Skip to main content

Smith in Action

Two Smith students stand in tall grass and take specimen samples

Smith is an institution that puts its values to work. As a college, we implement strategic and thoughtful initiatives aimed at making our world a better place by focusing on several key values: equity and inclusion, community, leadership, entrepreneurship, and sustainability.

Learn more about how Smith is providing resources and support for Smith's on-campus community related to antisemitism and Islamophobia.

Design Justice

Ariel Benjamin ’25 and Emma Merchant ’24 are working to ensure the Design Thinking Studio—and Smith’s campus as a whole—is accessible and welcoming to all, through intensive projects that are well underway.

”Creating a welcoming environment is a part of disability justice and accessibility as well,“ says Merchant, whose work aims to create accessible benches and spaces for connecting on campus.

Read the Story
True collaboration, deep learning, and transformational scholarship at Smith College call for every student, faculty, and staff member to feel a sense of belonging.
Floyd Cheung, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion


From extensive initiatives like our geothermal energy project to long-term efforts such as buying locally sourced foods for our dining halls, sustainability is at the forefront at Smith. In fact, we’re on track to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Some Initiatives

Saving the Mountain Magnolia

Climate change has put Magnolia fraseri on an ‘escalator to extinction’ in its native Appalachian Mountains.

Field with mountains in the distance.
Sarah Bragdon and Professor Greg de Wet in Norway, holding a Smith College flag.

Smithies Enact Change

Sarah Bragdon ’25, an environmental science and policy major and geosciences minor, recently worked with faculty members from three of the Five Colleges, including Smith’s own Greg de Wet, to collect, deploy, analyze, and interpret environmental data from Svalbard, Norway.

“Every day in my internship was completely different from the next,” Bragdon says, “but it consisted of primarily of training, hiking, and field work. Classes at Smith helped to prepare me for what my internship consisted of. Taking good field notes, one skill that I learned at Smith, was key in my work this summer. My involvement with Professor de Wet’s lab also means that I will be able to study, research, and analyze the lake sediment cores that I helped to take in Svalbard!”

A Strong Sense of Community

The Jandon Center for Community Engagement works with faculty, students, and community partners on social-change projects that tackle community-driven goals. Through experiential learning and scholarship, students build essential capacities in critical thinking while providing significant leadership on urgent, complex issues facing communities and society.

Community Engagement on Campus

With a diverse campus population, fostering a sense of community at Smith is an ongoing initiative—a collaborative effort between the Office for Equity & Inclusion, the Center for Religious & Spiritual Life, and Multicultural Affairs—to ensure each student, faculty, and staff member feels welcome and comfortable on campus.

Leading by Example

Passing the Torch

A new financial literacy program at Smith trains students to coach their peers on money matters.

It’s no secret that Smithies tend to be leaders, and that’s not a coincidence. The Wurtele Center for Leadership encourages students to find their voice and lead in a number of ways, in a number of settings.

The center’s mission is to equip all members of the Smith community with the creativity, courage, and collaborative capacity to lead positive change at scales both large and small.

The C Series

The C Series gathers students, faculty, and staff for a panel conversation, followed by dinner and a hands-on making activity to dive into a leadership-related concept that can often have a wide range of meanings. We toss these terms around, but how can we make sense of it for ourselves in nuanced and complex ways?

Previous topics have included:

  • Burnout
  • Collaboration
  • Boundaries
  • Empathy

    Workshops Schedule

So What Does Activism Really Mean, Anyway?

Thursday, October 12, 2023 and Thursday, November 16, 2023, 5:30-7 PM, Neilson Browsing Room

Join the Wurtele Center for Leadership as we gather students, faculty, and staff in a conversation about this concept which has so many different meanings for different people. We toss the term around but how can we make sense of it for ourselves in nuanced and complex ways? This session is part of our “C Series” where we will consider, critique, commune, connect, create and collaborate around topics related to “activism.” The session includes dinner, and features special guest panelists who will be announced in early fall. 

