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Three students in Rally Day hats, smiling.

One of Smith’s most enduring and exuberant traditions, Rally Day celebrates the power of the Smith community and the remarkable contributions Smith alums have made to our world. The day is highlighted by a festive all-college gathering at which distinguished alums are awarded Smith College Medals by the president. It is also the first time seniors wear their graduation regalia, often topped with creative hats, as they look ahead to life beyond the Grécourt Gates.

Rally Day 2024 Video

Rallying Through the Years

Since its inception in 1876, Rally Day has remained a cherished Smith tradition that has taken several forms. Whether through fun skits, imaginative hats, or basketball games against the faculty (yes, really), it’s always been a day of celebration.

Academic Regalia

Following Smith College tradition, graduating students wear academic regalia for the first time at Rally Day, three months before Commencement. For Commencement, graduating seniors should come dressed in their full regalia.

Seniors may now begin ordering their academic regalia for Commencement.

The regalia ordering page will be live until April 2, 2024, and orders placed by the deadline will be available for pickup at the Smith College Bookstore beginning May 6, 2024. 

Those receiving financial aid have the option of participating in the Regalia Loan Program lottery offered through the Student Government Association. All students will be invited to enter the lottery in January and will be notified in early February as to whether they can receive regalia through this program.

Only students who receive Smith aid and are verified through Student Financial Services are eligible to enter the lottery. Questions regarding this program should be directed to the SGA office at

Thursday, May 16

Smith College Bookstore open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Friday, May 17

Smith College Bookstore open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Saturday, May 18

Smith College Bookstore open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sunday, May 19

Smith College Bookstore open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Meet the 2024 Medalists

A groundbreaking attorney, a renowned psychologist who studies the consequences of objectification, a leading climate scientist, and a change-making human rights advocate will all receive the prestigious Smith College Medal at this year’s Rally Day ceremony.

Cheryl Brown Wattley ’75

Attorney, professor of law

For more than 50 years, Cheryl Brown Wattley ’75 has been a leader in the fight for civil rights, criminal justice, and social justice. She began her legal career as an assistant United States attorney in the District of Connecticut, where she participated in litigation that led to a sweeping overhaul of the system for serving people with mental disabilities in Connecticut. Transferring to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas, she served as chief of the economic crime unit, prosecuting white-collar crimes. Later, in addition to starting her own private practice, Wattley worked to secure the exoneration of four wrongfully convicted and incarcerated individuals. She joined the inaugural faculty at the University of North Texas at Dallas College of Law, where she currently teaches criminal law and serves as director of experiential education. She created the college’s first Community Engagement Program, which connects UNT Dallas law students with volunteer opportunities in the community. A prolific writer, she is the prize-winning author of A Step Toward Brown v. Board of Education: Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher and Her Fight to End Segregation, published in 2014. Throughout her long career, Wattley has received numerous awards, including the 2021 Outstanding Trial Lawyer Award from the Dallas Bar Association, the 1994 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award, the President’s Award from the Dallas chapter of the NAACP, as well as numerous commendations from the U.S. Department of Justice. Wattley graduated from Smith cum laude with high honors in sociology. She received her law degree from Boston University College of Law.

Cheryl Brown Wattley

Brenda Ekwurzel ’85

Climate scientist

Brenda Ekwurzel ’85 is considered one of the country’s foremost experts on climate change. Currently a senior climate scientist and director of climate science for the Climate & Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), Ekwurzel uses data, research, and science to make change happen. Her passion for science began at Smith College, where she studied geology and began paying deeper attention to the consequences of a changing climate. After graduating from Smith and receiving her Ph.D. from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, she worked with communities to protect groundwater and then spent several years on the faculty in the hydrology and water resources department at the University of Arizona. She has studied climate variability across the globe, from the Arctic to the desert Southwest. Realizing she could make a bigger impact as a public voice for the health of the planet, Ekwurzel left academia and joined the Union of Concerned Scientists. In this role, she is an oft-quoted expert on myriad issues related to climate change and U.S. climate policy, having appeared on CNN, ABC News, Good Morning America, NPR, and The Colbert Report. In 2019, she testified before Congress about the climate crisis. She is a co-author of the Fourth National Climate Assessment as well as the UCS guide Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living. 

