Kerstin Müller: An AMS student from Germany

Kerstin Müller—who had visited America twice before coming to SmithKerstin_Muller—was prepared for the adjustment of living in the United States at Smith College, where she’ll be receiving a Diploma in American Studies.

Coming to Smith from the University of Hamburg in Germany with a bachelor’s in political science, Kerstin first traveled the United States when she visited Missoula, Montana at sixteen years old. Although she had studied English in school for most of her lower education, school English was different than the English she heard around her in Missoula, so much so that at first she didn’t speak at all. Fortunately, her host mother—a German teacher—encouraged her. She told her to not worry about grammar or rules and to “just speak.”

It was during her second trip to America when she began to think and comprehend entirely in English. Kerstin said afterwards English came much easier to her and she began using it more freely. She encourages those studying abroad to follow her host mother’s advice to speak up and practice. Before both of these trips she did little to prepare for the culture of America; she firmly believed that experiencing culture first hand was the only way to learn it.

Kerstin also learned a lot about herself and built her independence as a person thanks to her experience. Looking back, she valued the time she spent abroad even more. She viewed the two trips an experience that led to her becoming independent and self-reliant; both attributes that are more important once you realize you have them. It was for these reasons that she wanted to come back to America. America was the first place she went to by herself and it’s a completely different experience than just studying abroad in Europe.

Overall, Kerstin views her experience at Smith a positive one.

This interview was conducted by Global STRIDE students Sarah Liggera ’17 and Kaitlin Scholand ’17.

Hanami Festival celebrates spring next weekend

cherry_blossomsOn Saturday, April 19, Smith College will host its annual Hanami Festival. The purpose of the festival is to provide the public with knowledge and hands-on experience of Japanese traditional activities such as origami, kirigami, brush writing, games, and dance, as well as opportunities to promote cross-campus gatherings between the Japanese Culture Clubs in the Five College Consortium.

The event begins at 12:30 on Saturday, April 19 in the Smith College Campus Center Carroll Room. Performances by members of the Five College community will showcase Japanese martial arts, music, and other cultural celebrations. In addition, the group will be serving mochi and Japanese curry.

Admission is free and open to the public. For a full schedule of events, check out the Hanami Festival on Facebook.

Upcoming lecture: African Art at the Newark Museum

art_flyerIn anticipation of the Fall 2014 opening of the first permanent gallery of African art at the Smith College Museum of Art (SCMA), the museum and the Smith College Department of Art have invited Christa Clarke, curator of the Arts of Global Africa at the Newark Museum, to discuss her innovative approaches to curating African art at the Newark Museum. The lecture, titled “Curating a Continent: African Art at the Newark Museum”, will take place Monday, April 7.

Co-editor of Representing Africa in American Art Museums: A Century of Collecting and Display, Clarke has transformed the permanent galleries of African art and organized acclaimed temporary exhibitions at the Newark Museum. She curated the first permanent gallery dedicated to contemporary African art in an American art museum. Her talk is in conjunction with a temporary exhibition curated by Mellon Five College Postdoctoral Fellow in African Art and Architecture Amanda Gilvin and her students. “Transformations in African Art” will be on view at the Smith College Museum of Art through May 25.

The lecture—which begins at 5 p.m. on April 7 in Graham Auditorium, Hillyer Hall—is free and open to all; no reservations are needed. A public reception will immediately follow the lecture.

2014 Smith College academic prizes available

commencement7Each year at Smith, students in all classes (and—in some cases—alumnae) can compete for academic prizes by submitting application materials to the department responsible. Prize winners are announced at the Ivy Day Awards Convocation in May.

Here are some of the available prizes with international flair:

Alice Hubbard Derby Prize, awarded to a member of the junior or senior class for excellence in the translation of Greek at sight and to a member of the junior or senior class for excellence in the study of Greek literature in the year in which the award is made. The examination is to be held April15 at 7:30 p.m. in the Caverno Room, Neilson Library. Interested students should contact Justina Gregory, Department of Classical Languages and Literatures.

Anacleta C. Vezzetti Prize is awarded to a senior for the best piece of writing in Italian on any aspect of the culture of Italy. Entries must be submitted by Friday, May 9, at noon, to Anna Botta, chair, Wright Hall 219.

