Editorial: In Valerie Smith, a great choice

We at the Phoenix would like to congratulate the Board of Managers and the Presidential Search Committee on their selection of Valerie Smith as the new President of the College. We are confident that when she begins next fall, she will prove to be an excellent addition to the community.

We are proud that the college has chosen a Black woman to be our next president, given the current context of higher education, in which minority candidates are still grossly underrepresented in top positions. Smith’s experience, extensive qualifications and commitment to Swarthmore’s vision makes her an especially great choice.

We are also encouraged that the students on the Search Committee felt that they had real input in the process. In the words of Jason Heo ’15, “The adults in the room really understood that the student opinion matters.”

Smith has spoken extensively on her beliefs about the importance of an interdisciplinary, liberal arts approach to education, and recently chaired a committee at Princeton with the goal of improving the experience of low income and first-generation college students. We are particularly excited about her emphasis on working with faculty, especially those in STEM fields, to help tailor teaching styles to better cater to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.  Through her work at Princeton, Smith has demonstrated a commitment to creating equal access in higher education which we believe makes her an excellent fit for the position.

Smith has worked diligently at Princeton to create new policies that allow students of all financial backgrounds to attend the university — work that applies across colleges and certainly bodes well for us at Swarthmore. Her forward-thinking attitude and persistent approach to social justice will honor to our heritage as an institution, as well as set a model for other schools.

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