In addition to Smith’s storied history, liberal arts background, and strong collaborative culture, Smith’s major growth has been in research and the sciences, including their engineering and sustainability programs. The Picker Engineering Program calls Ford Hall home, a $473 million, 142,000-square-foot structure dedicated to science and engineering. A few proud Smithies told us, Picker is “the first and only all-women’s engineering program in the country.”
As the faculty note, you can’t be at Smith if you aren’t eager to learn. And there are plenty of opportunities for it. From internships, community service, and study-away programs, Smith offers their students the chance to learn from study outside of their campus, either domestic or international. SURF (Student Undergraduate Research Fellowships) fund research and let students explore projects of their own design. The AEMES (Achieving Excellence in Math, Engineering and Science) Program also gives opportunities to students who are historically underrepresented in STEM fields. SURF lets students have more leeway and a bit less faculty guidance in their studies. They are allowed to undertake “true research,” according to an engineering student. Smithies are not only answering a question, they’re discovering the varied answers and analysis that accompanies any in-depth research. Smithies have a tremendous library at their fingertips, too, with over 1 million items to help their research. The library offers students a huge resource as they implement and advance their ideas. An assistant engineering professor said that this research “is an opportunity for students to investigate a subject that interests them with less faculty direction than is typical in the academic year and with less certainty as to what the outcome will be.”
As Steven Williams, Gates Professor of Biological Science, said, “Nothing is more fun than when a student gets a great research result and comes bouncing into the lab because she’s so excited about it.” Smith faculty enjoys helping students succeed. An administrator also mentioned that Dr. Williams’ lab “received a $100,000 Grand Challenges Exploration Grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—one of only 81 grants awarded worldwide—for research on health issues in the developing world.” So, while students are hard at work developing their ideas, professors like Dr. Williams are continually finding ways (and winning grants) to help students continue to flourish.
Smithies are taught by 285 full-time and part-time professors in forty-one academic departments and programs, for a low student-faculty ratio of 9:1. Most of these educators and scholars hold a terminal degree in their field. The faculty is nearly split evenly between women and men, all dedicated to the Smith cause. These professors deal in more than education. Scholars in their own right, they pursue their own fields of study, and their accomplishments raise the bar for their students. The professors, described by their students as “top-notch,” “engaged,” “wonderful,” “kind and helpful,” go out of their way to include students on their scholarly research.
A sampling of Smith professors currently making waves globally include: Ruth Haas, the Achilles Professor of Mathematics and Statistics and professor of engineering, who was the 2014 winner of the Association for Women in Mathematics Humphreys Award for mentorship of undergraduate women in mathematics; Richard Olivo, professor of biological sciences, who was awarded for outstanding contributions to neuroscience education and training; Paula Giddings, the E.A. Woodson 1922 Professor of Afro-American Studies, who keynoted the Martin Luther King convocation at Jackson State University; and Joshua Miller, a professor in the Smith College School for Social Work who received a U.S. State Department grant to continue his conflict resolution work with nonprofit and government leaders in Uganda and Rwanda.
A Class of 2002 Smithie told us, “Smith chose me in a way that makes me smile to this day. I didn’t know how much Smith would make me grow, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.” Current students point out they were initially drawn to Smith through the accomplishments of other alumnae, especially in leadership positions. Smith has proven these women have a lot to brag about. Nearly 90 percent of Smithies go straight from graduation into jobs or to graduate schools. In honor of one of their most famous alumnae, Julia Child (Class of ‘34), Smith College has hosted Julia Child Day since 2004. In grand Julia Child-fashion, the celebrations are full of food-related events, honoring the late chef, host, and author, and her contributions to the culinary scene. Other prominent alumnae include two first ladies; writers Margaret Mitchell, Madeleine L’Engle and Sylvia Plath; feminist and activist Gloria Steinem; and Rochelle “Shelly” Lazarus, former CEO and Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather.
As of early 2015, Smith has over 48,000 undergraduate and 7,000 graduate degree recipients in all fifty states and more than 100 countries. Once they graduate, Smithies aren’t on their own. In addition to producing alumnae who lead lives of distinction, Smith tends to produce graduates with a degree of flexibility and multi-faceted interest. The Lazarus Center has published the results of survey sent to alumnae who graduated from Smith two, five, ten, fifteen, and twenty years ago, and the results show tremendous diversity in career outcomes across majors. “Alumnae who graduated with degrees in the natural sciences, history, humanities and the social sciences, for example, found professional success in fields ranging from agriculture to biotechnology to education,” the school informed us. Over on the career website, the director of the Lazarus Center, Stacie Hagenbaugh, commented on the survey results that the Center has illustrated in an interactive chart. (You can view the chart at: http://www.smith.edu/news/alumnae-career-paths/). “It’s a perfect visual response to the question of whether a liberal arts degree will take you anywhere,” Hagenbaugh said. “It clearly shows that a degree from any of the divisions at Smith will lead to success in any field.”