“So, what are your summer plans?”

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Briana Brady ’21

Summer is coming! Internships and jobs are great — and necessary — but summer is a time for rest, regrowth and fun, too!  This summer, I’m looking forward to spending time with family and friends who I’ve really missed this year. I’ve had some ideas of things to do in my free time this summer, but not all of them are practical or student budget-friendly, something to consider. So, here are some of the ideas I came up with!

1. Road Trip! This is a perfect opportunity to spend some quality time with a friend or family member while having lots of fun! Travelling somewhere close enough for a day trip, to do a hike, go shopping, check out the local arts scene, etc., can be a quick, fun excursion. Jamming out in the car on the way there, with the warm summer breeze, is a treat in itself. Some of my favorite memories are from road trips, and the best part is that they can be as simple or complex as you want!

2. Picnic! Picnics are the first thing that come to mind when I think of fun and classic summer activities. You can make these even more fun by getting together with someone and making yummy picnic goodies to take with you! Find a nice park or outdoor space (maybe even take a hike to a pretty spot!), grab a blanket, take your sunglasses and some cold beverages and set out for a fun time. Just make sure your company is good!

3. Craft day! If it’s a rainy day or you simply prefer to stay indoors, crafts/DIY projects are always a great idea. Log in to Pinterest and find something that you and your craft pal(s) want to make or update, get the supplies you need and get to work! Even on a more mundane scale, you could just do a room overhaul and clean it from top to bottom. I might be the only one, but I personally find it so satisfying once I get into it!

4. Movie night-in. Summers are for the late nights that aren’t as easy to have during the rest of the year. Take the opportunity to invite some pals over, maybe have dinner, and have a cozy, laid-back night in. Put on a movie, make some popcorn, maybe even throw on a face-mask. Just take some time for yourself and enjoy time with friends or family.

5. Learn something you’ve always wanted to learn! For example, I’ve been really set on learning embroidery lately, but I haven’t had the time to teach myself yet. Maybe you’ve always wanted to bullet journal or start a blog. Do it! No better time than summer to try new things that you’ve been meaning to get around to.

6. Enjoy the cool, calm mornings! Even though late summer nights often translate to late summer mornings, the calm, cool morning before the heat of the day is a perfect time to be out and about. Go on an early-morning walk or bike ride and then meet a friend for a cup of coffee. Take your dog to your favorite brunch spot and enjoy that warm summer sun.

7. Go stargazing! My favorite night-time activity. Pick a clear night, grab a friend and some food, and go to an open area and admire the beautiful celestial bodies that hover above us. This is so calming and cool, too! Who knows, maybe you’ll even see a shooting star! Make sure to put on the bug spray, though.

No matter what you do this summer, make sure to take some time for yourself and to catch up with the people that you’ve been missing for the past few months. Work and formal experiences are great and all, but before adulthood really hits hard, remember to have some fun. Enjoy the summer!

Intersections of Color and Music: The Work of Lorna Ritz

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Phoebe Lease ’21

Walking into to the Oresman Gallery on  a dark and windy afternoon felt like entering a separate  world. My footsteps echoed on the wooden floor as I stood before Lorna Ritz’s exhibition “Seeing Music,” a collection of 16 paintings “that are like the movements of a symphony.” Ritz’s series explores the relationships between color and music. Each painting, she explains, chronicles an event that include both her physical and visual experiences and her internal perspectives.

A long-time member of the Pioneer Valley community, Ritz has based many a painting off of the natural beauty of the area, such as Mt. Norwottuck and various landscapes in Amherst. After studying under James Gahagan, a former student of famous painter Hans Hofmann, she taught art at RISD, Brown, Dartmouth and other universities. She has also been featured in galleries internationally, including at the American Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela.

Many of Ritz’s paintings are large with some over five feet tall. The expanse of canvas allows Ritz to work with swaths of color and texture, and in turn invites the viewer to get lost in a window of abstract emotions. Ritz describes her painting process as improvisational, which is influenced by jazz and other forms of music with spontaneity. She says “[she listens] to how the paint wants to move,” allowing for the paint to take on a life of its own. However, this doesn’t mean that that her paintings don’t involve careful technique; some can take a year or more to finish and she can spend hours in front of the canvas before making another stroke. This process is documented in paintings like “Snow, Ice with Pink Cloud,” where one can see the intricate drips of brown and mauve paint peeking out from underneath the layers of vibrant blues and yellows — as if Ritz had changed her mind and adopted a completely different vision halfway through the painting process.

