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Orientation Programs

Orientation is an important start to your Smith journey! The week before the start of classes, all new students—first-year, transfer, visiting and exchange students, as well as Ada Comstock Scholars—gather to learn about the college and get to know each other. All new students are expected to participate fully in the entire Orientation program.

What to Expect

We strive to make Orientation fun and relaxing. Expect to meet interesting and diverse members of the Smith community, including other new students, returning students, faculty, staff and administrators. You will also meet with your faculty adviser and receive valuable information to help you succeed here. By participating in a small Orientation group based on interests, you will find others who share your pursuits.

Smith Reads

All new students are required to participate in Smith Reads before coming to Smith in the fall; during Orientation they will join in discussion groups and other activities involving the reading, often including a presentation by the author.

Orientation Schedule

The Orientation schedule is finalized in mid-August. You will receive the final schedule at Central Check-In. The 2016 schedules will give you a sense of what happens.

Orientation Groups

Each year incoming first-year students select an orientation group program in which to participate. While these programs vary from year to year, the selection below provides a glimpse of what these programs may look like in the coming year.

Registration will open in mid-July. Sign-in information and special instructions will be sent to all students at their Smith College email address prior to the opening of registration. All orientation groups have limited capacity, and students are advised to be prepared with alternative choices in case their first choice for an orientation group is full.

Orientation groups vary from year to year; here are the programs that were offered in 2016.

2016 Orientation Groups

If you are participating in preseason athletic training, this is your orientation group! Only those who have received an invitation from their varsity coaches may register for this program. You cannot simply elect to participate in this program without an invitation. This option is only open to the varsity teams of cross-country, field hockey, soccer, tennis and volleyball.

Join us to play games, hike, and experience our low ropes challenge course. Participants should be prepared to spend the day outside. This program is designed to give you a taste of some of the many things going on at Smith's 240-acre Ada and Archibald MacLeish Field Station. This group can accommodate up to 20 students.

Many social movements begin on college campuses, and many activists have their beginnings while in their college years; inspired often by what they have learned in the classroom. College is also the time when we have the opportunity to listen more closely to the callings of our hearts and develop ways of sustaining and nurturing ourselves as we confront difficult social and global problems. This orientation will provide activities designed to help prepare you for the ongoing process of integrating life changing ideas, going within, and taking action—how we can align ourselves spiritually to "be the change" we wish to see in the world. Program will include community service, reflection and dialogue, mindfulness exercises, time outdoors, and fun to help take in all that we are experiencing our first few days on campus, and grow into leadership as change agents.


During your time at Smith you will gain a network of connections that will prove to be invaluable to you—cultural, personal, professional and intellectual connections. Start your time at Smith off understanding how these connections will help you through your four years here and learn how to leverage the Smith network to help you decide on a major, find an internship or learn about a career path. Meet with Smith Alumnae on campus on Saturday, and then head to the beautiful Berkshires on Sunday to meet more alumnae while visiting MASS MoCA.

The workshop will be facilitated by Office of Alumnae Relations, and can accommodate up to 40 students.

During your time at Smith, you will encounter learning experiences with and alongside people of diverse social identities. As you move through the classroom, your house community, student organizations, and other spaces, you will engage in dialogues where these identities "show up." What skills and resources are needed in order to connect across our shared and different identities? What do we need to engage together in authentic, transformative learning that requires us to examine issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic class, dis/ability, religion, and other social identities? In this workshop, you will explore these questions and leave with tools and technologies to help you initiate and commit to challenging, reflective dialogues with members of Smith communities across campus. This program can accommodate up to 30 students.

New friends. New opportunities. New everything. What's your number one asset in the first year? Courage: to take risks, screw up, and try again. Spend two days with local bestselling author and leadership expert Rachel Simmons: you'll learn concrete skills to find your everyday brave in the areas of life that matter most to you. Learn skills to advocate for yourself, deal with setbacks and criticism, and increase your emotional intelligence. You'll become more self-aware, less self-conscious and laugh while doing it. Sure, you can cruise through Smith playing it safe. But you'll have way more fun rocking your inner rebel. This group can accommodate up to 35 students.

