1871 (opened 1875)
1.627 billion USD (2016)
Ἐν τῇ ἀρετῇ τὴν γνῶσιν (Greek)
Motto in English
In Virtue [One Gains] Knowledge
Private liberal arts collegeWomen's college
Northampton, MA 01063, USA
Smith college campus tour
Smith College is a private, independent women's liberal arts college with coed graduate and certificate programs, located in Northampton, Massachusetts, United States. It is the largest member of the Seven Sisters. In its 2017 edition, U.S. News & World Report ranked it tied for 12th among the best National Liberal Arts Colleges. Smith is also a member of the Five Colleges consortium, which allows its students to attend classes at four other Pioneer Valley institutions: Mount Holyoke College, Amherst College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
- Smith college campus tour
- Smith college convocation 2016
- Academics and educational programs
- Ada Comstock Scholars Program
- Graduate degrees and study options
- Green Street houses
- Center Campus houses
- Upper Elm Street houses
- Lower Elm Street houses
- East Quadrangle houses
- West Quadrangle houses
- Residential culture and student life
- Academic year events
- Reunions and Commencement events
- Campus folklore
- Environmental sustainability
- Notable alumnae
- Smith College in popular culture
- Notable staff
Smith college convocation 2016
The college was chartered in 1871-1891 by a bequest of Sophia Smith and opened its doors in 1875 with 14 students and six faculty. When she inherited a fortune from her father at age 65, Smith decided that leaving her inheritance to found a women's college was the best way for her to fulfill the moral obligation she expressed in her will: "I hereby make the following provisions for the establishment and maintenance of an Institution for the higher education of young women, with the design to furnish for my own sex means and facilities for education equal to those which are afforded now in our colleges to young men." By 1915–16 the student enrollment was 1,724 and the faculty numbered 163. Today, with some 2,600 undergraduates on campus, and 250 students studying elsewhere, Smith is the largest privately endowed college for women in the country.
The United States Naval Reserve Midshipmen's School at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, was training grounds for junior officers of the Women's Reserve of the U.S. Naval Reserve (WAVES) and was nicknamed "USS Northampton." On August 28, 1942, a total of 120 women reported to the school for training.
Smith has been led by 11 presidents and two acting presidents. (Elizabeth Cutter Morrow was the first acting president of Smith College and the first female head of the college, but she did not use the title of president.) For the 1975 centennial, the college inaugurated its first woman president, Jill Ker Conway, who came to Smith from Australia by way of Harvard and the University of Toronto. Since President Conway's term, all Smith presidents have been women, with the exception of John M. Connolly's one-year term as acting president in the interim after President Simmons left to lead Brown University.
On December 10, 2012, the Board of Trustees announced that Kathleen McCartney had been selected as the 11th president of Smith College effective July 1, 2013.
The campus was planned and planted in the 1890s as a botanical garden and arboretum, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. The campus landscape now encompasses 147 acres (0.6 km2) and includes more than 1,200 varieties of trees and shrubs.
Academics and educational programs
Smith College has 285 professors in 41 academic departments and programs, for a faculty:student ratio of 1:9. Smith College's acceptance rate in 2015 was 35.97% (1,800 were accepted out of 5,004 who applied). It was the first women's college in the United States to grant its own undergraduate degrees in engineering. The Picker Engineering Program offers a single ABET accredited Bachelor of Science in engineering science, combining the fundamentals of multiple engineering disciplines.
Smith recently joined the SAT optional movement for undergraduate admission.
Smith runs its own junior year abroad (JYA) programs in four European cities: Paris, Hamburg, Florence and Geneva. These programs are notable for requiring all studies to be conducted in the language of the host country (with both Paris and Geneva programs conducted in French). In some cases students live in homestays with local families. Nearly half of Smith's juniors study overseas, either through Smith JYA programs or at more than 40 other locations around the world.
