Beyond the Grécourt Gates: Smith in the World

Photo by Jen Zhu '16 | Anny Sainvil '17 presents field research conducted during her work with the Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory at a Climate Change & Sustainable Food panel.  

Anya Gruber '16 Associate Editor

Smith students are known to be an adventurous community, one that is highlighted during the Smith in the World Conference. On Nov. 5, students shared their international and domestic experiences in various programs while studying or interning. The conference consisted of panels featuring three to four student presenters each and a moderator.

Stacie Hagenbaugh, the chair of the organization committee for the conference, said that the event provides a unique platform for students to share their experiences. “Smith in the World is a celebration of the vibrant learning that takes place when students engage in internships, research and study off campus,” said Hagenbaugh. “Until we launched the event 10 years ago, students did not have a forum in which to celebrate and share the impact the experiences have on [their] Smith education.”

Students recognize that the Smith in the World conference provides an opportunity to practice skills that are useful not just in college, but also in the professional world post-graduation. Pooja Somasundaram ’16 said, “I decided to speak at the conference because I figured it would be a good way for me to obtain some public speaking experience.”

“It was always so inspiring to see Smithies speak in the conference, but because of my worry of public speaking, I didn’t pursue it,” said Taleen Dilanyan ’16, who also participated in the conference. “Then, I was nominated by Professor David Gorin to participate, so I decided to participate, because I realized that fear was not a good enough reason.” The Lazarus Center provided public speaking and presentation assistance for all students to practice their presentation and receive feedback.

Suzu Sakai ’16J saw her presentation as a way to disseminate knowledge. “I wanted other students, especially who were looking to go into my field of study, to know about the opportunities available out there and reach me if they were interested,” said Sakai. “I hope anyone listening who [is] interested in theater got to learn about opportunities they could have if they wanted to do Praxis or intern in a foreign country.”

Somasundaram spoke about her experience as an intern at the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University, which she said “conducts research relating to food psychology and consumer behavior.” She said that her internship intensified her interest in marketing.

“I got to be involved with a few different research projects that really solidified my interests in consumer behavior and food choice,” said Somasundaram. “My experiences as whole also made me more certain that I do want to go on to complete a PhD in marketing in a few years.”

Dilanyan discussed the research she conducted the past two summers at the University of Utah studying cone snail venom. She said that with her presentation she was “aiming to show a unique perspective of research and to encourage Smith students to look for unusual types of research that interests them.”

Sakai spent her summer at a Beijing theater as an assistant set and costume designer. “There were many unexpected things which happened, such as getting up on stage as an actor to perform, and I faced many challenges in a foreign country,” said Sakai. Transitioning to unfamiliar environments while interning was a theme that appeared in many students’ presentations.

The conference provides a space for students to learn about each other’s experiences and also allows faculty, staff and community members to learn about the benefits of a Smith education. Said Hagenbaugh, “The community can see firsthand how these experiences bring new insights and dimension to the liberal arts.”

“For many students, the conference is the first opportunity they have to talk about their experience in depth,” said Hagenbaugh. “It’s also a great way to discover the power of your story, and why it is so important to tell it.”