Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
It is said that no college president can refuse a request on her first workday. At least, that’s what you might infer after seeing the line that persisted throughout Valerie Smith’s July 1 welcome reception.
For over an hour, Swarthmore’s new president stood tirelessly on her feet, exchanging pleasantries with dozens of attendees, from Dean Liz Braun to students.
Although a few came to air grievances or voice concerns, most were there out of sheer excitement. It was this excitement that kept some in line for more than half an hour.
“We were waiting in line for a while,” Abby Holtzman ’16 said, adding, “My friend and I were practicing what we would say to the president.”
Not all attendants immediately flocked to the line, however. Some waited contemplatively on the sidelines, while others walked about, occasionally checking if the crowd had thinned out. Among the undecided was Mindy Cheng ’18, who said she would want to talk about “the ideas that [President Smith] has to change things here, […] her thoughts on the whole school.”
When asked how she would rate her chat with President Smith, Holtzman said that the long wait and rehearsal culminated in a “10/10” conversation. “[The president] was very gracious,” she said.
Cheng, too, eventually got a dose of presidential conversation.
“I thought it was good. I just asked her, ‘Did you get a tour when you first were being considered?’ And she was like, ‘Yeah, I took an info session and tour right before I applied for the job.’” Cheng is a tour guide for the Admissions Office.
Students seemed to agree that the new president is an impeccable conversationalist.
“I thought that was nice that she gave us an opportunity to talk about how we thought about the school, how our daily lives are here,” Jannette Alston ’16 said.
“I really enjoyed the conversation, because she seemed easy to get along with, and she was interested in our experience here,” Anisa Knox ’15 echoed.
As the reception’s attendees parted, many left with a cautious optimism about the institution’s future, as well as questions about the president’s plans.
“I think there’s a lot of excitement, understandably, ” Holtzman said. “Everyone is pretty thrilled in a way that is new in how we welcome administrators.”
Featured image by Eduard Saakashvili/The Daily Gazette.