Junior math majors from other undergraduate institutions are invited to study at Smith College for one year through the Center for Women in Mathematics. Established in the fall of 2007 by Professors Ruth Haas and Jim Henle, the program aims to allow young women to improve their mathematical abilities through classwork, research and involvement in a department centered on women. The Center also offers a post-baccalaureate year of math study to women who either did not major in mathematics as undergraduates or whose mathematics major was not strong.
The Louise W. and Edmund J. Kahn Liberal Arts Institute supports collaborative research without regard to the traditional boundaries of academic departments and programs. Each year the Institute supports long-term and short-term projects proposed, planned and organized by members of the Smith College faculty. By becoming Kahn Fellows, students get involved in interdisciplinary research projects and work alongside faculty and visiting scholars for a year.
Students can develop leadership skills through Smith's two-year Phoebe Reese Lewis Leadership Program. Participants train in public speaking, analytical thinking, teamwork strategies and the philosophical aspects of leadership.
Through Smith's internship program, "Praxis: The Liberal Arts at Work," every undergraduate is guaranteed access to one college funded internship during her years at the college. This program enables students to access interesting self-generated internship positions in social welfare and human services, the arts, media, health, education, and other fields.
The 2017 annual ranking of U.S. News & World Report categorizes Smith as 'more selective'. For the Class of 2019 (enrolling fall 2015), Smith received 5,006 applications, accepted 1,897 (37.9%) and enrolled 609. The middle 50% range of SAT scores was 620-740 for critical reading, 620-720 for math, and 630-720 for writing, while the middle 50% range for the ACT composite score was 28-32. Of the 71% of enrolled freshmen who submitted high school GPA, the average GPA was 3.94.
U.S. News & World Report's 2017 rankings placed Smith tied for the 12th best liberal arts college in the nation. In the same publication's high school counselor rankings of liberal arts colleges, Smith is tied for 4th in the nation and ranked 22nd for "Best Value". In 2016, Forbes rated Smith 54th overall in its America's Top Colleges ranking, which includes 660 military academies, national universities, and liberal arts colleges. Kiplinger's Personal Finance places Smith 27th in its 2016 ranking of best value liberal arts colleges in the United States.
Ada Comstock Scholars Program
The Ada Comstock Scholars Program is an undergraduate degree program that serves Smith students of nontraditional college age. The program accommodates approximately 100 women ranging in age from mid-twenties to over sixty. Ada Comstock Scholars attend the same classes as traditional undergraduates, either full or part-time, and participate fully in a variety of extracurricular activities. They may live on or off campus. Financial aid is available to each woman with demonstrated need.
Beginning in 1968, with the approval of the Committee on Educational Policy, Smith College initiated a trial program loosely titled The Continuing Education Degree for several women of non-traditional age who were looking to complete their unfinished degrees. Their successes inspired President Thomas C. Mendenhall and Dean Alice Dickinson to officially expand the program. In January 1975, the Ada Comstock Scholars Program was formally established under President Jill Ker Conway and in the fall of that year forty-five women were enrolled. The students range in ages, backgrounds, and geographical locations.The growth of the program peaked just over 400 students in 1988.
The program is named for Ada Louise Comstock Notestein (1876-1973), an 1897 Smith graduate, professor of English and dean of Smith from 1912–23, and president of Radcliffe College from 1923-43. Ada Comstock Notestein devoted much of her life to the academic excellence of women. Considering education and personal growth to be a lifelong process, she stayed actively involved in women’s higher education until her death at the age of 97.
Graduate degrees and study options
Smith offers men and women graduate work leading to the degrees of master of arts in teaching (elementary, middle or high school), master of fine arts, master of education of the deaf, master of science in biological sciences, master of science in exercise and sport studies and master and Ph.D. in social work. In special one-year programs, international students may qualify for a certificate of graduate studies or a diploma in American studies. Each year approximately 100 men and women pursue advanced graduate work at Smith.