Do you find it difficult to make your voice heard? Do you wish you could participate more in class discussions? Quiet is great, though would you also like to make your out loud voice heard when it's time to talk? How about an opportunity to turn over a new leaf to present your strong self at Smith? Here's a chance to practice these skills in a super supportive, judgment-free, and fun environment through easy-to-learn improvisation exercises practiced in a group circle and in pairs with breaks for quiet reflection and discussion. The question: Do I need to [fill in the blank: have experience/want to perform/know anything/get up in front of people/anything else]? The answer: Nope! All you need is a willingness to strengthen your inner and outer voice. This orientation group will help you practice quieting your inner judgmental voice, communicate more effectively, reframe setbacks and overcome challenges. It's also a great chance to connect with interesting First Year students like you. Taught by Smith College alumna Pam Victor, the founder of Happier Valley Comedy. Pam is the author of "Baj and the Word Launcher: A Space Aged Asperger Adventure in Communication" and co-author of "Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ & Dave Book." You can check her out at This group can accommodate up to 20 students.

Did you know that Kathleen McCartney, President of Smith College, is a first-generation college student? If you are also the first person in your family to attend college, then this might be the group for you! It can be difficult to know what to expect as a college student when you have not had the benefit of learning from the experiences of family members' college experiences. This orientation will help you learn how to navigate the Smith system with confidence by making explicit some of these unspoken "rules" about how to play the role of college student. The group will also strive to help you arrive at a deeper understanding of what it means to you personally to be a first-generation college student, including an exploration of how being first-generation might shape some of your college experiences. Finally, the group will serve as a way for you to connect to other first-generation students and to discuss how your first-generation status can be proclaimed loudly and proudly as a source of pride. This group can accommodate up to 25 students.

In this orientation program, you will have an opportunity to think deeply about who you already are as a leader as well as who you would like to become as a leader in the global community in which we all live. We will focus on some of the leadership experiences you've already had and we will help you explore the leadership opportunities that exist on campus, in the community and beyond. It's a chance to bring your own style to the table and an opportunity to explore different ways of thinking about leadership in our global world. We value all different styles of leadership, and we spent time thinking with you about how to be "you" as a leader: quiet, outgoing, introspective, extroverted—whoever you are is who we want you to be as a leader. The format of this program is a combination of some large group work, small group activities and visits by some really interesting and compelling leaders here on campus. We work hard to ensure that you have a chance to meet as many of your fellow first years as possible, and you will also be working in your small group with a student leader whose job it will be to provide a very customized experience for you. In short, our goal is for you to have a great time learning more about yourself and about the leadership opportunities you will have at this amazing place called Smith College! This program can accommodate 75 students.

This workshop is designed for students who have learning or other disabilities, chronic health issues, or who may have dealt with mental health challenges to find support and make connections at Smith by exploring and sharing our stories. If you are like many other Smithies with disabilities, your story is one of challenges and accomplishments, struggles and triumphs, vulnerability and power, you have had incredible supporters, stared down a few barriers and negative attitudes, you have worked hard to find your voice, accomplished a lot to get to Smith, and plan to make your mark while you are here. We want to get to know you, so come tell your story and begin a new chapter here! What perspectives and gifts do you bring to Smith- a different voice, your creativity, compassion, determination, unique ideas informed by moving, learning, or experiencing the world a little differently? What are you nervous about in coming to college and navigating the academic and social life? What are you hoping to find? How can you get support and give support to make sure everyone is included?

Through songs, poetry, history, and art this workshop will let you explore disability as a powerful part of who you are; help you make connections with some amazing people who have paved the way for you; begin to build your Smith community of awesome friends with peers who share similar experiences; teach you a little about disability history, culture, and community; learn about resources, and give you a space to consider what you need to be a successful and happy Smith student. Smith is a place that values diversity by focusing on unique abilities, creative ideas, and respects the different paths people take to success. You are a part of what makes Smith great! This workshop can accommodate 25 students.

In this workshop, we will peel away outside influences that can lead to mental stress and confusion. Through insightful and mindful practices, we will un-cover our deepest desires, re-visit our dreams and passions, and learn how to use them as antidotes to stress, fatigue, and mental anguish. We will also visit our brains and touch on some basic neuroscience to explain how this works. This program can accommodate 25 students.

According to a report from Brown University, "several studies with college students suggest that the practice of mindfulness leads to decreases in stress and anxiety, improvements in concentration and attention, and increases in self-awareness and overall emotional well-being."

In this experiential program, we will explore the practice of mindfulness meditation and discuss options for developing a daily practice that can be sustained. We will explore ways in which these practices can support health and well-being throughout the school year, particularly in the face of common challenges that many college students face.

This program is suitable for those with no meditation experience and for those who have meditated before and want to deepen their practice. Some gentle yoga and movement practices will also be included, so please dress in comfortable clothing that will allow for movement and stretching.

