From traditional Korean fan dance in colorful Hanboks to Psy’s popular Korean pop culture song “Gangnam Style,” Smith College is in the midst of a growing cultural frenzy. Over the past few years, the interest in Korean culture at Smith College has increased tremendously. Many faculty members in the East Asian Studies departments have noticed this trend with growing numbers of students in their programs and classes.
“The interest in Korea has grown exponentially and in my five years at Smith College,” says Professor Jina Kim, assistant professor of East Asian Studies at Smith College. “I have seen the interest only grow… more and more students have become avid consumers of Korean culture, especially Korean popular culture. Smith College has a summer exchange program with Ewha Woman’s University in Seoul, South Korea where we provide a scholarship for six or seven Smith students to study at Ewha for four weeks. This year we had the largest and the most competitive pool of applicants, which also shows that the interest in Korea is increasing.”
Currently, Korean language and literature classes are in high demand. According to Professor Suk Massey, Smith College Korean language and literature professor, interest in Smith’s Korean program has grown since she first started teaching at Smith College in 1998. The graph below shows the trend of Five-College enrollment in Smith’s Korean classes in recent years, from 2007 to 2013:
Smith’s Korean program was established in 1993 with the combined efforts of faculty and Korean-American students at Smith. Back then, the program consisted of a first-year intensive Korean language course, which attracted about 40 students. However, with Smith College’s enrollment limit, only 15 students enrolled in the class. Gradually, with numerous requests from students and faculty in the Five-College area, the program expanded to include more introductory courses and higher level courses at not only Smith College but also Mount Holyoke College and University of Massachusetts Amherst. In 2013, the program received a generous grant from University of Massachusetts to hire an additional Korean language and literature professor.
Korean cultural events and activities are also an integral part of the college’s growing interest in Korea. Annual Korean cultural events and activities held by Professor Massey’s Korean class students and the Korean American Students of Smith, such as the Lunar New Year Celebration and Korean Culture Day, have recently been receiving a lot of attention from not only Five-College students but also the Northampton community. At this year’s Korean Lunar New Year Celebration for example, a guest performance by Kyung-Eun Kim, a professional Korean traditional dancer, attracted many viewers.
Both Professor Kim and Professor Massey believe this interest in Korean studies and culture from students and the community will continue to grow. They are looking forward to the years to come.
Shuyao Kong '13 addressed alumnae this weekend at Ivy Day.
Shuyao Kong ’13, an international student from China, delivered the student speech at Smith College’s Ivy Day celebration on Saturday, May 18, 2013.
Shuyao, who graduated cum laude this weekend, embodies Smith’s mission to educate women for the world. In addition to her travels to the U.S. from China, Shuyao also participated in a Smith College internship at a business consulting company in Bangalore, India in 2011, and studied abroad last year in Copenhagen, Denmark. She is also president of Smith’s Chinese cultural club, CISCO and is starting a career at IBM in Nigeria in September.
You may watch Shuyao’s presentation here, or read the full text of her speech.
Smith College celebrated Commencement and the reunions of Smith classes 1988, 1993, 1998, 2003, and 2008 last weekend. Here are some photos from the festivities.
Graduating seniors from EKTA enjoy a champagne & dessert reception on May 16.
Marching in the Ivy Day parade: Future Smithies? May 17.
The class of 1988: "From Alice in Chains to glasses on chains." May 18
International student Belinda Nhundu '13 in the Ivy Day parade, May 18.
Graduates from the Diploma in American Studies Program, May 18.
Singing "Gaudeamus Igitur", May 18.
Rebecca Hovey, Dean for International Study & international student Tina Tu '15 at a reception for international guests, May 18.
This Sunday, May 19, 2013, Smith College will host its 135th commencement, sending more than 700 undergraduate and graduate students into the wider world.
Here is a look at the Class of 2013 “by the numbers”:
698 Baccalaureate Degree Recipients
- 668 bachelor of arts degrees
- 30 bachelor of science degrees
- 170 undergraduate degree recipients are double-majors
- 44 states are represented
- 34 countries are represented
- 5 most popular majors in descending order: psychology; government; economics; English; art (includes art history, art studio, architecture and urbanism)
- 36 Ada Comstock Scholars (women of nontraditional age)
68 Advanced Degree Candidates
- 50 master’s degrees
- 8 diplomas in American Studies
- 10 certificates of graduate study
A $5 million gift from alumna and former trustee Phoebe Reese Lewis ’51 and her husband, John, will provide vital support for the Smith College Global Studies Center’s mission of developing students’ capacity for global understanding and leadership.
In honor of their generous support, the college will name the Phoebe and John D. Lewis Global Studies Center. The gift includes the Global Leadership Program Fund the Lewises established last year.