Also offered in a non-degree studies program is the Diploma in American Studies. This is a highly competitive one-year program open only to international students of advanced undergraduate or graduate standing. It is designed primarily, although not exclusively, for those who are teaching or who plan to teach some aspect of American culture and institutions.
The Smith College School for Social Work is nationally recognized for its specialization in clinical social work and puts a heavy emphasis on direct field work practice. The program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. The school offers a Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) degree as well as a Ph.D. program designed to prepare MSWs for leadership positions in clinical research education and practice.
The college has a limited number of other programs leading to Ph.D.s, and is part of a cooperative doctoral program co-administered by Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Smith College has many different houses serving as dormitories. Each house is self-governing and collects its own dues. While many students remain in the same house for the entirety of their four years at Smith, they are not obligated to do so, and may move to different houses on campus as space allows.
Houses are found in four main regions of campus: Upper and Lower Elm Street, Green Street, Center Campus, and the Quadrangle. Each region can, in turn, be divided into smaller areas to more precisely provide the location of the house in question.
Green Street houses
Center Campus houses
Upper Elm Street houses
Lower Elm Street houses
East Quadrangle houses
West Quadrangle houses
Smith's athletic teams have been known as the Pioneers since 1986. The name expresses the spirit of Smith's students and the college's leadership role in women's athletics (the first women's basketball game was played at Smith in 1893).
A new spirit mark was unveiled to the Smith community in December 2008. The new visual identity for Smith's sports teams marks the culmination of a yearlong project to promote visibility and enthusiasm for Smith's intercollegiate and club teams—and to generate school spirit broadly. The spirit mark is used for athletics uniforms, casual apparel and promotional items for clubs and organizations. As Smith was the first women’s college to join the NCAA, the new mark is seen as linking the college’s pioneering alumnae athletes to their equally determined and competitive counterparts today.
Smith College does not have college colors in the usual sense. Its official color is white, trimmed with gold, but the official college logo is currently blue and yellow (a previous logo was burgundy and white). NCAA athletic teams have competed in blue and white (or blue and yellow, in the case of the soccer, crew, swimming, and squash teams) uniforms since the 1970s, and selected Pioneers as the official name and mascot in 1986. Popular club sports are free to choose their own colors and mascot; both Rugby and Fencing have chosen red and black.
Smith has a rotating system of class colors dating back to the 1880s, when intramural athletics and other campus competitions were usually held by class. Today, class colors are yellow, red, blue and green, with incoming first-year classes assigned the color of the previous year's graduating class; their color then "follows" them through to graduation. Alumnae classes, particularly at reunion, continue to identify with and use their class color thereafter.
Residential culture and student life
Smith requires all undergraduate students to live in on-campus houses unless they reside locally with their family. This policy is intended to add to the camaraderie and social cohesion of its students. Unlike most institutions of its type, Smith College does not have dorms, but rather 36 separate houses, ranging in architectural style from 18th-century to contemporary. It is rumored that the architecture of Chapin House was the inspiration for the Tara Plantation House in Gone with the Wind. (Author Margaret Mitchell went to Smith for one year and lived in Chapin.)
Two recent additions to the campus, both of which enhance its sense of community, are the architecturally dramatic Campus Center and the state-of-the-art Olin Fitness Center.
In 2009, construction was also completed on Ford Hall, a new science and engineering facility. According to the Smith College website, Ford Hall is a "...facility that will intentionally blur the boundaries between traditional disciplines, creating an optimum environment for students and faculty to address key scientific and technological developments of our time." The building was officially dedicated on October 16, 2009.
The campus also boasts a botanic garden that includes a variety of specialty gardens including a rock garden and historic glass greenhouses dating back to 1895. The botanic garden formerly featured a Japanese tea hut, which was removed in October 2015 following concerns over "issues of safety and vandalism."
A novelty of Smith's homelike atmosphere is the continuing popularity of Sophia Smith's recipe for molasses cookies. These are often served at the traditional Friday afternoon tea held in each house, where students, faculty and staff members and alumnae socialize.