This program will draw from the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, and the Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) course developed by Kristin Neff, PhD, and Christopher Germer, PhD.

David Spound, M.Ed., is the founder of Valley Mindfulness, a Northampton company that offers programs in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC). He is certified as a teacher of MBSR by the Center for Mindfulness at UMass Medical School, the organization founded by Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator of the MBSR course. David is also a former staff member of Smith College and has been leading mindfulness programs at Smith for the past three years.

This program can accommodate up to 28 students.

Under the instruction and leadership of trained Smith student leaders and professional staff from the Smith outdoor Adventure programs, first-year students will enjoy the scenic outdoors of Western Massachusetts while meeting other new students through participation in one of five Outdoor Adventure trips. Students will learn and practice various outdoor skills such as backcountry camping, map/compass, fire building, rock climbing, kayaking and canoeing. These experiences will highlight teamwork, general leadership, technical skills, communication, fun and camaraderie.

These excursions are in an outdoor environment. With the exception of the OARS and the Gravity programs which stay on campus in the evening, there will not be access to any indoor facilities, such as electricity or bathrooms. Each participant will be supplied a backpack, sleeping bag, and other gear for use on the trip if needed. Students will be required to provide their own clothing, including hiking boots, rain jacket, and multiple layers of clothing (see suggested equipment list). Each student will also share in carrying the group items. Read over the following trip descriptions carefully. All four trips are super fun, but vary in regards to activity and difficulty level.

Choose from the following Outdoor Adventure trips:


  1. AT I & AT II: Both AT I and ATII are student-lead backpacking trips along the Appalachian Trail in southwest Massachusetts. Spend the weekend hiking and camping at primitive sites with a small group of fellow Smithies. Enjoy the hiking, fresh air, new friends, and some great scenery along this historic trail. All participants must be capable of carrying a 20-30lb backpack over rigorous terrain. AT I groups will hike 5-7 miles in total (recommended for beginning backpackers) while AT II groups will hike 10-12 miles (recommended for advanced backpackers in very good physical condition).
    (ATI: 4 groups of 7 students, 2 leaders each)
    (ATII: 4 groups of 7 students, 2 leaders each)
  2. Rock Climbing: Our student-lead rock climbing group will spend orientation weekend traveling to local crags to learn the basics of rock climbing. The group will spend the night at the MacLeish Field Station primitive campsite. Learn to rock climb, belay, camp, and make some great new friends while enjoying this high adventure trip! No previous experience necessary, some comfort with heights recommended.
    (Rock: 1 group of 11 students, 2-3 leaders)
  3. Canoeing: Our student-lead canoeing group will spend orientation weekend paddling on the Connecticut River in northern MA and camping at a primitive site along their journey. This is a great opportunity for Smithies to connect in a small group setting on a relaxing river journey. Some paddling experience is recommended.
    (Canoe: 1 group of 8 students, 2 leaders)


  1. Outdoor Adventure Recreation Sampler (OARS): OARS is a great opportunity for students new to outdoor adventure to explore the many resources Smith has to offer in adventure recreation. Participants will spend orientation weekend rock climbing at the indoor rock wall, paddling on the pond, and hiking a local peak. Groups will eat meals at the college dining halls and disperse in the evening (after s'mores) to their dorms. No experience necessary.
    (OARS: 2 groups of 8 students, 2-3 leaders each)
  2. Gravity: After a long week of campus orientation programs, the Gravity program is all downhill! New Smithies will spend orientation weekend riding the Berkshire East Mountain Coaster, whitewater kayaking on the Deerfield River, and hiking a local peak. Groups will eat meals at the college dining halls and disperse in the evening to their dorms. No experience necessary.
    (Gravity: 1 group of 31 students, 4-5 leaders)
  3. Bicycle Northampton: Spend orientation weekend exploring your new home by bicycle! Northampton boasts access to some great bike paths including the Norwottuck and Manhan Rail Trails. Take a ride to Mount Tom to enjoy the view and check out some local points of interest lead by Smithies who know their way around! Groups will eat meals at the college dining halls and disperse in the evening to their dorms. We can provide the bicycles but all participants must have experience riding bicycles and be comfortable slowing, stopping, and turning while riding in a group.
    (Bike: 1 group of 8 students, 2 leaders)

Facilitated by Elena Volpe, a psychotherapist at Counseling Services, this segment of the orientation will focus on stress management not only to help with your transition into Smith, but for your life so that you can continue to forge a work-life balance that will keep your head on tight and your feet to the ground so you let your imagination, ambition and dreams soar. We will identify your stressors and what methods and techniques work best for you. You'll have a chance to experience breathing techniques, guided imagery, passive and active meditation, journaling, art therapy, martial arts therapy, voice work, body awareness, self-massage and some high-quality silliness. This program can accommodate 30 students.