The Global Studies Center, now in its third year, builds on the depth and breadth of the college’s curriculum by providing students with a range of programs and global perspectives in subjects from art history to biological sciences to engineering, along with opportunities to work, study and conduct research in communities overseas and within the United States.
The center houses the Office for International Study, the Office for International Students and Scholars and the Diploma Program in American Studies. Located in Wright Hall, it is a crossroads for all things international at Smith.
Elisabeth Mah ’15, is a Korean-American student, double majoring in East Asian Studies and Psychology.
Elisabeth Mah ’15, is a Korean-American student at Smith College. She is currently a Psychology and East Asian Studies double major, with a passion for research and Korean culture. As a sophomore, Elisabeth sought to study establish strong relationships with faculty members and research Asian and Asian American heritages. During the spring semester, Elisabeth was involved in two special studies groups that focused on “Archiving Korean Students’ Experience(s) at Smith” and “Asian Stress in the Midwest.”
Here, Diane Rhim ’15, International Advancement student worker, interviews Elisabeth about her experience at Smith.
DR: What made you decide to study both Psychology and East Asian Studies?
EM: It wasn’t a conscious decision; I almost want to say that those majors chose me! I declared my psychology major spring of my first year without a single second of uncertainty. I absolutely loved the classes that were offered and the topics that it covered, not just in the cross-cultural/Asian psychology that I seem to focus on, but all around. I want to learn about it all! By sophomore year, I looked back and realized that I had taken so many classes in the East Asian Studies department unconsciously, so it seemed foolish not to declare it as a second major! I just followed my natural instinct in my course selection and it led me to these majors.
DR: What made you interested in pursuing this particular research in Asian American heritages?
EM: I followed my curiosity. While I’m very certain about where I stand in my Korean-American heritage, the more I studied it, the more I realized that there were professional, scientific terms for the things that I have experienced and observed! I am very comfortable with my American identity as well as my Korean heritage identity, and this is called achieving “cultural bidimensionality”. Pretty cool, eh? I grew up Korean, but I shamefully don’t know anything about the history of Korea. I wanted to educate myself so I could understand the whirl of conversation that my family focused on. But mainly, I was interested to see the way that culture has affected other individuals throughout their lifetime…where identity formation is particularly salient.
DR: What do you think you gained from these studies?
EM: Studying in these areas has given me a better sense of myself. It has really confirmed my dual identity as a Korean American and I appreciate that. By the same token, it’s also helped me to be more critical and constructive about the way that I read literature written in this field…I have started to develop my own thoughts and predictions. I’m glad that I have the dual majors to provide a historical background with an analytical lens. It helps me understand not only myself but other people.
DR: Do you think you will continue doing research in this field?
EM: Absolutely! I am currently on the Ph.D track—I hope to pursue a Ph.D in psychology for graduate school. I couldn’t imagine being done with this in two years. There is so much more to be learned about Asian/Asian American psychology and I hope that I can be a part of that research and discovery for a while! I’m also coming to realize that there is a lot about this field that I take for granted because I have seen those facts not only in many scholarly articles but also in my own life and my own home because of my family heritage and personal cultural experiences. I’d like to be an academic and pass on some of the knowledge I have gleaned in my process.
In April, Elisabeth successfully presented her research at Celebrating Collaborations, a celebratory annual showcase of student research and performances conducted and created in conjunction with faculty members. Elisabeth will also be presenting her research on “Asian Stress in the Midwest” at a conference in Hawaii this August.
This Friday, the Smith College Board of Trustees announced that the Smith College Museum of Art (SCMA) will name the soon-to-be-created Asian art gallery after retiring President Carol T. Christ.
The new gallery will be known as the Carol T. Christ Asian Art Gallery. Funded by gifts from trustees, including a foundational gift from Peggy Block Danziger ’62, the named gallery will recognize, in the words of Board Chair Betty Eveillard ’69, President Christ’s “outstanding service to the college.”
Betty announced the naming of the gallery at the board’s final meeting of the year. She expressed the trustees’ desire to thank President Christ for all her good work on Smith’s behalf and her pleasure that a permanent recognition of her presidency could be created in the context of the arts.
Of the surprise naming announcement, President Christ said, “Nothing could please me more. The Museum has been such a source of joy to me and Paul. It is truly a jewel of the college.”
Art from Asia is the most rapidly developing area of the SCMA collection. The new 1,250-square-foot gallery will be the first dedicated to Asian art and will be used to showcase the scope of the museum’s holdings and to facilitate even greater integration of Asian art across the curriculum. It will be created through the reconfiguration of space on the museum’s lower level and is expected to be open in fall 2015.
Coming to Commencement or Reunion this year? International alumnae, students, families, and guests are invited to join the Office of International Advancement for receptions in the Global Studies Center during Commencement and Reunion weekends.