My favorite of the series is “Sound of Snow”; its use of orange and green catches your attention because they are not colors usually associated with snow. The organic shapes used in the painting convey the timbre of the sound of snow crunching, as if the painting is a giant musical score for a winterscape. In fact, the way in which color, light and space interplay in many of Ritz’s pieces feel like sheet music for a performance of nature. There is an aspect of experimentalism in which the open process of her painting allows for a different, personal interpretation of each painting.

Ritz’s work has many fans, whose comments are catalogued in a little booklet at the front of her exhibit. Visitors comment on their favorite paintings, the joy they evoked, and the brief respite they found from the stress of life in her work. Come see her paintings in the Oresman Gallery, which is open weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. “Seeing Music: Color Finds Rhythms, Harmonies, and Counterpoints” will be on display until May 17.

Smith announced changes to work-study policy for first-year students

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Cas Sweeney ’19 | Associate Editor

Smith College recently announced that they are lifting their restriction on first-year work-study positions. In the past, first-years on work-study were only allowed to work in Dining or Housekeeping. Starting next year, they will be allowed to apply for any job on campus.

This change was implemented after the Pathways Campus Climate Study found that there is a negative stigma against working in Dining Services and Housekeeping and students who hold those jobs.

When this stigma was found, the decision was reached to end the restriction on first-year jobs. Andrew Cox, Director of Dining Services, said that the department “support[s] the need to remove any stigma for First Years and Dining that came to light through conversations and the study.”

The fact that there is a stigma against Dining and Housekeeping has not had any official documentation until now. However, that does not mean that students have not been aware of the perception of those positions since the positions are mostly held by students who have work-study and are highly visible jobs.

Work-study students are comprise more low-income students than non-work-study students do. According to the Pathways survey, 38 per cent of low-income respondents reported experiencing “exclusionary, intimidating, offensive, and/or hostile conduct,” and 44 percent of those respondents “thought that the conduct was based on their income status.”

The policy change is not the only step that is on the table to reduce negative stigma. Smith’s Student Employment/Fund Coordinator, Valerie Schumacher, said, “It is unfortunate that there is any sense of stigma related to work in Dining or Housekeeping and perhaps this can be addressed in workshops that focus on equality and inclusion between peers.” No specific details of such workshops have been decided upon at this time.

Schumacher said that the old policy of prioritizing first-years was based on the way Dining had been set up in the past. “Over time, however, dining halls consolidated and students began to travel to various houses for meals and work as well as to tutoring positions off campus under the America Reads/America Counts program.”

Before the college was aware of the stigma, there was no reason to make changes to the policy, as working in Dining and Housekeeping “allowed [first-years] the freedom to settle in, learn the campus, focus on their classes and meeting friends while making a job search stress-free.”

Many first-years will likely continue work in Dining and Housekeeping, as many job positions are posted and filled during the prior semester. However, Dining and Housekeeping will now also be allowed to hire and keep on upperclassmen. Cox said “our hope is that with no net change in the number of jobs on campus, that the market will make its own correction,” and therefore there will still be the same amount of students working in Dining and Housekeeping overall.

When asked about the appeal of Dining and Housekeeping, Cox and Schumacher both expressed a belief that there are large benefits of working in those departments. Cox said, “Dining offers students many flexible options, between location, hours, shift lengths and we hope that students find this attractive. Not many employers can say: ‘you don’t even need to leave your house.’”

Schumacher said first-year students “will also be encouraged to continue to seek employment in Housekeeping and Dining Services, the largest employer with the greatest number of shifts at a variety of times.”

Overall, the reality of work-study employment will be very similar, but the hope is that the attitude surrounding those two departments will begin to change now that there are not required positions.