Césaire Prize, awarded for excellence in an essay or other project in French by a junior or a senior on campus. Applicants should contact the director of honors and prizes in the Department of French Studies for further information on how to submit their work. Submissions for prizes must be presented in person to Jennifer Blackburn in the French Studies office, Wright 102, no later than the last day of the spring semester examination period. Entries submitted should be the version of the work bearing the professor’s comments and final grade, unless the paper has not yet been returned to the student. Submissions will be judged anonymously.

John Everett Brady Prize, awarded for excellence in Latin. The award, open to all classes, is made on the basis of an examination in translation of Latin at sight. The examination is to be held April 8 at 7:30 p.m. in the Caverno Room, Neilson Library. Students interested in this prize should see Scott Bradbury, Department of Classical Languages and Literatures.

Mary Maples Dunn Prize, awarded for an essay written within the current or the three preceding semesters in a regular course in the Program in East Asian Studies. Essays originally submitted in seminars, for special studies or as honors thesis are not eligible. If an essay was written in response to a specific question or problem posed by an instructor, the stated assignment should be submitted along with the essay. All essays should indicate for which course and in which semester they were originally written and should be submitted to Kathy Gauger, Seelye 210, by Wednesday, April 30, and clearly identified as submissions for the Dunn Prize. Students may submit only one essay for the competition per year.

Michele Cantarella Memorial “Dante Prize”, established in 1988 by family, colleagues, friends and former students, this prize is awarded to a senior for the best essay on any aspect of The Divine Comedy. Entries must be submitted by Friday, May 9, at noon, to Anna Botta, chair, Wright Hall 219.

Ruth Dietrich Tuttle Prize, from the Office of the Dean of the College. Established in 1985 to encourage further study, travel and/or research in the areas of international relations, race relations or peace studies. The prize is for use at any time through the next academic year. Undergraduate students of any nationality who have done substantial academic work or have had relevant experience in any of these areas are eligible. Preference is given to seniors as long as they have not enrolled in graduate school. Questions about applications should be addressed to Applications are available in the Office of the Dean of the College, College Hall 203, or by emailing Complete applications must be submitted by 4 p.m. on April 12.

South Asia Prize, awarded for the best academic paper written by a Smith undergraduate on a subject that concerns South Asia. Papers from any academic discipline are welcome, and one need not be a South Asia concentrator to be eligible. Student may not submit more than one paper for consideration in any given year. A student should submit a printed copy of the paper under an assumed name, together with the required cover sheet available at the South Asia website, to Phoebe McKinnell, Green Street Annex 206, by noon on the last day of classes in the spring semester.

Voltaire Prize, awarded to a first-year student or a sophomore at Smith College for an essay or other project in French that shows originality and engagement with her subject. Applicants should contact the director of honors and prizes in the Department of French Studies for further information on how to submit their work. Submissions for prizes must be presented in person to Jennifer Blackburn in the French Studies office, Wright 102, no later than the last day of the spring semester examination period. Entries submitted should be the version of the work bearing the professor’s comments and final grade, unless the paper has not yet been returned to the student. Submissions will be judged anonymously.


Smith boasts strong Portuguese and Brazilian Studies Program

Spanish Department March 8 14 055

Smith’s Spanish department faculty, in March 2014.

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Smith College includes the innovative Portuguese and Brazilian Studies Program. A discussion with the program’s leaders, Professors Marguerite Harrison and Malcolm McNee, and professor emeritus Charles Cutler provided insight into the history of the program and its inner workings.

Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Smith offered Spanish and Portuguese to students thanks to the pioneering efforts of a few Spanish faculty members, including Alice Clemente. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the Portuguese and Brazilian Studies program formed and students could major or minor in Portuguese. In the beginning, Smith College was one of few places that offered Portuguese. Today mainly large universities offer Portuguese but many still don’t have a Portuguese major, and only recently have other liberal arts colleges established a Portuguese language curriculum.

