Smith College

From Academic Kids

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Smith College campus center

Smith College, located in Northampton, Massachusetts, is the largest women's college in the United States. It is a private, non-denominational liberal arts college. It is one of the Seven Sisters and is also a member of the Five Colleges consortium.



The college was established in 1871 by a bequest of Sophia Smith.


Notable deans, administrators, and faculty


Smith College is the first and only women's college in the U.S. to grant its own degrees in engineering. The Picker Engineering Program offers a single Bachelor of Science in engineering science, combining the fundamentals of multiple engineering disciplines.

The Ada Comstock Scholars Program is a bachelor's degree program for nontraditional-aged students.

Undergraduate majors and minors offered

Both major and minor are offered in each subject unless otherwise noted.


Humanities and language


Social sciences


In addition, students can design specialized majors and minors with the approval of the College and related departments.


Colors and mascot

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). Athletic teams have competed in blue and white uniforms since the 1970s, and selected Pioneers as the official name and mascot in 1986.

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

Smith is nearly unique among modern American colleges in that all undergraduate students are required to live in on-campus dormitories. This policy is intended to add to the camraderie and social cohesion of its students. Smith College also has the largest art collection of any liberal arts college in the US and was one of the first schools to get it's own atom-breaker in a move to encourage women in science. An example of any tree in nature can also be found on Smith College campus, whether planted along the many paths or inside of the greenhouse. Also, it should be noted that Chapin House was the inspiration for Tara in Gone With the Wind (as it was where Ms. Mitchell lived on campus).

Academic year events

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 7:00 AM on the chosen day. The eager anticipation of Mountain Day leads to intense speculation and a higher-than-normal interest in 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.

Otelia Cromwell Day, named for Smith's first known African-American alumna, began in 1989 to provide students with an in-depth program specifically addressing issues of racism and diversity. Regular classes are cancelled, and students are invited to participate in lectures, workshops, symposia and cultural events, centered around a different theme each year.

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 around 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, plus a special two-year reunion. 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.

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Ivy Day

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 dresses 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 evening before Commencement, is a beautiful 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 acapella 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; "lesser" reunions (5-, 15-, 20-, 30-year, and so on) are assigned to Reunion II. Although the AASC sponsors an Alumnae Parade (in place of Ivy Day) and a second Illumination Night, these events are far less festive as the seniors and their families have long since graduated and left campus.

Notable alumnae

The Alumnae Association of Smith College considers all former students to be members, whether they graduated or not, and does not generally differentiate between graduates and non-graduates when identifying Smith alumnae.

Barbara Pierce Bush, class of 1947, did not graduate; she left the college in 1945 to marry George H. W. Bush.

Fictional alumnae

External links

Seven Sisters Colleges
Barnard | Bryn Mawr | Mount Holyoke | Radcliffe | Smith | Vassar | Wellesley

Template:Five Colleges


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