Smith College Partnership on New Solar Power Facility with Four Other Liberal Arts Colleges

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Alice Mungyu ’19, editor in chief

Smith College is partnering with Amherst, Hampshire, Williams and Bowdoin colleges to build a new solar power facility in Farmington, Maine.

This is a collaborative effort that will allow the colleges to offset 46,000 megawatt hours per year off their collective electrical needs. To put this into perspective, this a utility-scale solar power facility can annually create enough electricity to power about 5,000 New England homes.

Sustainability Director Dano Weisbord spoke to the Sophian to give more information on this exciting project. “The Sustainability, Facilities and Finance departments of all five colleges involved were very careful about the contract we chose. One of the important things was hat our purchase should come from a new renewable electricity generation facility in the New England region,” said Weisbord.

“Put another way, our ability and desire to purchase renewable electricity will lead to the development of a new renewable electricity generation facility, and should not be a purchase from an existing facility.”

“This project also fixes the price for our purchased electricity for 20 years. This kind of budget predictability is beneficial to the college. Finally, we could not have done this on our own. Smith alone is not a big enough purchaser to access developers of these kinds of projects. Through collaborative participation, we helped each of the other five colleges involved, and they helped us,” continues Weisbord.

This sustainability effort will have profound impact on Smith. It will reduce carbon dioxide emissions associated with energy use on campus by about 10 per cent.

“In the longer run, we plan to burn less fossil fuel and use more electricity. This is good, so long as that electricity comes from renewable sources. This first purchase demonstrates that this concept is possible. In addition, converting our electricity use from fossil sources to renewable electricity also improves air quality,” said Weisbord.

In addition, this investment will provide educational opportunities for Smith students. nce the project is completed, Weisbord plans on having the option to take students o the facility or to access data coming from the site.

“Switching our electricity from fossil fuel generated electricity to renewable generated electricity is very important. A better thing is to use less electricity in the first place. Since most Smith students live on campus, the potential impact from students turning off lights in their rooms and around campus, and unplugging unused electric device in their rooms can make a BIG difference. Ask the eco-rep in your house, or better yet, become an eco-rep,” said Weisbord.

The facility is expected to open in 2019. The developer, NextEra, has begun a complicated regulatory process that will allow them to build this facility.

Smith will purchase around 30 percent of its electricity through the partnership. The Renewable Partnership will reduce college greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent, bringing Smith closer to its goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

“When we promise to buy the output, this is financial backing that the developer will use to borrow money to pay for construction. We had a very committed group of finance, facilities, and sustainability people from Amherst, Bowdoin, Hampshire, and Williams working together along with a great consulting firm helping us -- Competitive Energy Services.”

“When you do projects with lots of partners in many organizations, it helps to have someone who is tasked with making sure that the project keeps moving forward. This was Smith's role, carried out by me and Mike Howard EVP for Finance and Administration,” said Weisbord.

 

Lessons from Junior Year

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Ruth Tekleab Mekbib ‘19

Contributing Writer

My junior year was challenging, but it was also the most rewarding year of my Smith career. What made it challenging was balancing my time and setting priorities. The extracurricular activities I participated in made these efforts rewarding. If you would like to hear more about this and how to make the best of your junior year, please continue reading!

The summer before I started my junior year at Smith, I made a list of everything I wanted to accomplish in the coming year. I got the idea from an interview of Yosef, a young boy from Debre Markos, Ethiopia who recently got accepted to Harvard and MIT. He talked about his work ethic and his advice for students who want to become successful.

He said, “before you even embark on your journey to school, make a list of things you want to accomplish and how to do them and look at this list every day.” And so, I picked up a pen and wrote down all the things I wanted to do the coming year. I’m not going to go in detail of what I wrote on my list (if you want to see it email me ;)). These included: managing my time better, going to office hours, making valuable connections and avoiding distractions.

When I gotto Smith last fall, I put this piece of paper on my wall in front of my desk, so I could motivate myself to achieve the goals I had set  everyday. I arrived two weeks before school started because I was an ISP leader and I got to meet so many talented individuals (shout-out to the Class of 2021!). Shortly after that, classes began and my normal routine as a Smith student began.