Brenda Ekwurzel

Tomi-Ann Roberts ’85

Professor of psychology, author

As a scholar and author, Tomi-Ann Roberts ’85 has led the effort to address the consequences of the objectification of women and girls. Her 1997 paper, “Objectification theory: Toward understanding women’s lived experiences and mental health risks,” remains one of the most-cited sources on the topic. It has spurred hundreds of other articles examining the culture of objectification and its negative effects on well-being. From 2005 to 2009, Roberts served as a member of the highly influential American Psychological Association’s Presidential Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. From 2017 to 2019, she was president of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research. Currently a professor of psychology at Colorado College, Roberts teaches classes on emotion, personality, gender, morality, and aesthetics. Her research focuses on the social psychology of emotion, perceptions of the body, the psychological components of women’s reproductive health, and the psychology of enjoyment, awe, and wonder. She has been covered in numerous media sources about how her experience being sexually harassed by Harvey Weinstein while a student at Smith motivated her work on sexual objectification. She leverages feminist psychological science as a consultant for reproductive health-related product brands and as an expert witness in legal cases involving objectification and sexualization as forms of gender discrimination. Roberts majored in psychology at Smith and received her Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University.

Tomi-Ann Roberts

Sarah Belal ’01

Human rights advocate

As founder and executive director of Justice Project Pakistan, Sarah Belal ’01 makes it her mission to advocate for the most vulnerable prisoners in Pakistan’s criminal justice system. A history major at Smith, Belal went on to study law at Oxford University, receiving her degree in 2006. Two years later, she received her license to practice law in Pakistan. Ever since then, Belal has been at the forefront of the fight for human rights and justice system reform. Under her leadership, Justice Project Pakistan secured the release of more than 40 Pakistani detainees from Bagram in Afghanistan in 2014 as well as stays of execution of several death row prisoners in Pakistan. As a result of Belal’s efforts through the justice project, the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2021 issued a landmark judgment prohibiting the execution of severely mentally ill prisoners and providing a framework for diagnosing mental illness in prisons and providing mental health care for prisoners. For her work, Belal has received numerous awards, including the National Human Rights Prize from the president of Pakistan, the Franco-German Human Rights Prize, and the prestigious Echoing Green Global Fellowship, which is given to emerging leaders bringing about positive social change.

Sarah Belal


Faculty Teaching Award

Given annually by the Student Government Association, the Faculty Teaching Award recognizes and rewards distinction in teaching and professors’ ability to connect to students, both in and outside of the classroom. The award was established more than 20 years ago as a way for students to thank educators for their support, encouragement and inspiration. Each year students are encouraged to submit nominations to the SGA Curriculum Committee through written and other creative forms of expression.

Elizabeth B. Wyandt Gavel Award

The Elizabeth B. Wyandt Gavel Award is given annually to Smith staff members “who have given extraordinarily of themselves to the Smith College community as a whole.” Established in 1984, the Wyandt Gavel Award is administered by the Student Government Association, which solicits nominations from students.

2024 Winners

Susan Voss

Achilles Professor of Engineering

2024 Faculty Teaching Award recipient

Martha Potyrala

Administrative Assistant, Dance

2024 Gavel Award recipient

Susanna Ferguson

Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies

2024 Faculty Teaching Award recipient

Julian Martineau

Interim Chef, Dawes House

2024 Gavel Award recipient

Rally Day History

The Smith College Medal has been awarded to outstanding alumnae at Rally Day since 1973. The medalists have become an important part of the program, speaking prior to convocation in classes and afterward in conversations with students.

The origins of Rally Day can be traced to a series of annual celebrations of George Washington’s birthday, the first of which was held at Smith College in February 1876. These celebrations evolved from social dinners or receptions into daylong college events. The addition of a “rally” to the day in 1894 was eventually reflected in the name Rally Day, first used in 1906. The celebration is still held annually in February but has evolved from a patriotic commemoration to a convocation.

Over the years, students have sponsored and participated in various activities: rallies, debates, basketball rivalries, dramatic presentations, singing and dancing (at first only square dancing was allowed; the waltz was introduced 20 years later).

The current tradition of sponsoring an event to benefit a charity began in 1918 when the Rally Day Show was held to raise funds for the Smith College Relief Unit serving in World War I France. It was not until 1943 that a woman—Denise H. Davey, vice chair of the Fighting French Relief Committee—was invited to speak at the commemoration exercises. For several years, the president has chosen Rally Day to announce the upcoming commencement speaker.

Dress at Rally Day has evolved as well. In 1944, the senior class began wearing its graduation caps and gowns to the convocation. The day still marks the first time the seniors publicly wear their gowns. In recent years, however, the caps have been replaced by inventive hats of the students’ choosing (and sometimes of their own making), in keeping with the “rallying” and spirited nature of the day.