At the Wurtele Center for Leadership, we are in a constant state of learning and exploration around the nuances and strategies of collaborative leadership. Below are some resources that we have either created or collected to assist Smith College community members in their collaborative leadership and learning endeavors.

Forms of Collaboration

Team Building

Teams that collaborate on a project often jump straight into “task mode,” without taking the time to understand one another and establish a common set of expectations for how they will work together. Research shows, however, how important it is to do the “maintenance” work necessary to establish a culture of psychological safety on a team before beginning work together. Here are structured ways to do this.

  • “Creating a Toolkit for Team Alignment” Video—We created this video for student leaders at Smith, but it includes a number of strategies for getting started with any team.
  • The User Manual—We often like to begin a project with a new team by having each member fill out and share a “user manual” for working with them. We have astudent version of the User Manual that is terrific for use with student groups, and another faculty/staff version of the User Manualthat goes into greater depth.
  • Group Norms Worksheet—Use this worksheet with your team to help you establish some team agreements or norms around how you want to collaborate with one another.
  • Task & Maintenance Exercise—This exercise introduces the concepts of “task” and “maintenance” modes in groups (a concept we’ve adopted from the great work of our friends at Leadership+Design). Use this to help attend to the overall health of the team while also getting things done.

Leading in a Diverse Community

Identity and cultural competency play an important role in how we lead and work collaboratively in teams. Here are some resources for developing skills to lead collaboratively in a diverse community:

Managing Conflict

Tensions and conflict are natural parts of working collaboratively with others. Instead of fearing and avoiding conflict, collaborative leaders work to embrace and harness conflict in order to move a group forward. We teamed up with Stacey Steinbach in Student Affairs to create a video for student leaders to help them begin to feel comfortable managing conflict.

Collaborative Communication

Empathic communication is key to all collaborative work for you and your team. 

  • “Communication 101” Video—With the help of Emily Norton from the Design Thinking Initiative, we created this video for student leaders at Smith, to help them think about and practice empathic listening and communication with their peers.
  • Communication Practices—This document offers exercises for groups to practice effective listening and communication skills. It is geared toward student leaders, but it could be modified for other groups or teams.

Intentional Meeting Design

Leading collaboratively means gathering as a team frequently to put our heads together, brainstorm ideas, make decisions and connect with one another. Collaborative leaders therefore design a lot of meetings.

Get the most out of your meetings by thinking carefully about how you design a meeting experience. See the Intentional Meeting Design Handbook we created for student leaders to help them design meetings that are intentional and enjoyable.

A group of high school students on the beach in Turks & Caicos with Smith geology professors and students.

The Gift of Geology

In January 2024, Professors Bosiljka Glumac and H. Allen Curran, along with several Smith students and Professor David Griffing of Hartwick College, traveled to Turks and Caicos to conduct field research.

While there, the cohort invited students from local high schools with them for a day in the field, which included exploring sediment on modern beach and dune depositional environments. The students also practiced identifying different types of coral from fragments washed by waves onto the shore, and learned about the impacts of climate change.

Learn More About Geosciences at Smith

Excelling in Entrepreneurship

The Jill Ker Conway Innovation Center is home to all things entrepreneurship at Smith. Well known for the Draper Competition, it’s become a major hub for creativity, ideas, and passions on campus.


Number of real-world ventures started from the Draper competition since 2013.


Outstanding Emerging Center, Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers


School for female founders who want to change the world according to College Magazine.

Friendly Competition

There are several college-sponsored events and challenges throughout the academic year, allowing you to put your ideas to the test.

Amplify Competition

Each year, the Wurtele Center for Leadership hosts the Amplify Competition, encouraging students to share their knowledge, stories, and perspectives in a public forum and raise their voices to bring about positive change.

Draper Competition

The annual Draper Competition for Collegiate Women Entrepreneurs, hosted by the Jill Ker Conway Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center, is designed to hone the skills that undergraduate women need to advance from idea to venture creation.

Impact Awards

Hosted by the Wurtele Center for Leadership, these awards recognize members of our community who demonstrate the creativity, courage, and collaborative capacity to make positive change at scales both large and small.