In the most recent decennial review, Smith’s Portuguese and Brazilian Studies Program was called the “jewel in the crown” of the department, and other schools have begun to model their Portuguese curriculum off of Smith’s. The program’s success was not immediate though; the depth and range of the curriculum was built over time to where it stands today—offering comprehensive language courses and a range of interdisciplinary topics courses to students.

Professor Harrison commented on the program’s focus on “transnational topics,” involving Brazil, Portugal, and African nations including Angola, Mozambique, and Cape Verde. Additionally, an increase in students’ interest in Portuguese was observed in the last decade due to Brazil’s prominence in the world and Portuguese, Brazilian, and Cape Verdean immigration to Massachusetts and other parts of the U.S. More and more students are beginning their Portuguese learning at Smith in their first year, and with that bringing energy and a sense of continuity to the program.

Professor McNee notes an increasing number of Latino and international students in his classes along with a growing number of Portuguese heritage speakers. Professor Harrison observes that “many students come to Portuguese through other disciplines,” and many are double majoring as well, so the program’s courses have shifted to a more “interdisciplinary focus.” Examples of this approach include “Brazil in the News: Media, Society and Popular Culture,” designed by Simone Gugliotta, who is a part-time lecturer in the program, and “The Brazilian Body: Representations of Women in Brazilian Literature and Culture,” taught by Professor Harrison. Professor McNee agrees that it’s challenging to “make courses work for everyone’s disciplinary interests” and so the aim is to “bring students together around a central topic” by creating “a learning community around these issues.”

Professor McNee’s most recent seminar focused on the environment and Brazilian culture. Students could explore the topic from various vantage points, including examining Brazilian plants in the Botanic Garden collection from the perspectives of botanical science, social and economic history, and artistic representation. These interdisciplinary topics courses allow students the flexibility to develop their own projects and interests while deepening their knowledge of Portuguese language and culture, providing a very unique, rewarding experience.

Professor Cutler developed an innovative course on translating poetry which connects both sectors of the department, Spanish and Portuguese, in one course and dialogues with North American poet/translators as well. From that experience the other professors were inspired to create a “learning community.” Professor Cutler stated that when he first started teaching at Smith the student body was largely homogenous whereas the students today come from more diverse backgrounds, each bringing a different expertise. He added that with teaching comes the need to be “excited and open about limitations with your expertise—you don’t need to be an expert about everything necessarily.” And with that, he and the other professors have been repeatedly amazed by Smith students expanding their own knowledge base.

Most students in the program decide to study abroad. There are many options, with five locations in Brazil and an additional program in Portugal. From their education shaped by the professors of the Portuguese and Brazilian Studies program, Smith students go off in the world to study further and work in many fields like geography, public policy, urban planning, Latin American studies, translation, bilingual education and more. The program is looking to restart the Luso-Brazilian Club and to enhance their courses through support of the college via curriculum enhancement grants.

Smith ISO’s Rhythm Nations is a hit

IMG_1433Last weekend, Smith’s International Students’ Organization (ISO) hosted Rhythm Nations. The event was a celebration of Smith’s diversity through dance and song.

With twenty acts, Smith and Five-College students showed their appreciation for diversity and showed the audience the beauty of their cultures through performance. It was an exciting experience, from the colorful costumes to the vibrant music—perhaps most notably the opening ceremony had students waving flags from all the countries represented within the Smith community. Each time a student would step up and yell out the name of their home country the crowd roared in applause and cheer. The energy of the crowd and presenters was undeniable.

A variety of performances showcased students from Asia, Latin America, Africa, and more. Some acts had more technical moves incorporated in their routines like Kyungeun Kim’s Jangguchum dance where the dancer appeared to be floating on air with her traditional dress and expert footwork. Others like SC Masti and Mount Holyoke’s Raunak Bhangra used colorful costumes and synchronized dance moves among the group’s performers to create an unforgettable performance blending traditional culture with modern pop. Some, like Yuting Ren’s Caiwei and the Vietnamese Student Association’s “Vi Co Anh” were performed in other languages where they were able to portray the song’s meaning through graceful gestures and dance routines.

Rhythm Nations celebrated the diversity of Smith; this event—like many others—successfully brought students together to celebrate different traditions and cultures.

