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Orientation Programs

Orientation is an important start to your experience as a new student at Smith. The week before the start of classes, all first-year, transfer, visiting/exchange students and 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, which begins on August 30, 2019. 

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

Please see the preliminary Orientation schedules for 2019. Be sure to check back for any additional details.

Orientation Groups

Each year incoming first-year students select orientation groups in which to participate. We offer a selection of fun and exciting options to accommodate a wide variety of interests, spark your curiosity and welcome you to the Smith community.

The sign-up for orientation groups will open at 10 a.m. on July 22 and close at 10 a.m. on August 2, 2019. Please have a list of 2 or 3 groups you are interested in when it is time to sign up in case your first choice is full. Once you sign up, you cannot change groups, so please think about your preferences ahead of time.


We look forward to seeing you at Orientation!

Orientation Groups for 2019

College is a time of spiritual exploration, whether or not we are on a religious path. 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 introduce you to some of what the Center for Religious and Spiritual life offers; contemplative practice, mindfulness, group dialogue, service, and interfaith collaboration as a way of healing from religious-driven attacks. Our premise is “No Place for Hate Here.” The Center offers all of us space to learn to align ourselves spiritually to “be the change” we wish to see in the world. Program will include a service project in the Northampton community, 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 take a step on our spiritual journeys. This session can accommodate 30 students.

Are you interested in tapping into your construction skills, learning how to use power tools and giving back to the Northampton community? Join us as we partner with Habitat for Humanity for a team build right here in Northampton. Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit organization that helps families build and improve places to call home. Pioneer Valley Habitat builds strength, stability and self-reliance through affordable homeownership in Hampshire and Franklin Counties. Our team leaders and site supervisors will give you instruction on the job. We will spend the Saturday and Sunday learning skills to build a home through building community. This program can accommodate 25 students.

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 off your time at Smith 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 student ambassadors on campus on Saturday morning and then head to nearby Easthampton on Saturday afternoon, where you can participate in an escape room challenge at Puzzled Escape Games; relax, snack or play at the Mill 180 Park, described as “an indoor, hydroponic park for the 21st century”; sample gourmet ice pops at Crooked Sticks Pops; or try some of the games (a unique, indoor minigolf course, retro video game consoles and tabletop games) at Prodigy Easthampton. On Sunday, you’ll get to meet and talk with current Smith students and alums over a casual brunch. The workshop will be facilitated by the 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, your identities will "show up." What practices allow us to connect across our shared and different identities? What do we need to engage together in transformative learning—which requires us to understand race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic class, dis/ability, religion and other social identities? In this workshop, you will explore these questions, reflect with other incoming Smithies and leave with approaches to help you commit to caring and authentic connections with Smith community members across campus. This program can accommodate up to 30 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.

If you are the first person in your family to attend college, this might be the group for you! This session is the first and only orientation program to be lead entirely by first-generation students at Smith. This group will strive to help you arrive at a deeper understanding of what it means to be a first-generation college student, including an exploration of how being first-gen might shape some of your college experiences. This program will also serve as a way for you to have a little fun and connect with other people (students, professors and deans) who have been in your position. Each one of the three student leaders understands the challenges that come with being the first in their families to attend college and have designed this orientation to help you navigate the Smith system with confidence. Ultimately, we hope you leave this program feeling ready to take on Smith and knowing that you will be supported in your journey. This group can accommodate up to 25 students.

Make your personal health a priority as you begin this incredible journey as a first-year student at Smith. Join us to explore ways to support your personal health, learn about good nutrition habits, manage stress and maintain healthy sleep practices. Experience the benefits of making your health a priority at Smith while meeting new friends. You will have fun, engage in activities to assist you in learning ways to maintain healthy nutrition on campus and discover how to manage stress with relaxation techniques. This course is perfect if you want to plan for good personal health and have fun. You will sample various fitness classes, learn how to use the fitness center and have fun doing it! Please come dressed for movement and participation. This class can accommodate 30 students.

This program is designed as an introduction to the practices of yoga and nature connection. 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 proactive perspective on life. In addition, you’ll spend time getting oriented to Smith’s beautiful campus finding your own “sit spot,” a special place for contemplation and introspection. There will be moments of light-hearted silliness as well as quiet journaling, self-reflection and fun peer connection. Molly Kitchen, founder and director of Adhikara Yoga School, will lead you through the weekend, integrating her knowledge of yoga, functional movement and nature connection to create a meaningful experience of self-discovery and fun. As this program will include some outdoor time, please wear layers and bring a towel or blanket to sit on. Yoga mats will be provided. This program can accommodate 40 students.

Come challenge yourself and learn valuable leadership skills along the way! This orientation program will take you off campus to Morse Hill Outdoor Education Center for a day of learning teamwork, resilience, communication, friendship and leadership skills through low and high ropes as well as team building initiatives. The second day we will regroup to play games and discuss ways to build your leadership through your life at Smith. This group can accommodate 50 students.
The academic year of 2019–20 is the Year on Climate Change at Smith. There will be all kinds of events throughout the year connecting climate change to poetry, food and our landscape (among other things). Do you want to be an insider? Come join the staff of the Center for the Environment, Ecological Design and Sustainability and get up-close and personal with climate change solutions on campus and in our local community. We’ll visit the dreaded “coal vault” to see how Smith used to heat buildings, go to a local dairy farm to visit their cows and see how they’re making “cow power” and visit our own Bechtel Environmental Classroom, the world’s fifth fully certified “Living Building.” We’ll drink coffee along the way, get to know each other and the Smith environs all while we dwell on the solutions! This program can accommodate 50 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 meditations designed to cultivate mindfulness and self-compassion, and we will discuss options for developing a sustainable daily meditation practice. 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, Ph.D., and the Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) course developed by Kristin Neff, Ph.D., and Christopher Germer, Ph.D. This program can accommodate up to 30 students.

