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Smith College

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What are the academics like at your school?

Smith professors are wonderful! In fact, this was the element that brought me to Smith. While visiting colleges I was told by different students from different schools, the dorms are nice, there is a great campus life, the classes are interesting, there are lots of clubs... However, when I came to visit Smith, I asked each student what their favorite part of Smith College was for them. In response, each student told me about their favorite professor! Over the years, I too have come to know many of these professors and am able to share a sense of comraderie with my fellow Smithies in our love for our professors. I love the small class sizes at Smith, they allow for the students and professors to have a close relationship. Each student is able to participate in the class and professors have the time to listen and engage with their students. I have had many wonderful classes at Smith. One of my favorites was Introduction to the Bible I, with Joel Kaminskey. He teaches this class in a very engaging way, and offers his own thoughts and interpretations on very complex issues. I especially loved the very random stories he would tell in class and then how he would be able to connect them back to the text we were working with. Another favorite class was every class I had with Louis Wilson. He was a very interesting professor who brought many different media sources and guest speakers into his lectures. They allowed for new approaches to be brought to the discussions of the class. I also loved how he called on people unexpectedly throughout the class, which challenged me to be prepared to analitically think on my feet and know the content of the readings and discussion well. While education at Smith prepares you for a career, it is more about learning for its own sake. The school encourages us to take classes in different fields of study and to explore the interconnected nature of different disciplines. The beauty of a liberal arts education is that you can be studying American History, African Studies, Biblical Literature, and the International Political Economy and somehow be able to relate what you are learning to in each class to another. Smith challenges us to be critical thinkers and to expand our knowledge beyond one particular discipline to see how it relates to the world at large.

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Every single professor I've had during my 4 years here, knows my name. The best professor I've had was Roisin O'Sullivan (Economics). But really there was only one that did not live up to my expectations during my entire time here. Students study every day. Class participation is not only common, but frequently part of your grade (no worries though for shy people, as professors are generally pretty understanding) Absolutely. You would be amazed what kind of ideas can develop over lunch. Students are competitive, but mostly with themselves. It's not about being bette than your friend, it's more about being better than you thought you could be (if you are not competitive with yourself yet, you'll probably become it, once you get here). The most unique class? That's a hard one because there were so many great classes I've taken. I guess the Seminar in Central Banking was phenomenal, but that was also thanks to the amazing class mates I had. The Economics department is awesome! And so is the Italian Department. Sometimes I meet professors outside of class, be it during office hours, to have coffee or lunch, or because they invited me to their house. Most of the academic requirements are reasonable, and the curriculum is very flexible. For example the economics major does not require many math classes, but the schedule is sufficiently flexible to include a lot of math, and discover many other departments as well. The education is definitely not geared toward getting a job. Take Accounting, which is the only class that is directly applicable to the "real world". However, you learn many useful things in the other classes, that will indirectly help you on the job: writing, critical reading, ecc.

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By the end of the semester, all of my professors know my name. Many even remember it as I pass them on campus several semesters after I've had their class. My favorite classes are within the environmental science and policy program. I love this field and so any class I take ends up being a favorite. Students study a lot. I think we need to work on that though. It's sad seeing students studying in the campus center or library on friday and saturday nights! Some believe we have a "culture of stress" at Smith. I think this is self-perpetuating. If we decide it doesn't exist, then we won't have it anymore. Students need to stop trying to "one up" eachother (i.e. i have 5 exams and 12 papers to write this weekend, what about you? oh well, i have 10 exams and 15 papers, so there!) However, in the classroom, I wouldn't say students are very competitive. I've always felt comfortable asking classmates for help or clarification during or after a lecture. I do spend time with faculty members outside of class, particularly my adviser. It is generally spent working on other projects. Many of our faculty members are truly amazing and really care about students and our education... but not all! Smith only has one academic requirement and that is a writing intensive course to be taken your first year. I think we should also have a quantitative requirement and a social justice/multicultural competency requirement. These could be filled by a variety of already offered courses. Our liberal arts education is less focused on vocational pursuits. However, we do have a specialized engineering program that is very successful and rigorous.

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In four years at Smith I only had one class that had more than 15 other students in it (I took an Education lecture with 70 students). I had several classes with just 4 or 5 other students in them. Professors always know their students' names and often much more; I would say most students develop a personal relationship with at least one professor. Students are usually eager to talk in class and class conversations often spill over into daily life. As an English major, I did probably an average of 3 or 4 hours of work a night (less in the beginning of the semester, a little more maybe toward finals). I felt like I got to take a variety of interesting classes right from the beginning, instead of being forced to take a lot of 101's. Smith has flexible requirements, so if you want to cover all the major disciplines you're encouraged to, but if you don't want to you don't have to. This made things loose enough to truly pursue my interests. A Smith education is focused on a broader sense of education, learning for learning's sake and learning how to be a life-long learner. That said, I had no trouble finding a good job after graduating, probably in part to Smith's good reputation. I genuinely loved most of the classes I took at Smith, and felt like the material was relevant and that the professors were really in tuned with what interested the students.