The receptions will offer international guests the opportunity to mingle with other guests who have come for Commencement and Reunion weekends from abroad. Light refreshments will be served.
In addition to International Advancement staff, Dean of International Students Hrayr Tamzarian will be on hand to greet guests during the first weekend reception.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
3:15 to 4:15 p.m.
Global Studies Center, Wright Hall
Reunion II Weekend
Saturday, May 25, 2013
4 to 5 p.m.
Global Studies Center, Wright Hall
If you are interested in attending a reception, please e-mail International Advancement Program Coordinator, Danielle Brown at debrown2(at)smith.edu and let her know which weekend you will be attending.
This evening, Thursday, April 25, Smith’s Ciné-Club Français presents Les Adieux a la Reine, a film based on the novel by Chantal Thomas. Les Adieux a la Reine depicts the French Revolution and the last days of Marie Antoinette through the eyes of Sidonie, the queen’s personal reader and very close friend.
The film is in French with English subtitles and will be shown at 7 p.m. in Seelye 106. All are welcome.
Then, on Friday, April 26, the Smith College Museum of Art hosts another of its Student Picks: From Tissot to Toulouse-Lautrec: Fashion Focus in 19th-century French Art by Amanda Garcia ’16. The show is a one-day student-curated show of works on paper from the Museum’s permanent collection. It will include prints that showcase women’s contemporary fashion trends in late 19th-century France and works by artists such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, James Tissot, and Edgar Degas will be represented. The show can be viewed in the Cunningham Center at the Museum of Art from noon to 4 p.m. on Friday.
Every semester, the Smith College Special Studies course allows students to delve deeper into an area of study or subject matter of common academic interest with a faculty member or a small group. With the rise in interest in Korean studies over the past few years, a range of Special Studies have been conducted within the East Asian Studies department, such as “Reconciliation Between North and South Korea,” “Art and Identity in Contemporary South Korean Art,” and “Missionary Work in the Late 19th Century Korea.”
This semester, six Smith College students—Andrea Kang ’13, Minjee Kim ’15, Symone Gosby ’15, Elisabeth Mah ’15, Cecilia Kim ’16, and Hannah Jun ’16—formed a Special Studies group with Jina Kim, assistant professor of East Asian Studies at Smith College. The group identified themselves as the Archiving Korean Students’ Experiences at Smith (AKSES) team. Their project, “Archiving the Experience(s) of Korean and Korean-American Students at Smith” was a continuation and extension of work the students began last semester in Professor Kim’s “Korean Diaspora: Korea Inside and Outside” course. The research revolved around accessing, documenting, and understanding the myriad of different identities and experiences of Korean and Korean-American students and alumnae at Smith College.
According to Professor Kim, “the primary goal of the project [was] to document the kinds of experiences Korean and Korean-American students had while they were attending Smith and to understand what these experiences tell us about a segment of the student of color at Smith College… to understand the history and culture of Smith College, the United States, and the world we live in, in relation to race, class, and gender.”
Students met with Professor Kim once a week to share their research findings, analyze surveys, and discuss topic questions such as, “when did we start seeing a sizable number of Korean and Korean American students at Smith College?” and “how does this reflect the larger historical and political changes taking places in the US and in Korea?”
As this was a project related to culture and race, precautionary measures were made in order to conduct surveys of current Korean and Korean American students at Smith College as well as alumnae. The members of the Special Studies group, including Professor Kim, were required to go through a human subject research training and the surveys had to be approved by the Smith College Institutional Review Board. Due to time constraints, the students had to make the survey anonymous. According to Andrea Kang ’13, the issue of inclusiveness was another challenge the group had to overcome in surveying Korean and Korean-American students and alumnae. She commented that one of “the difficulties in conducting this research [was] trying be as inclusive of all Korean students’ and alumnae experiences as possible. Questions that we as researchers struggled with were mostly about how we can best be inclusive but at the same time not reinforce this idea of a multicultural melting pot, which is not reflective of U.S. American society and culture…. U.S. American society is “polycultural” not a melting pot of different cultures, but rather a society that shares and celebrates differences.”
Despite the difficulties, the research went very well. Professor Kim said that she was “very impressed by the work of the research team who enthusiastically took on the project and shaped it”.
On April 20, AKSES members presented their results at the “Celebrating Collaborations: Student and Faculty Working Together” showcase, an event at which Smith students present their scholarly work. After their presentation, the AKSES students completed their formal research papers and submitted their work to be archived at the College Archives.
“I hope to use the research we have already done and what this year’s research team has produced to continue the project in subsequent years,” said Professor Kim. “History never ends, and I hope a generation of future Smithies can add on to the groundbreaking work that this year’s research team has begun.”