About the Teacher

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 and MSC, and he trains and mentors new teachers of these programs. David is also a former staff member of Smith College and has been leading mindfulness programs at Smith for the past six years.

All groups are led by Smith’s Outdoor Adventure Student Leaders.


Students camp overnight at primitive sites.

AT I: (Backpacking) An overnight experience along the Appalachian Trail in Western Massachusetts. Spend the weekend hiking and camping at a primitive site with a small group of fellow Smithies. Enjoy fresh air, new friends, outdoor cooking and some great scenery along this historic trail. All participants must be capable of carrying a 25-35-pound backpack over rigorous terrain. Groups will hike 5-7 miles in total. (Recommended for new backpackers).
(AT I: 3 groups of 7 students = 21 total))

AT II: (Backpacking) An overnight experience along the Appalachian Trail in Western Massachusetts. Spend the weekend hiking and camping at a primitive site with a small group of fellow Smithies. Enjoy fresh air, new friends, outdoor cooking, and some great scenery along this historic trail. All participants must be capable of carrying a 25-35-pound backpack over rigorous terrain. Groups will hike 10-12 miles in total. (Recommended for experienced backpackers in good physical condition).
(AT II: 3 groups of 7 students = 21 total)

Rocks: (Climbing) Spend orientation weekend traveling to local cliffs while learning the basics of rock climbing. All necessary instruction and equipment will be provided, such as: harnesses, shoes, helmets, ropes, belay devices and experienced guides. Camp at a primitive site near Smith’s MacLeish Field Station, where one of the “greenest” buildings in the United States exists.  Explore the hiking trails and challenge course, also located on the property.  No previous experience necessary, some comfort with heights recommended.
(Rocks: 1 group of 11 students = 11 total)

River: (Canoe Camping) Two days of paddling down the Connecticut River in Western Massachusetts and camping at a river-side primitive site along the way. This is a great opportunity for Smithies to connect in a small group setting on a relaxing river journey while learning about local wildlife, canoeing and camping skills. Some paddling experience is recommended.

(River: 1 group of 8 students = 8 total)

PDF iconCanoeing Packing List


*Students spend the night in their houses.

Explorer: (Outdoor Sampler) This is a great opportunity for students new to outdoor adventure, offering an introduction to the recreation programs Smith has to offer. Spend orientation weekend rock climbing at the indoor rock wall, kayaking on Paradise Pond and learning orienteering skills, geocaching and hiking a local peak. No experience necessary.
(Explorer: 3 groups of 8 students = 24 total)

Gravity: (Outdoor Sampler) Experience the best of Western Massachusetts on this adventure! Let gravity take over on the Berkshire East Mountain Coaster, followed by an invigorating whitewater experience down the Deerfield River (sit-on-top kayaks), and end it all with a breathtaking view of the valley, while summiting a local peak. No experience necessary.
(Gravity: 1 group of 39 students = 39 total)

PDF iconGravity Packing List

Ride (Pioneer Valley by Bike): Bicycle touring at its best! Get acquainted with Northampton and surrounding towns the local way. Check out two of our most popular commuter routes, the Norwottuck and Manhan Rail Trails and explore Mount Tom State Reservation. Students may use their own bikes and helmets (good working condition) or borrow from the Smith gear room. All participants must have experience riding bicycles and be comfortable slowing, stopping and turning while riding in a group.
(Bike: 1 group of 9 students = 9 total)

PDF iconBicycle Packing List

Raft (Whitewater Rafting): This 10-mile rafting trip on the Deerfield River will take you through some of the area’s most exciting rapids, including Microwave, Freight Train, Pinball and Zoar Gap! After all of this adventure, you’ll stop at a beautiful state forest park to enjoy a picnic-style catered lunch, made with local ingredients. The trip back to basecamp is relaxed, allowing for optional swim time. Day two of this adventure involves kayaking on Paradise Pond, and exploring the Mill River. (Raft: 1 group of 22 students = 22 total)

Travel to Springfield to experience the outdoor adventure course that includes ropes courses, outdoor adventures, games and kayaking.  Through these activities in this rustic setting you will experience teambuilding, a surge of self-confidence. how it feels to lead and grow, and develop a sense of empowerment. This program can accommodate 40 students.

Only those first-years who are competing on fall sports teams should sign up for this session.

You will visit the popular and well known Central Rock Gym indoor facility in South Hadley, Massachusetts. There you will learn belaying, climbing and participate in yoga and various team building activities. This program can accommodate 80 students.


All identities, body types and movement abilities are welcome in this group! Together, we will explore what it means to develop a leadership style that is authentic, consensual and respectful. Each of us has the potential to be a leader and college is a great opportunity to step into the many ways we can share our gifts with the world. This group will use creative movement and storytelling to learn about leadership styles that generate belonging, inclusion, meaningful relationships and consent. What does it take to be authentically ourselves in a community? How do we step into leadership and create the communities we desire? How do you be a kind leader? How do you support people in feeling seen and heard? How can leadership be a playful and easeful process? We will explore all of this and more.
This group will be facilitated by The Embodied Leadership Project. We are a local nonprofit organization that focuses on wellness, inclusion and women’s leadership through artistic practice. This program can accommodate 40 students.