The classes I took my junior year have enlightened and challenged me beyond my imagination. What really helped me was taking classes that I’m deeply interested in with professors who love to teach their material.

I have been fortunate enough to take four classes with my advisor, Professor Payal Banerjee, in the Sociology department and I came out from every one of her classes with a great sense of understanding about the world. These classes were Beyond Borders, Theories of Society, Gender and Globalization and a seminar titled Global Migration in the 21st Century. In all honesty, these classes challenged me quite a bit, but they were also instrumental in shaping the way I viewed the world. I became an informed individual who doesn’t take anything for granted. Take classes you’re interested in with great professors, you won’t regret it!

Another integral part of my junior year were my extracurricular activities. I had the honor of serving as President of Smith Model United Nations (MUN). The role gave me the opportunity to work with a group of students who were interested in bringing awareness about global issues. We held different events throughout the year and even got the opportunity to participate in the Five College MUN conference at Mount Holyoke last March.

I was also actively involved in advocating for creating more internship and job opportunities for international students on campus. My dear friend Hilda Nalwanga ’18 and I applied for the Presidential Innovation Challenge Grant in October, and were fortunate enough to become recipients of this grant. Along with a few others, we held different events throughout the year to help international students shape their careers.

In collaboration with SACSA, we founded SACSA Careers, a space where students and alumnae can communicate and learn from their experiences. Along with Patience Kayira ’20,  w We organized a trip to Harvard Business School where about 20 students participated in the annual Harvard Africa Business Conference.We had the opportunity to connect with powerful individuals who do great work on the African continent. Although it was difficult at times to organize events and collaborate with others, I came out from this experience with life skills and a renewed hope and determination. Creating change is not an option but a necessity.

Overall, my junior year was one I’ll never forget. Looking back at that piece of paper on my wall, I am happy to share that I met most of the goals I set and hope to do the same for senior year. I hope you take with you some helpful lessons as you prepare for your next academic adventure.

Thank you for all the people who made it possible for me to call Smith my second home and who have supported me. I’d like to give a special shout-out to the graduating seniors who have been a vital part of my Smith experience. Thank you Meseret Haile ’18, Bezawit Habtesellassie ’18, Hilda Nalwanga ’18, Priscilla Semphere ’18 and Nikki Okondo ’18 for your continuous love and support. Congratulations on your graduating!


 

How was your first year (at Smith)?

Lingchuan Xu ’21

A 2021 prospective art history major talks about her first year experience at Smith.

“I am more willing to get in touch with (hard) science courses when I saw so many women studying it, ” she said. Many students at Smith study sciences and this phenomenon pushed her to step out of art zone and explore the unfamiliar science area more.

Smith’s open curriculum allowed her to enjoy her studies. When taking her International Baccalaureate (IB) lessons, she felt her choices were limited. She recounted that similar to most universities, the IB requires students to take courses from each subject area.

Taking courses from each category is a lot to handle. “When people are stressed out, they only think about finishing their assigned work instead of exploring other possibilities of academics. With the bearable pressure, open curriculum system really nourishes my curiosity towards alien disciplines. On the contrary, if I am in a university (instead of a liberal arts college), the fierce competition with professional students may hinder me from trying something I haven't prepared much for.”

However, she feels “It is too rural here [at Smith].” She continued, “[you] can’t have [as] much fun as [you would] in a big city.” It seems that in the U.S., you are either in a big city or a suburban town. If you’re not in someplace like New York City or Boston, you most probably will be in a relatively more rural area.

Northampton is pretty isolated but with it, Smith has developed a special community of its own. Smith students establish extremely close relationships with each other. “I don’t feel quite real in this bubble. In contrast to having diverse voices like in large cities, less opinions are revealed here. Smith definitely suits people who enjoy academics, but not so much for those who want to delve into things other than pure academic experience.”

