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Female Frontiers QuestChat Archive

Date: February 24, 1999

Featuring: Ruth Simmons
President, Smith College
Northampton, Massachusetts

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 4 - 09:30:05 ]
Hello to our early arriving chat participants! Today's Female Frontiers/Black History Month chat with Dr. Ruth Simmons from Smith College will begin at 10:00 a.m., Pacific Standard Time. Be sure you have read Ruth's profile at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/space/frontiers/simmons.html before joining this chat.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 5 - 09:30:30 ]
Once the chat begins, Ruth will attempt to answer as many of your questions as she can, but please be patient. We have many people registrered for today's chat. Therefore, today's chat will be MODERATED to help Ruth keep up with our questions. This means that only a few questions would be posted to the chat room at a time. Don't worry if your questions do not appear on your screen immediately during moderation. They will be held in our chat queue and posted as Ruth answers those ahead of you.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 6 - 09:30:59 ]
Remember to enter "Your Handle" in the box provided before posting messages to the chat room. Once you've done this, please let us know that you have logged on for today's chat.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 7 - 09:32:09 ]
At the conclusion of today's chat, we ask that you take a few minutes to let us know what you thought about it. For your convenience, you may use our online feedback forms at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/qchats/qchat-surveys. We look forward to hearing from you!

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 9 - 10:01:07 ]
Hello and welcome to today's Female Frontiers/Black History Month chat with Ruth Simmons from Smith College. Ruth J. Simmons assumed the presidency of Smith College on July 1, 1995. With that move, she became the first African-American woman to head a top-ranked college or university in the United States.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 10 - 10:01:41 ]
And now, here is Ruth Simmons to answer your questions.

[ RuthSimmons/SmithCollege - 15 - 10:08:39 ]
RE: [Jes] What kinds of duties do you have being the President of a major University?
Hello, Jes. The duties of a president are quite varied. We hire people, make sure that there are good courses and faculty to teach them, make sure the budget is sound, raise money and try to keep a lot of different groups happy. We work really hard as a team. No one person can do everything that needs to be done to make sure a college is thriving. So I am happy to work with a group of people who help me do all those things.

[ RuthSimmons/SmithCollege - 17 - 10:10:55 ]
RE: [Crissy] Dr. Simmons- What advice do you give to young women, when asked how they too can reach their goals?
The advice I give most often to young women is to work hard and believe in themselves. Hard work is always a necessary ingredient if you want to achieve anything important in life. If you are going to be a stay at home mom, it takes hard work to do that well. The same is true if you want to be a good basketball player or a good scientist.

[ RuthSimmons/SmithCollege - 20 - 10:14:39 ]
RE: [Crissy/Smith2003] Dr. Simmons- When you were growing up what did you aspire to be? Did you ever think you'd be who you are now? Or did you always know?
Crissy, I did not always know what I wanted to be. I loved school, however, and I knew that I always wanted to keep learning, whatever I did. I also wanted to be openminded in case something came along that I was especially suited to do. I always had exceptional teachers so I naturally thought it would be good to become a teacher. I am very pleased that I decided to remain in college for the rest of my life; it's a great place to be because I am still learning new things every day.

[ RuthSimmons/SmithCollege - 22 - 10:16:43 ]
RE: [Frances] Who do you feel influenced you most in achieving higher education?
My mom influenced me most because she was a strong person who taught me to work hard at everything I tried. Teachers were also very important in my going to college. They helped me to believe in myself and, of course, when you believe, there is so much more that you can do.

[ RuthSimmons/SmithCollege - 24 - 10:21:01 ]
RE: [Angel] Dr.Simmons, When you were growing up, were you ever discriminated against because of your intellect and race? In other words did anyone find you offensive? What did you do?
Angel, when I grew up in the forties and fifties, racial discrimination was commonplace throughout our country. I could not go to restaurants or theaters o do most of the things that young people today can do. But, as you know, some very brave people like Martin Luther King worked to eliminate these problems. Today, someone who is treated unfairly can file complaints of discrimination, file lawsuits, work to create new laws protecting people who are treated unfairly and so on. So, when I saw that other people were working so hard to change society so that I would not be discriminated against, it gave me hope that one day things would be better. And they are better.