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While various programs and professors are outstanding, I find myself bored with my classes and my professors. Perhaps when I find a major that suits me I will have better things to say about Smith's academics but for now, all I can really say is that professors assign a lot of busy work which unnecessarily stresses out students who are already inclined to be stressed ("overachievers"). Smith students are generally intelligent, although you do get the occasional girl who doesn't know what she's talking about and will try to argue with you. Students do have intellectual conversations outside of class. Smith's more geared towards learning rather than towards getting a job; it is a liberal arts college. I both like and dislike the lack of core requirements; while I enjoy choosing my own classes, I feel that as someone who doesn't have a major and does not know what direction I am headed in, perhaps being forced to take classes I wouldn't normally take would be helpful. I've found that students' study habits vary and it depends on where a student lives. For example, students who live on the Quad generally do not study as rigorously as students who live on Green Street, for example. Perhaps it's the "party" atmosphere...

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i'm an art history major. i generally don't like art history classes, though, so that kind of blows. i feel like everyone in them is pretty damn pretentious and sucks up way too hard to the professor. i do love art history though, and the museum is another one of the great things about smith. i'm from new york, and i'm used to the metropolitan museum of art (aka the met) being my second home, so smith's museum provides a nice comfort. depending on the size of your class, professors will know your name. if it's a big lecture class, then don't count out on it -- then again, this can also be pretty nice, because then it's easier to skip that class and go unnoticed, which is good for when you're really stressed and think you could use your time more productively than listening to patrick coby going on about plato. but smaller classes are of course, nice to have too. i really like getting to know the professors outside of class, and or just saying hi and having them say hi back around campus. it's always good to have a faculty tie, especially if you don't like your advisor that much. in terms of hard or easy, classes vary, but they're not impossible.

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Smith is good for cultivating "ways" of thinking. We learn how to communicate (relatively) effectively, research, think "outside the box", but not a ton of specific job skills. Although, by the time you're ready to graduate you have a ton of experience that you should be able to put on your resume, especially if you go abroad or do a Praxis internship. (Do a Praxis internship!! Easy way to get a paid summer job, and you can make it apply to almost anything you want to do!) It seems like there is just a lot of learning for its own sake, but while you are doing that, you are really learning a lot of other things along the way. The Career Development Office is pretty useless for very specific things, but they're pretty good for prepping you for interviews, polishing your resume, etc. I haven't found it to be true by experience, but apparently the best thing about graduating from Smith is the Alumnae Network, which is supposed to be a great way to tap into a job opportunity. I think it sounds like mooching, but that's life.

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Smith is good for cultivating "ways" of thinking. We learn how to communicate (relatively) effectively, research, think "outside the box", but not a ton of specific job skills. Although, by the time you're ready to graduate you have a ton of experience that you should be able to put on your resume, especially if you go abroad or do a Praxis internship. (Do a Praxis internship!! Easy way to get a paid summer job, and you can make it apply to almost anything you want to do!) It seems like there is just a lot of learning for its own sake, but while you are doing that, you are really learning a lot of other things along the way. The Career Development Office is pretty useless for very specific things, but they're pretty good for prepping you for interviews, polishing your resume, etc. I haven't found it to be true by experience, but apparently the best thing about graduating from Smith is the Alumnae Network, which is supposed to be a great way to tap into a job opportunity. I think it sounds like mooching, but that's life.

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We know professors pretty well - they usually get to know your name quickly. I really enjoyed Logic 100 this fall - very fun and challenging! My least favorite class is Eastern Christianity - it's a bit dull. Students study all the time - every day. Class participation is very common and required. Intellectual conversations outside of class are pretty regular. Students are generally competitive, though it varies. Most unique class: Third World in the Western Imagination. My major is religion. The religion department is pretty strong at Smith in most areas - Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and South Asian traditions. More of a focus on traditions than on methodologies. I will go to professor's office hours if I need help with a class or with some application or other. Smith's requirements are fair. I would say the education at Smith is geared towards learning, but there's a lot of stress outside the classroom about getting a job.

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Every one of my professors knows my name. I have a few classes where this doesn't necessarily have to be the case because of the big size, but in that instance, I make a point to go to my prof's office hours and get to know him/her. Either way, professors are overjoyed to have students display interest in their field, so they welcome casual conversations, or questions about coursework. Smith classes are hard. They are tons of work. There is so much work that it is impossible to have a social life and also get all of your work done all the time. But, professors know this, and I only know a handful of students who read every single word for every class. Sometimes things can get stressful, but it's all worth it because most of the classes are absolutely phenomenal. In general, you can get any Smithie talking about her academic pursuits, because each person is so invested in their education. It's great.

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