were, themselves, immigrants from Hong Kong. Ho is the director of the Center for Humanities and the Arts at the University of Colorado Boulder, where she also holds an appointment as professor of ethnic studies. She is also the president of the Association for Asian American Studies and the author of three scholarly monographs, several academic articles and book chapters, and public-facing pieces addressing the intersections of race, sex and class in Asian American communities. In addition to pursuing her academic work, Ho is active in community engagement around issues of race and intersectionality, leading workshops on anti-racism and how to talk about race in our current social and cultural climate.



C. Yulín Cruz

Leadership for a New Democracy

Wednesday, April 28, 2021
7 p.m. Eastern, online event 


C. Yulín Cruz is the former mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the author of El poder está en la calle (Power Is in the Street). Cruz was elected San Juan’s mayor in 2012, defeating a 12-year incumbent, and came to national prominence in 2017 as an outspoken advocate for federal support to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Educated at Boston University and Carnegie Mellon University, she has worked in the private and public sectors in Puerto Rico and the United States, including an appointment at the U.S. Department of the Treasury and a four-year term in the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico. She is the recipient of awards from numerous humanitarian organizations, including the Martin Luther King Center and the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute. In 2018, Time magazine named her to its list of 100 Most Influential People. She is currently a distinguished fellow at the Harriet L. Weissman and Paul M. Weissman Center for Leadership at Mount Holyoke College.



Michael Sandel

The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good?

Tuesday, April 20, 2021
7 p.m. Eastern, online event 


Michael Sandel teaches political philosophy at Harvard University, and also has sought to extend the reach of philosophy beyond the academy. His writings—on justice, ethics, democracy and markets—have been translated into 27 languages. His class on “Justice” is the first Harvard course to be made freely available online and on television, where it has been viewed by tens of millions of people. Sandel’s books—which include “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” and, most recently, “The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good?”—relate enduring themes of political philosophy to the most vexing moral and civic questions of our time. Sandel has served on the President's Council on Bioethics and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Judy Heumann, internationally recognized leader in the Disability Rights Independent Living Movement
Tom Hehir, professor and director of the Office of Special Education Programs for the U.S. Department of Education during the first six years of the Clinton administration.

Judy Heumann and Tom Hehir

On the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Thursday, April 1, 2021
7 p.m. Eastern, online event


Judy Heumann is an internationally recognized leader in the Disability Rights Independent Living Movement. Since the 1970s, her work with a wide range of activist organizations (including the Berkeley Center for Independent Living and the American Association of People with Disabilities), NGOs and governments has contributed greatly to the development of human rights legislation and policy benefiting disabled people. She has advocated for disability rights in the United States and abroad, serving in the Clinton and Obama administrations and as the World Bank’s first adviser on disability and development. Her book, Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist, released just this year, details her story of fighting to belong in a world that “wasn’t built for us.”

Tom Hehir recently retired after nearly 20 years as the Silvana and Christopher Pascucci Professor of Practice in Learning Differences at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he taught courses on federal education policy and on educating students with disabilities. He has spent his entire career in the field of special education as a classroom teacher, local administrator in both Boston and Chicago, and as a university professor. He served as director of the Office of Special Education Programs for the U.S. Department of Education during the first six years of the Clinton Administration.

Smith students, faculty, staff and alums can register to watch this event on Zoom. Members of the general public may watch this event on Smith’s Facebook page. This event will be captioned and interpreted in ASL.


Bryan Stevenson portrait

Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy: The Movement for Justice
and Redemption

Thursday, March 11, 2021
7 p.m. Eastern, online event 

Bryan Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a human rights organization in Montgomery, Alabama. He is a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned. He has argued and won multiple cases at the U.S. Supreme Court, including a 2019 ruling protecting condemned prisoners who suffer from dementia and a landmark 2012 ruling that banned mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger. Stevenson’s work has won him numerous awards including 35 honorary doctorates, the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Prize and the ABA Medal, the American Bar Association’s highest honor. He is the author of a memoir, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, which was adapted to a motion picture, starring Michael B. Jordan, in 2019.


Mona Sinha
Sam Feder

Mona Sinha ’88 and Sam Feder


Tuesday, March 2, 2021
7 p.m. Eastern, online event


Mona Sinha ’88

Mona Sinha ’88 is executive producer of Disclosure, a film about the history of transgender representation in media. A dedicated advocate for and investor in gender justice, Sinha is the board chair of Women Moving Millions and the ERA Fund for Women’s Equality. A trustee emerita of Smith College, she also serves on the boards of Apne Aap Women Worldwide, Let’s Breakthrough and the Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania. In addition, she is on the advisory boards of the Social Enterprise Program at Columbia Business School and their investment committee, the Columbia Global Mental Health Program/WHO collaboration, and the American Museum of Natural History. In 2015, she was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor for her contribution to women’s leadership and education.

Sam Feder

Cited by Indiewire as one of the “exciting trans filmmakers shaking up Hollywood,” Sam Feder makes films that explore legacy, conflict and futures within the queer and trans communities while working toward higher ethical standards in filmmaking. Feder’s films have been programmed by film festivals around the world, including Sundance and the Tribeca Film Festival. Kate Bornstein Is a Queer and Pleasant Danger, about trans icon Kate Bornstein, was named one of the best documentaries of 2014 by The Advocate and earned multiple awards, including the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. Feder’s most recent film, Disclosure, a Netflix original documentary, looks at transgender depictions in film and television, revealing how Hollywood simultaneously reflects and manufactures our deepest anxieties about gender.