Smith College works with many local schools and education organizations to enhance science education and to encourage and support students in STEM. About 150 Smith College STEM Ambassadors worked with over 2,500 students this past school year and volunteered over 2,000 hours of time working in the community. The STEM Ambassador program is a flexible program that allows undergraduates to volunteer for both short term and long term projects. Many are single session opportunities that work with children or adults (Family Science Night, Science Fair Judging) and we also have longer term programs such as math tutoring or a Girl Scout Robotics team that run once a week for the semester. You do not need to be a STEM major (or intended) to be a STEM Ambassador. Many volunteer simply because they like working with children or want to explore teaching at different levels.

The purpose of this workshop is to introduce you to how we work with the local community and orient you to our standards and practices. The schedule for the day includes a presentation by the Volunteers in Northampton Schools (VINs), an introduction to the Smith College Child Safety policy, doing a model science or engineering activity, preparing for teaching a science or engineering activity and at the end of the day... teaching and working with a group of about 15 students in the middle grade on that activity. On Sunday morning we reflect on what we learned and observed.

Participation in the program should allow you to take advantage of opportunities to work in local classrooms by mid-September should your schedule allow. We already have requests for math volunteers, Before School Math Club help as well as engineering activities for the club, Family Science Night activities and numerous requests to present on a range of topics to GED students. Help us to excite local children to STEM and learn about one of the ways you can learn about the community beyond the Smith bubble.

This program can accommodate 30 students.

Perhaps the key issue facing humanity now is how to live in an environmentally sustainable, socially just way. According to one calculation, the average U.S. citizen has an ecological footprint that is five times greater than the planet can support. We need to - and can - do better than that! This program will help you: (1) learn how to live more sustainably at Smith and (2) develop an ecological sense of place in your new home.

Questions that will be asked - and, to some extent, answered - include the following: Where does my food at Smith come from? How and what can I recycle? What powers our campus and how can I save kilowatts and BTUs? Are there green spaces nearby? How can I get to them and to other places without a car? What kinds of environmental majors, minors, and resources are available? Are there active student environmental organizations on campus? And most importantly, how can I make a difference environmentally while at Smith?

Short excursions and activities will give you an ecological sense of place, whether we visit a shady riverside trail or a steamy power plant. You will learn what Smith College is doing well and where there is room for improvement (this is where you come in during your next four years). Professor L. David Smith, Biological Sciences and Environmental Science and Policy Program, leads this orientation.

This program can accommodate 40 students.

What's the best predictor of academic success in college students? Going to class - obviously, right? But what's the second best predictor? SLEEP. True! Next best predictor? Eating breakfast! The performance of your brain is directly linked to the wellness of your body, so this orientation session will teach you practical, surprising, and totally customizable strategies to improve your sleep, stress, nutrition, worry, mood, and more, so you can make the most of your time at Smith. Led by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D., this is the orientation program for students who'd like to learn simple, effective wellness techniques to maximize their GPA and improve the quality of their daily life. This program can accommodate 65 students.

Health is amazingly broad: physical, mental, social, cultural, political and economic. Explore this wide and fascinating world of young women's health, from the local to the international. What's new in contraception, sexually transmitted infections and LGBT health? Why do you get your period (and what does it mean if you don't)? What health resources are available on campus? Explore the link between the media and body image and violence against women. Examine some of the health challenges confronting women in developing countries, including female circumcision, obstetric fistula and HIV/AIDS. Students in this workshop will watch and discuss documentary videos, have the opportunity to make connections through small group activities, and listen to informal presentations.
This program can accommodate 30 students.

This program is designed as an introduction to the practices of yoga and meditation. You'll learn simple physical postures and sequences to help keep your body relaxed and strong, breathing techniques to relieve stress and improve concentration, and yogic philosophy that encourages a positive and pro-active perspective on life. This group will be both introspective and connective, providing time for personal reflection and group sharing throughout the weekend. Molly Kitchen, RYT-200, will lead you through the program, integrating her knowledge of yoga, somatic awareness, and mind/body connection to create a meaningful weekend of self-discovery and fun. This program will include some outdoor time, so please wear layers and come prepared to enjoy the weather. This program can accommodate 40 students.