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Blazing a Trail for Women, Smith College Prepares to Graduate the Country's First All-Female Class

Mar 07, 2011   |   by Marti Hobbes   |   Smith College

Amid increasing calls to bolster the nation's scientific literacy and enhance its high-tech workforce, a pioneering and much watched engineering program is about to produce its first graduates.

Despite the program's short history, the newly-minted engineers -- all women -- are weighing significant career and fellowship offers.

Established in 1999, Smith College's Picker Engineering Program is the first and only engineering program at a U.S. women's college. At graduation ceremonies on May 16, Smith will make history when it awards the first engineering bachelor's degrees ever offered at any of the nation's women's colleges.

"We are enormously proud of these young women and the path they have blazed for those who will follow them," said Smith President Carol T. Christ. "Technology and engineering are critically important to our society's development, and I am thrilled to know that Smith engineers will be shaping that future."

The 20 graduating seniors, who come from 13 states and two foreign countries, have spent their four years at Smith immersed in a program that is noted for its quantitative rigor and distinguished by the importance placed on study of the humanities and social sciences. Domenico Grasso, Rosemary Bradford Hewlett Professor and Director of the Picker Engineering Program, characterizes it as a "vibrant intellectual crossroads of the sciences and humanities."

With a focus on developing "broadly educated, well-rounded engineers," Grasso says, Smith is poised to launch these graduates into leadership roles in corporations, nonprofits and other technology-related fields.

To date, the graduating students have been accepted into engineering graduate programs at Harvard-MIT, Michigan, Dartmouth, Cornell, Princeton, Berkeley and Notre Dame. Two have received highly competitive National Science Foundation fellowships for post-graduate study in engineering at any U.S. university. Several have positions waiting for them at national firms in fields ranging from information systems to finance to construction management.

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