From the Nominator
Illumination Night is one of Smith College’s most sacred traditions. Held during Commencement and Reunion weekends, the evening is marked by strings of colored paper lanterns that light campus pathways as seniors, their families, and alums stroll in the soft glow. When the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of in-person events, Smith alumna Michelle Stahl AC ’95 proposed that Smith instead create a virtual lantern lighting ceremony. Smith staff in the offices of alumnae and college relations built on this initial suggestion, creating a global event that brought together the Smith community in unexpected and meaningful ways.
Global Illumination 2020, promoted for a month before the launch, encouraged alums to light a lantern, lamp or candle in honor of the Smith class of 2020, and share the photos through either an official online form or social media, using #SmithIlluminates. The campaign asked participants to “imagine 53,000 points of light all shining brightly.”
More than 3,000 faculty, staff, students and alumnae—from as far away as Sweden and Saudi Arabia—participated, creating a glowing, worldwide map of “lights” to celebrate the class of 2020. A video featuring hundreds of photo submissions premiered on Facebook on the evening of Illumination, attracting nearly 22,000 views. One alumna commented, “I have never been so proud to be a Smithie. Sending love to the class of 2020 and to all the amazing Smith alums around the world.” We couldn’t have asked for a better endorsement.
From the Judges
Global Illumination Night was a magical virtual experience! Smith College not only transitioned an in-person campus tradition to a virtual experience, they took it to the next level, with strong use of social and digital tools in creative and impactful ways. The responses illuminate the success of this meaningful engagement effort, which is seen through the global reach.