To see more photos from the event, visit International Advancement on Facebook.

Profile: Ayesha Khan ’16 of Pakistan

KhanAyesha Khan ’16 and engineering and English double major, comes from Karachi, Pakistan. When asked why she picked Smith, Ayesha explained that she was “very inspired by the atmosphere of feminism and empowerment.”

Upon arrival, she noticed Smith’s very diverse community, and throughout the past year, Ayesha has developed great friendships with her housemates. She loves the house system and feels her house community is a main contributing factor to her Smith experience. In the Smith community she is involved with Smith’s Organization Resources Committee and the college’s relations office.

Ayesha had the opportunity to represent Smith in the Insight Dubai Leadership Conference last spring. Her experience at the program changed her vision for what she would like to do after Smith. She now sees herself using her unique major combination to engage herself with our global society. As a citizen of the world already, traveling far to receive an education in another culture much different from her own, Ayesha has already placed herself outside of her comfort zone. She said that being away from home is very challenging for her—especially when she has academic stress—but the American and international friends she has made keep her engaged. Going to Teapot and Osaka restaurants with friends on the weekends are some of her favorite things to do in Northampton.

Honorary degree recipients have international ties

Yesterday, Smith College President Kathleen McCartney announced that the college will award honorary degrees to five distinguished guests at the 136th Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 18, 2014. The recipients are Ela Bhatt, Eric Carle, Swanee Hunt, Evelyn Fox Keller, and Ruth Simmons.

Two of the recipients—Ela Bhatt and Swanee Hunt—have strong international ties.

bhattEla Bhatt is an international activist and founder of the Self-Employed Women’s Association of India (SEWA). Deeply influenced by the teachings of Gandhi, with whom her grandparents had worked to achieve Indian independence from Britain, Bhatt has spent most of her life organizing grassroots movements in support of the rights of women and girls. A lawyer by training, Bhatt has focused her work specifically on protecting—and fighting for—the rights of women workers in India. She founded SEWA in 1972 to help women organize for better pay and working conditions in India’s textile industry. Today, the organization has more than a million members and has been called “one of the best—if not the best—grassroots programs for women on the planet.” In 2007, Bhatt was asked by Nelson Mandela to join The Elders, a group of international leaders he had formed to advocate for human rights worldwide. With The Elders, Bhatt has led initiatives to combat child marriage. Throughout her career, Bhatt has been honored with numerous awards, including the Global Fairness Initiative Award and the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development.

HuntSwanee Hunt is the former United States ambassador to Austria and founding director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Early in her career, Hunt made a name for herself in Denver, where for nearly 20 years she advocated on behalf of two mayors and the governor for better affordable housing, high-quality public education and women’s empowerment. Later, as ambassador to Austria from 1993 to 1997, she developed an expertise on domestic policy and foreign affairs, especially as they relate to women. She is known worldwide as a specialist on women in politics and has been a determined advocate for women’s leadership in Eastern Europe in particular. Hunt is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of numerous articles and books, including This Was Not Our War: Bosnian Women Reclaiming the Peace, which won the 2005 PEN/New England Award for nonfiction. Through the Hunt Alternatives Fund, which she founded with her sister Helen, she has donated more than $100 million toward youth arts organizations, various social movements and efforts to combat human trafficking. In 2007, Hunt was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Monday: Info session on Smith summer exchange in Korea

ewhaOn Monday, February 17, the Lewis Global Studies Center will host a Smith/Ewha Summer Exchange in Korea Scholarship Info Session at 4 p.m. Students are invite to attend to learn about study abroad opportunities in Korea this summer with the Smith/Ewha Summer Exchange scholarship.

Each year, Smith College selects six students to attend Ewha Womans University’s International Summer College. Qualified applicants must have a Smith grade point average of at least 3.0, a strong interest in studying Korean language and culture, and have already completed at least one year of Korean language. The exchange is not open to Korean nationals whose home is in Korea.

Tuition is waived for students selected for the exchange. International travel, room and board, optional trips, passport, visa, and other fees are the responsibility of the student. Students may apply for an International Experience Grant to offset these expenses.

Applications to the Smith/Ewha Summer Exchange are due March 3, 2014.