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A Culture of Care

Read Smith’s plans for the fall 2021 semester.
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Presidential Colloquium Series

Upcoming 2020–21 Events

The Presidential Colloquium regularly features influential thought leaders in a wide range 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 2020-21, all colloquium events will be offered virtually. Smith College students, staff, faculty and alums are invited to pre-register to participate via Zoom; the general public is welcome to watch via Facebook. All lectures are free. 


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. 

Smith students, faculty, staff and alums can register to watch this event via Zoom. Members of the general public may watch this event on Smith’s Facebook page.



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.

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.



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.

Smith students, faculty, staff and alums can register to watch this event via Zoom. Members of the general public may watch this event on Smith’s Facebook page.


Previous 2020–21 Events

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 


Note: The Bryan Stevenson webcast requires a Smith College login to view. By agreement with the presenter, it will be available for 30 days starting March 23.

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.


Jill Lepore

Jill Lepore

This America | That America

Tuesday, February 23, 2021
7 p.m. Eastern, online event


Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History and Affiliate Professor of Law at Harvard University. She is also a staff writer at The New Yorker and host of the podcast The Last Archive. Her many books include the international bestseller These Truths: A History of the United States, which was named one of Time magazine’s top 10 nonfiction books of the decade. Her most recent book, IF THEN: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future, has been longlisted for the National Book Award. Lepore also has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award and, twice, for the Pulitzer Prize. She has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and to the American Philosophical Society.


Regina McCarthy

Gina McCarthy

Climate Change and Social Justice: Strategies for Meaningful Progress

Tuesday, February 9, 2021
7 p.m. Eastern, online event


In late 2020, U.S. President Biden named Gina McCarthy to serve as head of the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, making her the United States’ first national climate advisor. Previously, she was president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council. She has been a leading advocate for common-sense strategies to protect public health and the environment for more than 30 years. She served under President Barack Obama as the 13th administrator of the EPA from 2013 to 2017. Her tenure as EPA administrator heralded a paradigm shift in national environmental policy, expressly linking it with global public health. She led EPA initiatives that cut air pollution, protected water resources, reduced greenhouse gases and strengthened chemical safety to better protect more Americans, especially the most vulnerable, from negative health impacts. This presentation, pre-recorded in mid-January 2021, features McCarthy in conversation with Smith students and faculty members Natalie Baillargeon ’21; Alex Barron, assistant professor of environmental science and policy; Niveen Ismail, assistant professor of engineering; Storm Lewis ’21; and Denise McKahn, associate professor of engineering and faculty director of CEEDS (moderator).


Marcelo Suárez-Orozco

Marcelo Suárez-Orozco

Humanitarianism, Education and Mass Migration: Confronting the World Crisis

Thursday, October 8, 2020
7 p.m. Eastern, online event 


Marcelo Suárez-Orozco is chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Boston. His research focuses on conceptual and empirical problems in the areas of cultural psychology and psychological anthropology, with a focus on the study of mass migration, globalization and education. Previously, Suárez-Orozco served at Harvard University as the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Education. In 1997, he co-founded the Harvard Immigration Project and co-directed a study of Asian, Caribbean and Latino immigrant youth in American society. The book reporting the results of this landmark study, Learning a New Land: Immigrant Students in American Society, was published in 2008. Suárez-Orozco has been elected to the National Academy and has served as special adviser for education, peace, and justice to the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.


Gloria Steinem ’56
Julie Taymor, director, playwright and creative visionary

Gloria Steinem ’56 and Julie Taymor

“The Glorias”: Building Movements Through Storytelling

Thursday, September 17, 2020
8 p.m. Eastern, online event


Gloria Steinem is a writer, lecturer, political activist and feminist organizer. She travels in the United States and other countries as an organizer and lecturer and is a frequent media spokeswoman on issues of equality. She is particularly interested in the shared origins of sex and race caste systems, gender roles and child abuse as roots of violence, nonviolent conflict resolution, the cultures of indigenous peoples, and organizing across boundaries for peace and justice. A 1956 graduate of Smith, she lives in New York City. 

Julie Taymor is a director, playwright and creative visionary. She is the force behind numerous stunning productions, including Broadway’s smash musical The Lion King. Long admired as an innovative director in the worlds of theater and opera, Taymor has employed her visionary talents to create several feature films, including Frida, Titus, The Tempest and Across the Universe. Her film The Glorias—based on Gloria Steinem’s autobiography, My Life on the Road—premiered at Sundance in January 2020 and is scheduled for release in fall 2020.


Gail Collins, journalist
Bret Stephens, journalist

Gail Collins and Bret Stephens

The 2020 Election: A Conversation with New York Times Columnists Gail Collins and Bret Stephens

Tuesday, September 15, 2020
7 p.m. Eastern, online event


Gail Collins joined The New York Times in 1995 as a member of the editorial board and later as an op-ed columnist. In 2001 she was appointed editorial page editor—the first woman to hold that post at the Times. In 2007, she stepped down to finish a book, When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women From 1960 to the Present. She returned as a columnist in time to cover the 2008 presidential election. The author of five other books, including America’s Women: Four Hundred Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and Heroines, Collins is currently at work on a history of older women in America. Since 2013, she has served on the Pulitzer Prize Board. Collins and her New York Times colleague Bret Stephens often engage in editorial conversations in the Times editorial pages.

Bret L. Stephens joined The New York Times as an op-ed columnist in 2017 after a long career with The Wall Street Journal, where he served most recently as deputy editorial page editor and, for 11 years, as a foreign affairs columnist. Before that, he was editor in chief of The Jerusalem Post. He has reported from around the world and interviewed scores of world leaders. Stephens is the author of America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder, released in November 2014. He is the recipient of numerous awards and distinctions, including the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. Stephens and his New York Times colleague Gail Collins often engage in editorial conversations in the Times editorial pages.


Eric K Ward, a nationally recognized expert on the relationship between authoritarian movements, hate violence and preserving inclusive democracy.

Eric K. Ward

Authoritarian State or Inclusive Democracy? What We Can Do Right Now

Wednesday, September 9, 2020
8 p.m. Eastern, online event 


Eric K. Ward is executive director of Western States Center. A senior fellow with Southern Poverty Law Center and senior adviser with Race Forward, Ward is a nationally recognized expert on the relationship between authoritarian movements, hate violence and preserving inclusive democracy. In his long career, Ward founded the Community Alliance of Lane County, established 120 task forces in six states through Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment, supported immigrant rights as national field director for the Center for New Community and served as program officer for Atlantic Philanthropies and the Ford Foundation.