Centers of Attention

College unveils new academic clusters in Wright Hall

by Elise Gibson

When the college created the Smith Design for Learning, its ten-year strategic plan in 2008, it announced plans for academic centers that would pull together resources from across the college. “The college has powerful educational assets in such areas as global education and environmental studies, but they perform in relative isolation,” according to the Design for Learning. “By aligning disparate resources in the context of a center or institute, Smith can create a whole that is much larger than the sum of its parts.”

Three years later, and well ahead of schedule, the college unveiled in January its three new centers in Wright Hall: the Global Studies Center, the Center for the Environment, Ecological Design, and Sustainability, and the Center for Community Collaboration. “We put them right in the middle of campus to show how central they are,” said college Provost Marilyn Schuster. They join the Center for Work and Life, which opened last year in Clark Hall.

Thanks to an economy favorable to building projects, the college pushed up its plans to transform Wright Hall, Schuster said. Wright Hall was vacated last May and faculty moved their offices to the Quad for the summer.

Besides creating physical spaces for the three academic centers, the entire 1960s-era building got a makeover: Weinstein Auditorium got a new AV system; the computer-based Center for Foreign Language and Cultures, no longer needed because of changing technology, was closed; heating and air-conditioning were updated; two seminar rooms were added; flooring was replaced; the foyer got a coffee bar and a seating area; and faculty offices were upgraded and repainted.

Faculty moved back to Wright in August, while the centers were being completed. “To get all that work done in three months was nothing short of miraculous,” Schuster said. “It’s really transformed Wright Hall into a building to be proud of.”

Suleiman Mourad

Suleiman Mourad, professor of religion and GSC faculty director

Global Studies Center (GSC)
Co-directors: Suleiman Mourad, Elizabeth Mugar Eveillard ’69 Faculty Director of the Global Studies Center and professor of religion; and Rebecca Hovey, dean for international study

Mission: “The Global Studies Centeris Smith’s connection to the world and the world’s connection to Smith,” Mourad says.“It builds on the distinction of the Smith academic tradition of studying the world (both on campus and via study abroad), as well as the strength of our faculty, most of whom have international expertise and collectively cover almost every imaginable global concern, be it language and literature, cultural, social, political, religious, historical, economic, philosophical, etc.”

Under one roof: The center brings together the Offices of International Study (including Rebecca Hovey, dean for international study), International Students and Scholars (Hrayr Tamzarian, associate dean), and the American studies diploma program.

What it offers: Informal events targeted to students (Global Salons, the Power of Smith in the World, and weekly noontime discussions about world events).“Such events are meant to provide less formal opportunities for students to meet and converse with global leaders,” Mourad says. “The student-led events will take the form of short presentations on study-away experiences, which can be very helpful for students who just had them to share with the Smith community, and for students who are preparing for study-away experiences.They will also feature collaborations between international and non-international students in the hope that such encounters will provide follow-up opportunities for international students to smoothly integrate at Smith.”

Andrew Guswa

Andrew Guswa, associate professor of engineering and faculty director of CEEDS

Center for the Environment, Ecological Design, and Sustainability (CEEDS)
Faculty director: Andrew Guswa, associate professor of engineering

Mission: “To graduate women who excel at integrating knowledge across disciplines in support of environmental decisions and action,” Guswa says. “And, when we refer to the environment, we are using a broad definition: from Chapin Lawn to downtown Holyoke to the forests of Costa Rica.”

Outcomes: The goals, Guswa says, are to empower students to take on environmental projects inside and outside of the curriculum and to bring their liberal-arts learning to bear in pursuit of these projects, to make connections between seemingly disparate knowledge within the unifying context of the environment, and to create a space where students, faculty, staff, alumnae, employers, and community members can interact and share knowledge and experiences related to the environment.

Under one roof: Deirdre Manning, environmental sustainability director; Joanne Benkley, program coordinator for CEEDS and the Environmental Science and Policy Program; Reid Bertone-Johnson, lecturer in the landscape studies program and manager of the Ada and Archibald MacLeish Field Station; Paul Wetzel, environmental monitoring coordinator; and Guswa.
Using the center: “It will be the first stop for a student interested in the environment,” Guswa said. “We will have resources and answers related to curricular and co-curricular programs on- and off-campus, and we will help match students and their interests with opportunities. The center will provide informal gathering space for groups, such as the Green Team, Bike Kitchen, and Community Garden. It can also be used for informal presentations, Webinars, and working meetings.”
Collaborative projects: “Central to our mission is knowledge integration—that is, bringing together and synthesizing expertise from a range of disciplines,” Guswa says. “For example, this year, faculty from comparative literature, biology, economics, the study of women and gender, and other disciplines have come together to incorporate issues and learning from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill into their courses.”

Lucy Mule and Gail Scordilis Norskey ’81

Lucy Mule, associate professor of education, left, and Gail Scordillis Norskey ’81, director of educational outreach are co-directors of the CCC

Center for Community Collaboration (CCC)

Co-directors: Lucy Mule, associate professor of education and child study; Gail Scordilis Norskey ’81, director of educational outreach

Mission: “The center is the organizational hub that facilitates the collaborations of faculty, students, and community members on projects that provide opportunities for both significant real-life learning and engaged scholarship, while addressing community goals. The CCC aims to enhance Smith’s community engagement by providing more and better-coordinated support for faculty and students, and better access to the college for the community,” according to the co-directors.

Under one roof: “The CCC is a place for building relationships, where students, faculty, and community members will come to meet, talk about common interests and goals, and make plans for working together,” the directors write. “The main body of the center is a bright and welcoming room with three big sunny windows and a large meeting table. Surrounding this room are seven offices that house the center staff.” CCC staff includes the co-directors; Tiertza-Leah Schwartz, director of voluntary services for the Community Service Office; Allison Reid, assistant director for outreach and community partnership coordinator; Thomas Gralinski, science outreach coordinator and K-12 curriculum specialist; Carla Cooke AC ’01, administrative coordinator; and Sherry Wingfield, administrative assistant for the CSO.”

A place to engage: “In the past, students, faculty, and community members had to travel to a number of different offices and academic departments across campus searching for ways to get involved in community-engaged work at Smith,” say the directors. “It’s our hope to simplify that process for everyone, making it clear as to where you can go to find out about this work and get support for doing it.”

Spring 2011 SAQ