To her, the whole campus is “socially dead”. “From my observation, at least one third of Smithies eat alone,” which, she said, “is quite rare in other schools.” She pointed out that while spreading out the dining halls indeed saves time, it also hinders interactions between students. “Without the concentration of dining services, meeting up with your friends for meals becomes harder. Also, Smith doesn’t provide an environment active enough for us to socialize with strangers. So we end up staying with ourselves. ”

She cited the housing system as another example, “It is great that each house tries hard to create a close community. But if people are not interested in hanging out with their houses, they either hang out with their friends, or keep to themselves. Since getting together with your friends is really hard, as proved with the dining system, you end up by yourself. ” She finished her analysis by ending with: “the dining should be more delicious. When students have heavy workload, it’s depressing to come back to food that is bad."

Album Review: On “Expectations”, Hayley Kiyoko Offers An Ambitious, Sparkly, Debut Album

By Phoebe Little ’20

Hayley Kiyoko is a new artist with a small but devoted cult following. She’s on the cusp of hitting big time, but she has big ambitions. In short, there’s a lot riding on Kiyoko’s debut album, “Expectations.”

Kiyoko is currently in the early stages of her pop music career, working to be taken seriously in the music industry after a career on Disney Channel as a teen starlet. She is also one of pop music’s only openly queer female artists, meaning that she is tasked with representing an entire community of marginalized people with her work. Kiyoko hit the nail on the head naming her album; there’s a lot of people with expectations about her debut album “Expectations.”

The ambitious album opens with an overture. Beyond the overture, Kiyoko weaves an attempt at a concept album complete with an interlude named “xx”, with occasional ambient bird, wind and ocean sounds on the edge of her songs and with several double track suites. It’s an electronic pop riff on earlier decades of concept albums and, perhaps most notably, Lorde’s 2017 “Melodrama.”

In Kiyoko’s hands the concept album effect is not entirely successful. Unlike other concept albums, Kiyoko is not using the structure to create a coherent narrative, or at least that is not what comes across. Instead it seems like the album’s overall style is an unsuccessful attempt to elevate “Expectations” from pop music to art. This is a pity because Kiyoko’s strength is sexy, fun, catchy pop singles.

As a debut album, “Expectations” shows that  Kiyoko is still finding her voice. Beyond the weak concept album attempt, the weakest parts of the album are where the track relies too heavily on Kiyoko’s serviceable but unremarkable vocals like in “Wanna Be Missed” or when her lyrics fail to express anything new as in Kiyoko’s tepid ode to L.A., “Palm Trees”.

Having said that, there’s so much to enjoy in “Expectations”. A lot of tracks feature tight pop songwriting with fun lyrics and killer hooks. There’s the slow building “Feelings” that overlays a pop vocal with a irresistable bouncy synth and drum machine beat. The dreamy track “Sleepover” features a deep bass line under lyrics that have Kiyoko longing for romantic attention from her platonic female friend. “How many days, how many nights / 'Til you realize, he'll never love you like me?” on the very catchy reggae feeling “He’ll Never Love You (HNLY)”.

Then there’s the break up anthem, “Curious”, about a girlfriend leaving Kiyoko for a man. “Did you take him to the pier in Santa Monica forget to bring your jacket/ Wrap him in it cause you wanted to.” She spits at rapid speed to a catchy synth beat. “I’m just curious” she sings, pausing before delivering a zinger of a kiss off, “Is it serious?”.

It’s undeniable that songs like these, that make open references to Kiyoko’s own experience as a queer woman are a part of her appeal as an artist. Fans watched the accompanying music videos to Kiyoko’s “Expectations” singles millions of times. This phenomenon speaks to the marginalized community of queer women’s desire for representation of queer women’s storylines in pop culture.

Kiyoko is not a queer artist who creates content that leans away from queerness for the sake of being palatable to the masses. She is not a queer artist who only caters to a queer audience either. Instead Kiyoko writes catchy songs about relationships with women and the result is a lot of fun pop bops about queer women and queer love. Kiyoko’s range as an artist shows up in the way many types of people connect to her music.

Kiyoko is not the first to sing about women loving women — she follows in the footsteps of artists like Tegan and Sara and Mary Lambert. However, she is the first mainstream artist to discuss queer women so consistently and visibly in her lyrics and videos. The way Kiyoko sings about relationships and flirtations with women just as confidently as any heterosexual male artist is a powerful normalization of queer women and their relationships in music and media.