The Sciences at Smith College

Program Overview

Smith College, the largest women's liberal arts college in the United States, educates a diverse student body enrolling over 2,500 women from 48 states and 70 other countries. With a core commitment to inclusive excellence in the sciences in order to fulfill its mission to educate women of promise, the sciences at Smith are thriving. Almost 45% of current Smith students have at least one major in the sciences, a rate that has experienced considerable growth in the last decade and is at least double the national average for women. In 2014, science faculty endorsed a strategic plan that affirms a mission statement promising to "cultivate the scientist in the next generation of women leaders so they can meet the challenges of our world." The plan articulates four strategic directions (see graphic below) that build on current strengths and solidify Smith's commitment to mentoring, research opportunities, and interdisciplinary programs that develop students' scientific identity and inquiry within a liberal arts setting. Over the last 25 years, innovative programming has made demonstrable impacts on student success including boosting the participation and success of students historically underrepresented in the sciences and leading to better student achievement overall. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has been a key partner in encouraging and supporting these transformations.

Cross-Cutting Themes

Increasing Persistence of All Students in STEM

More about this theme Smith College has made access a core institutional value, with a strong commitment to educating diverse women. Through our Achieving Excellence in Mathematics, Engineering, and Science (AEMES) programs and other efforts, Smith is committed to broadening STEM participation and success for women and historically underrepresented students.

Developing Inquiry Skills

More about this theme Research and inquiry-based pedagogies are core practices of scientific education at Smith, where students have a long history of participation in meaningful apprentice-based research experiences. Smith is revising its science curriculum to provide inquiry-based learning opportunities early and often in order to shape the trajectory and success of our students.

Fostering Interdisciplinary or Integrative Learning

More about this theme As science has become increasingly interdisciplinary, Smith has expanded opportunities for students to engage with complex, real-world problems that are best understood through multiple disciplinary lenses. Through interdisciplinary collaborations in addition to integrative programs that weave together intellectual and practical experiences, our undergraduates learn to leverage diverse perspectives for the expansion of knowledge.

Pathways to Institutional Change

More about this themeOur pathways to institutional change were shaped and compellingly informed by both our institutional successes and challenges,using data to inform conversations and decision-making across campus. By building on our strengths and addressing our weaknesses, we have been able to target efforts that have created sustained changes in our approach to educating Smith science students.


The institutional work described here has been supported through funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute through awards made to the Capstone Institutions under the Undergraduate and Graduate Science Education Program as well as the National Science Foundation, Exelon, the William Randolph Hearst Foundations, the McKinley Fund of Smith College, the Schultz Foundation, and the special grant program of the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation. Additional funding sources relevant to individual research projects are acknowledged in each citation included in the reference list at the bottom of every page.

These institutional webpages were principally crafted by Patricia DiBartolo, with additional input from Michael Barresi, Christophe Gole, Tom Gralinski, Laura Katz, Valerie Joseph, Margaret Lamb, Denise Lello, Minh Ly, Robert Merritt, Robert Newton, Kate Queeney, Sara Pruss, Cate Rowen, Kevin Shea, Meg Thacher, and Marilyn Woodman as well as the Science Planning Committee, the provost's office, and media relations.

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