Smith offers "panel discussions and seminars for lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students on subjects such as coming out as transgender at work." In 2003, Smith students voted to remove pronouns from the language of the Student Government Association constitution, in order to make that document inclusive of transgender students who don't identify with the female pronouns "she" and "her."
Until 2013, transgender women were not allowed to attend Smith unless all their legal documentation consistently stated that they were female. This policy came to public attention in March 2013 when Smith rejected the application of a trans woman named Calliope Wong. In the rejection letter, Smith's Dean of Admission Debra Shaver wrote "Your FAFSA indicates your gender as male. Therefore, Smith cannot process your application." This policy was changed in 2013 to only require all non legal application materials to indicate a female identity, including references. Not satisfied with the change, students as well as various alumni subsequently protested the policy on Facebook and other social media websites. In 2015, Smith announced a new policy that only required female identification on the common application.
Academic year events
Convocation signals the start of the fall semester. For new students it is the first chance to experience Smith College's tradition and spirit. Likewise, for some returning students, the annual event is like a big, welcome-home party as well as an occasion for celebration and an opportunity for creative attire. House communities develop imaginative themes for group fashion, and Smith seniors put special touches on favorite hats to create their own unique "senior hats," to be worn for the first time at Convocation.
Mountain Day is observed early in the fall semester. The President of the College selects a crisp, sunny, beautiful autumn day when the leaves are in full color, and announces the cancellation of classes by having bells rung on campus at 7:15 AM on the chosen day. The eager anticipation of Mountain Day leads to intense speculation meteorology by students in the weeks leading up to the surprise announcement. Traditional observance of Mountain Day by students might involve New England road trips or outdoor pursuits, and college dining services provides box lunches to be taken off-campus. Many of the Houses go apple picking together.
Otelia Cromwell Day, named for Smith's first African-American student, began in 1989 to provide students with an in-depth program specifically addressing issues of racism and diversity. Afternoon classes are cancelled, and students are invited to participate in lectures, workshops, symposia and cultural events focused on a different theme each year.
Rally Day In February 1876, the College began an annual observance of George Washington's birthday. In 1894, a rally became part of the day's events, and the focus of the celebration became primarily patriotic rather than exclusively social—though always with a women's college twist. Students that year staged a mock debate on the subject, "Does Higher Education Unfit a Man for Domestic Life?" In 1906 the celebration was first referred to as Rally Day (although the name was not used officially by the College until 1992). In 1944, seniors made Rally Day the first public wearing of their graduation caps and gowns; since then, mortarboards have been replaced by wacky, often homemade hats. Today, the Rally Day Convocation is centered on a historical theme, and features a distinguished keynote speaker and the awarding of Smith College Medals to accomplished alumnae.
Reunions and Commencement events
The Alumnae Association of Smith College hosts official class reunions every five years. All alumnae from all classes are welcome to return in any year; "off-year" alumnae attend campus-wide events as the "Class of 1776."
Traditional reunion and Commencement events are linked, and celebrate the close ties between Smith's alumnae and its graduating seniors and their families. At the conclusion of final exams, most underclasswomen leave the campus, while seniors remain in their houses for a week to celebrate and prepare for Commencement. Alumnae arrive for reunions later in the week, and many alumnae arrange for official accommodations in the campus houses, right alongside senior residents.
Ivy Day, the day before Commencement, is the high point of reunion and a significant event for seniors as well. Junior ushers lead a parade through campus, carrying vines of ivy to be planted by the departing seniors as a symbol of their lifelong connection to the college. Alumnae (and, often, their children), dressed in white and wearing sashes in their class color, line up in reverse order by class along both sides of the route. Seniors line up nearest the end of the parade route, wearing traditional white outfits and each carrying a single red rose. All cheer each alumnae class as it marches past, then fall in to join the end of the parade. Many alumnae classes carry signs with humorous poems or slogans, or hold balloons or wear hats in their class color. Ivy Day festivities conclude in the Quad, where the seniors plant their ivy and speakers address alumnae on the progress of fundraising and the state of the college.
