Smith College is a private women's liberal arts college in Northampton, Massachusetts. Founded in 1871, the college is well established in the arts and the humanities as well as the sciences, and has over 50 areas of study. The school also supports numerous extra-curricular and co-curricular activities as well as a number of services to aid students in achieving their diverse goals.
Promoting Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Economics professor Mahnaz Mahdavi established the Center for Women & Financial Independence. Since then, student innovation and entrepreneurship at Smith College began gaining momentum in both available resources and demonstrated student interest. Smith has at least nine courses and seven workshops, both interdepartmental and department-specific, that introduce the concepts of design thinking and entrepreneurship, allow students to use and experiment with these tools in hands-on settings, and build their creative confidence. These courses range from beginning level courses in Arts, Engineering, and Landscape Studies, to an advanced Capstone Design course named the Design Clinic. There are also a series of workshops offered through the Lazarus Center for Career Development, the Wurtele Center for Work & Life, and the Conway Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center. These curricular resources are supplemented by other extra-curricular opportunities such as various conferences, competitions, and student organizations that allow students to gain further exposure and enrich their innovative experiences. The recently established Conway Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, previously the Center for Women & Financial Independence, works hard to inspire and encourage students to engage in innovative ventures through classes, workshops, as well as competitions. Every year, the school hosts the Draper Competition for Collegiate Women Entrepreneurs, which is open to students nationwide. Smith College also has a Design Thinking Initiative that holds workshops, a makerspace, a prototyping studio, and classes which are open to students from all majors and class years.
Encouraging Faculty Innovation and Entrepreneurship
As a liberal arts college, Smith has mostly focused on encouraging and supporting faculty as researchers and teachers. While this support allows for innovation opportunities in terms of designing courses and workshops, there is little encouragement towards entrepreneurial ventures. Deeply academic individuals, the faculty demonstrates limited interest in these areas of work. However, a recently launched series of design thinking workshops for faculty, and the Sherrerd Center for Teaching and Learning show promise of an emerging innovation and entrepreneurship culture among the faculty. Further efforts to strengthen and support this transformation is necessary, however, in order to have the culture established and accepted.
Facilitating University-Industry Collaboration
The Smith Career Development Office maintains a website, Handshake, a platform for finding jobs and internship opportunities in various industries. The office notifies students of upcoming job and internship application deadlines or opportunities via regular emails. University-industry collaboration is also strengthened by field trips, conferences, and alumnae outreach. The academic departments also facilitate major-specific industry communication by forwarding information about opportunities to students. However, these opportunities are limited and do not accommodate a broad variety of academic and vocational interests.
Engaging with Regional and Local Economic Development Efforts
Smith College has connections with local and regional accelerators and other funding sources. Valley Venture Mentors, whose CEO is a Smith Alumna, launched a Collgiate Accelerator Program in 2011, which gives students the opportunity to develop their business ideas through the mentorship of local entrepreneurs. In the summer of 2017, two Smith students developed their ventures through this program. Smith College has recently forged a connection with AmherstWorks, a space that promotes entrepreneurial ventures.
Landscape Canvas 2018
Landscape Canvas 2017
University Innovation Fellows Fall 2018