Persuading to Give: 21st Century Scholar Program

Mia Council '16 Features Editor 

“I received an email, and here we are,” Dannia Guzman ’15, the latest Smith Fund 21st Century Scholar, said on a recent evening.  Guzman is a psychology major and Ziskind resident who emigrated from the Dominican Republic with her family when she was 10. A program linked with the Smith Fund to encourage alumnae donations selected her as a 21st-Century Scholar for October 2014.

“Actually, it doesn’t benefit me in any way other than just being nominated,” Guzman explained.  “The program is just to encourage alums to donate to Smith.  Basically what they do is every time the alums donate up to $20,000 they get another scholar, so the idea is for them to get to know a new student from Smith each time.”

The Smith Fund photographed and interviewed Guzman for the Smith Fund website, but she looks at the experience as more than just that: “It’s an opportunity to showcase the different paths for students at Smith,” Guzman said. She continued, “I wanted to show, especially as a student of color at Smith, that different path. I wouldn’t have been able to be here if it weren’t for support from others, so it’s also a chance to show how grateful I am for that.”

How does being a student of color and being a student from a different background than most Smithies affect her life?  Guzman says that it doesn’t. “It’s not that I feel like I have a label, but you notice it in little things. You just learn while you’re at Smith — I’m going to speak for myself. I have not allowed being from a different background to stop me in any way.  During my time at Smith, I’ve made connections with all sorts of people, and that’s helped me navigate. But you do notice it in little things, like the kinds of things people will talk about. Or even in the classroom sometimes, in terms of education level, or sometimes there might be an opportunity and you might be unable to pursue it unless you get resources from Smith.”

As an immigrant from a Spanish-speaking background, Guzman notes that she may have had a harder time adjusting to being at Smith than many other students. “The kind of music I identify with is not the kind I hear everywhere at Smith: Sometimes things like that make it more difficult to be away from home, when the things that are home to you are not there.” As for the future, Guzman said, “I’m just open to whatever comes. Eventually I want to go to grad school for statistics.”  Guzman, a proud Smithie (“My favorite thing is the people that I’ve met, for sure.  I love the Ada Comstock Program. I love the fact that there are these students with all this life experience and different perspectives, I think that really enriches Smith”) looks forward to being an alumna like the ones who helped her be named a 21st Century Scholar.  “It makes me feel really proud and grateful [to think of being an alumna] for my family and for all the people who helped me in one way or another. This was not only my effort, because I’ve had so many people reaching out to me. I feel like I’ve done the hardest part — I’ve built the foundation. And once you’ve built the foundation, nothing can stop you.”