Illumination Night, beginning at dusk on the Saturday evening before Commencement, is a celebration of the campus and a send-off of sorts for graduating seniors. Throughout central campus, electric street lights are replaced for one night by multicolored Japanese-style paper lanterns, lit with real candles. These hang on both sides of every walking path and cast a soft glow over the buildings and lawns. Student a cappella singing groups and improv comedy troupes roam the campus, stopping occasionally to entertain the crowds. A jazz band, hired by the college, turns the science buildings' courtyard into a dance floor. Seniors, alumnae, faculty and their families spend the evening on walking tours of the illuminated campus and Botanic Gardens. The major official event of the night is the Senior Step Sing: seniors gather on the steps of Neilson Library, where they are serenaded by members of the Sophomore Push committee, then are physically pushed off the stairs and "into the real world."
Until the early 1990s, all alumnae reunions were held during Commencement weekend. However, as the number of returning alumnae grew beyond the capacity of the campus, reunions were split into Reunion I/Commencement Weekend and Reunion II, held the following weekend. "Significant" reunions (50-, 25- and 10- year, but also 2-year) and the earliest reunion classes (65-year and prior) are assigned to Reunion I; other reunions (5-, 15-, 20-, 30-year, and so on) are assigned to Reunion II.
Smith has numerous folk tales and ghost stories that emerge from the histories of some of its historic buildings. One such tale holds that Sessions House is inhabited by the ghost of Lucy Hunt, who died of a broken heart after being separated from her lover, General Burgoyne. Reports of a ghost in Sessions House predate its history as a campus house. Built in 1751 by the Hunt family, the house has a secret staircase where, according to legend, the Hunt's eldest daughter Lucy would rendezvous with her lover, General Burgoyne. The two were ultimately driven apart, and in the 1880s it was believed that the ghost of a heartbroken Burgoyne haunted the staircase. Since Sessions House became part of college housing in the 20th century, the specter has taken on a decidedly feminine identity, and some former residents of Sessions claim to have seen Lucy's ghost in the stairwell.
Smith has taken numerous steps toward environmental sustainability, including a 30% reduction in energy use. Also, through a contract with Zipcar, the college has reduced the need for individually owned cars on campus. Complementing this effort, the college has also promoted sustainability through academics and through the arts.
In keeping with its sustainability efforts, all Smith dining locations have discontinued the use of "to-go" supplies which included paper cups and plates, as well as plastic utensils. They now encourage students to bring their own, reusable containers and utensils if they wish to bring food back to their rooms. Smith College provides all students with a reusable drink container at the beginning of each academic year. In past years, these containers have been variations on travel mugs, Sigg bottles, and nalgenes. Those dining halls that still offer "To-Go" options no longer provide paper bags, and instead use wax paper bags, biodegradable plastic, and recyclable utensils made of vegetable cellulose.
For Smith's efforts regarding sustainability, the institution earned a grade of "A-" on the "College Sustainability Report Card 2010" administered by the Sustainable Endowments Institute. Smith was lauded for many of the indicator categories, including student involvement, green building, and transportation, but was marked down for endowment transparency.
Among the most notable of Smith College's alumnae are:
Smith College in popular culture
References to Smith abound in literature. In Sylvia Plath's novel The Bell Jar, the protagonist Esther Greenwood attends Smith College. In Running With Scissors, a memoir by Augusten Burroughs, the author details how he and his foster-sister, Natalie, took walks together on the campus. The fictional Catamount College in the novella Beasts by Joyce Carol Oates is based on Smith College. The character Chenault in The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson went to Smith College. Commencement, a novel by J. Courtney Sullivan was published in 2009 and recounts the friendship of four Smith College classmates.
