St. Olaf celebrates grand opening of Smith Center for Global Engagement
St. Olaf College celebrated the grand opening of the new Smith Center for Global Engagement with a special event on campus September 30.
The center, launched with a transformative $10.7 million gift from Louis and Mary Kay Smith, supports students in developing global and intercultural skills through study abroad and study away programs in the U.S. and around the world, as well as through Academic Civic Engagement (ACE) courses in local communities.
In addition to establishing an endowment that will fund the center’s operations, the gift from the Smiths will provide generous financial aid to students studying abroad and away from campus.
The Smith family visited campus for the grand opening, which included both an unveiling of the new center’s sign in its location in Tomson Hall as well as a ribbon cutting ceremony with President David R. Anderson ’74. Smith Center Director Jodi Malmgren ’92, Financial Aid Director Steve Lindley ’08, and Professor of Chemistry and Environmental Studies Paul Jackson ’92 all spoke about the impact that the Smith Center will have on St. Olaf students.
Our first Smith grant recipients are abroad right now, but in the decades to come, this gift will change innumerable lives. Smith scholarships will make study abroad/away more affordable and accessible to every St. Olaf student.Smith Center Director Jodi Malmgren ’92
The timing of the gift from the Smiths couldn’t be more perfect. Malmgren says her team is seeing increasingly open international borders as COVID-19 recedes, and Oles are once again eager to participate in the college’s hallmark study abroad/away programs. The college’s typical participation rate of 75 percent of St. Olaf students studying abroad/away fell to 41 percent in the wake of the pandemic. In 2020-21, just 29 students participated in study abroad/away programs in six countries. This year, the Smith Center projects 650 St. Olaf students will participate in programs in 30 countries.
“We have programs in all regions of the world, offering courses that support students’ major and concentration requirements as well as general education requirements,” Malmgren says. “The result of this curricular connection between our study abroad/away programs and our St. Olaf curriculum is that students can stay on track for graduation and even study abroad/away more than once if they wish.”
In addition to opportunities to study around the globe and across the United States, the Smith Center’s programs include ACE courses that partner students with organizations and learning opportunities in local communities. “This means students have an array of local to global engagement opportunities that extend their liberal arts learning,” Malmgren says.
The academic and geographical breadth of programs offered through the Smith Center, as well as the strong partnerships that the college has developed with program leaders around the world, are key reasons why St. Olaf has remained a national leader for decades in the number of students who study abroad each year. The gift from the Smiths ensures the college can not only continue to develop strong programs in collaboration with faculty members and prepare students for meaningful learning experiences, but can also ensure that every student who would like the opportunity to study abroad/away has the resources to do so.
“Our first Smith grant recipients are abroad right now, but in the decades to come, this gift will change innumerable lives,” Malmgren says. “Smith scholarships will make study abroad/away more affordable and accessible to every St. Olaf student.”