The night before the kickoff event for the new Women in Public Service Project, Farah Pandith ’90 enthralled a crowded room of students from Smith and four other Sister colleges with her advice about grad school, finding a career path, and even etiquette questions about how to greet Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“You should address her as Madam Secretary. That’s the protocol,” Pandith advised. “She’s very nice and very friendly, and she’ll be very excited to see you.”
The students, who traveled to Washington, DC, on December 14 by bus, were part of a contingent of more than 100 Smith students, faculty, staff, and alumnae who came to be a part of the launch of the historic new public service initiative, which Pandith played a key role in developing. She told the students that at the event they’ll see the “women that inspire me.”
For the students, it was inspiring to hear an alumna of Pandith’s stature—she’s the State Department’s special representative to Muslim communities—speak about topics
that are very much on their minds. “My advice for all of you, before you go to grad school, you should have some life experiences first. Living life helps you articulate who you are,” she said. “You don’t know where life is going to take you, but wherever you are, you should be excited about it.”
Senior Class President Caitlyn Kirby ’12 took her message to heart, hoping to live life before committing to graduate study. Kirby also plans to take up Pandith’s offer to talk with her
about the choices facing a fellow anthropology major. Kirby, in fact, is approaching her two days in DC as “an amazing networking opportunity.”
Alice Joy ’13, an English major, was struck by Pandith’s description of once being the only woman in a room filled with decision-makers, and wondering why there weren’t more women there. As Pandith looked around a room packed with young women, each of whom had demonstrated leadership at her school, she said simply, “This is how change will happen.”