Smith has its place in films as well. The 1954 film White Christmas references Smith. Jean Simmons plays a recent Smith grad in 1957's This Could Be the Night. The 1966 movie Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and the 1993 movie Malice were both filmed on the Smith campus. In the 1971 film Carnal Knowledge, Candice Bergen's character, Susan, is a Smith student, and portions of the film take place on the Smith campus. The character Joanna Kramer, played by Meryl Streep in the 1979 film Kramer vs. Kramer, is a Smith College graduate. In the movie The Nanny Diaries Mrs. X is a Smith alumna. Spike Lee also has a reference to a Smithie as a lesbian paying an ex-biotech exec to inseminate her and many other homosexual women in the movie She Hate Me. Sadie (Nicole Vicius) from 2007 lesbian-comedy Itty Bitty Titty Committee dropped out of the college after meeting her partner, a guest lecturer at Smith. In Samuel Shanahoy's 2014 film Queen Bee Empire, the character Macey mentions having been at Smith.
Well-known television shows integrate references to Smith into character plot lines. An episode in the second season of the series Felicity (TV series) has a Smith College graduate who refuses to serve as an egg donor for Javier because he is gay. Charlotte York in the show Sex and the City is a Smith College graduate. In an episode of The Simpsons—"I'm Spelling as Fast as I Can"—Lisa Simpson is tempted by the Siren-like representatives of the Seven Sisters (and George Plimpton), who offer a scholarship to the Sister school of her choice (and a George Plimpton hot plate) if she will throw a spelling bee. Dr. Cristina Yang, a surgical resident played by Sandra Oh on Grey's Anatomy, graduated from Smith College with degrees in French Literature and Chemistry, and lived in Sessions House. Ainsley Hayes (played by Emily Procter), the conservative lawyer hired to work in the White House Counsel's Office on The West Wing, graduated from Smith. In an episode of Mad About You Paul's sister and her girlfriend are referred to as "The Fighting Lesbians." Paul (Paul Reiser) replies, "No, that would be the name of the Smith College Ice Hockey Team." Emily Gilmore in the show Gilmore Girls went to Smith and majored in history. In season two of Nip Tuck, episode "Julia McNamara", Julia gets anesthesia before her facial surgery. One of the dreams she has is that Dr. Liz Cruz's made-up daughter will be attending Smith that coming fall. In the third season of ER, Dr. Doug Ross (played by George Clooney) mentions he is dating a Smith graduate. Nurse Carol Hathaway makes a joke about Dr. Ross's normal dates being unable to spell Smith. A very similar joke was made in the movie White Christmas, which starred George Clooney's aunt, Rosemary Clooney.
In the 2009 Heroes episode "A Clear and Present Danger", the Smith College viewbook is displayed prominently at the top of a stack of college materials Claire Bennet is apparently reviewing. Angela Petrelli asks Claire if she's found a favorite, to which Claire replies, "Hamilton, Smith, Georgetown, they're all the best schools in the country."
The webcomic Questionable Content mentions Smith College (usually referred to as "Smif" in the comic) as the place where one of the main characters, Marten, is employed as library staff, and several of the minor characters attend. Ellen, studies marine biology. Tai, Natasha and Cosette are also students. Jeph Jacques, the author, went to Hampshire College, one of the neighboring schools. Some characters from the webcomic Minimalist Stick Figure Theatre, set primarily in Northampton, are students at Smith College.
In the Hallmark Channel original movie titled Mrs. Washington Goes to Smith, Cybill Shepherd plays a woman in her 40s who returns to Smith College to finish her bachelor's degree. Smith alumna Susan Rice '63 wrote the script for the film, which aired August 1, 2009.
In Grace Metalious's 1956 novel Peyton Place, the school teacher, Miss Elsie Thornton, is a Smith alum. In Grace Metalious's 1960 novel The Tight White Collar the character Margery Cooper attends Smith College.