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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.

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 schedule for 2019 will be posted after June 1, 2019. Stay tuned for details and registration information!

Orientation Groups

Each year incoming first-year students select an orientation group in which to participate. The groups vary from year to year. Below is the selection from 2018 to help you get an idea of the types of groups offered.

Stay tuned for 2019 details soon!

Orientation Groups for 2018

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. This program can accommodate 26 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. 

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 by 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 and student ambassadors 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 the Office of Alumnae Relations and can accommodate up to 40 students.

What parts of Smith are not on the campus tour? As an incoming student to Smith you’ve probably heard that Smith has houses (not dorms), that we’ve got a gorgeous waterfront called Paradise Pond, and that students can eat in 12 different dining areas.

Join this orientation program to see another side of Smith, one that’s focused on sustainability and the environment, and discover some of the best spots to study, unwind and meet up with friends. The director of the Botanic Garden and the director of sustainability and campus planning will help you find your new favorite haunts, both on campus and in the Pioneer Valley, through photo contests, scavenger hunts, field trips and more.

You’ll get a chance to see how we power the campus, what’s under the Ainsworth Gym, the green roofs on top of Ford Hall and a behind-the-scenes look at the impressive tropical plant collections in the Lyman Plant House and Conservatory. Oh, and there will be coffee. Lots of it!

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.

This program is designed for those interested in community service and social action. You will be working for a program titled "The Gleaning Project." It is a youth-based food justice organization engaged in urban agriculture, youth leadership and sustainable living to build healthy and equitable communities. You will work on urban farms on Saturday from 9 a.m.–4 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m.–1 p.m. This program can accommodate 40 students.

Make your personal health a priority as you begin this 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 while meeting new friends. You will have fun, enjoy physical movement (Zumba, awesome abs, walks around Paradise Pond and a tour of the fitness center) while laughing, sweating and making meaningful connections. This program can accommodate 20 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.

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, 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 28 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 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.

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 MA 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)

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

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.

This program is designed for transfer students only. You will have the opportunity to meet and team build with other transfer students and to meet with campus administrators who can answer your questions. There will be tours of the area. Have fun as you learn about your new academic and social home.

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 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 lighthearted 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.