[ RuthSimmons/SmithCollege - 27 - 10:23:46 ]
RE: [christopher] How are you associated with NASA?
Hello, Christopher. I am not directly associated with NASA. They have asked me to be on the chat room because I work with young people who are interested in science and who are working to become the kinds of scientists that NASA employs. Are you interested in science?

[ RuthSimmons/SmithCollege - 30 - 10:24:38 ]
RE: [Tina] Was it easy being the last of 12 children?
Tina, it was very easy. I was spoiled rotten by my older sisters and brothers.

[ RuthSimmons/SmithCollege - 31 - 10:25:38 ]
RE: [Jes] What inspired you to be a Dr.?
Jes, I wanted to be in a position to help people and this seemed a good way to do that. I hope you will want to help people through the profession you choose.

[ RuthSimmons/SmithCollege - 34 - 10:26:38 ]
RE: [Joesif] what does your family think of your accomplishments?
My family has told me that they are proud of me but they also tell me not to get too arrogant!

[ RuthSimmons/SmithCollege - 35 - 10:27:39 ]
RE: [MrPattersonsclass] Do you feel safe as being the president. If you were not the president what else would you like to do for a living?
Yes, I feel safe being the President. If I weren't president, I'd like to be an opera singer. But, the problem is that I can't sing!

[ RuthSimmons/SmithCollege - 39 - 10:29:16 ]
RE: [Angel] What does one of the most important people in education do in her spare time? Do you participate in charities, fundraisers, perhaps causes!?
Angel, I have very little spare time. I like to spend time with my family, of course. Also, I love art and so I go to museums a good deal. I also like sports events. I'm going to the rodeo in Texas this weekend!

[ RuthSimmons/SmithCollege - 40 - 10:30:39 ]
RE: [Tina] What was it like being the first woman to head a major University?
I'm not the first woman to do what I do. There are many exceptional women who lead colleges today. I am the first black woman to lead one of the seven sister colleges.

[ RuthSimmons/SmithCollege - 41 - 10:33:50 ]
RE: [MrPattersonsclass] Dr. Simmons, when you were in school was there a teacher that motivated you to become a leading president? What subjects must I take to be a presidentof the future while I am still in fifth grade today?
Good afternoon, Mr. Patterson and class! The advice I would give fifth graders about preparing to be a president? First, take school seriously. Study all subjects well because knowledge accumulates over many years. Never turn you r nose up at a subject. Always go to museums and plays. Listen to many different kinds of music. Practice speaking well. Be a good listener. Most of all, do everything you can to stay in school and make good grades!

[ RuthSimmons/SmithCollege - 46 - 10:35:35 ]
RE: [Jermy] Did you find college hard when you were a student?
Jermy, I didn't find it hard because I worked very hard at it and I was well prepared because I didn't goof off in high school. So people who prepare themselves well will enjoy college. There are lots of things to do: sports, lectures, parties, interesting classes, and so on.

[ RuthSimmons/SmithCollege - 47 - 10:38:07 ]
RE: [Tina] What made you or Smith's want to start an all-women engineering program?
We want an engineering program because there are still so few women engineers. We think it is important for us to encourage women to study this field because engineers are important to the future progress of our country. They give us advances in communication, computing, product quality and so many other things. Are you interested in engineering?

[ RuthSimmons/SmithCollege - 48 - 10:39:54 ]
RE: [Brian1] What challenges do you face during your job as president?
Brian, the biggest challenge is getting everything done. I work very late and on week-ends and, still, I don't have time to complete everything.

[ RuthSimmons/SmithCollege - 49 - 10:40:45 ]
RE: [Angel] Do you belive that maybe the U.S will ever have a Female President?
I believe the United States will have a woman president in the next two decades and I hope sooner rather than later!!

[ RuthSimmons/SmithCollege - 54 - 10:41:44 ]
RE: [jorja] were you the only one of twelve children to get an education?
Jorja, one of my brother went to college. He is now a basketball coach. One of my sisters, at the age of 55, has just gone to college. It's never too late!

[ RuthSimmons/SmithCollege - 55 - 10:42:59 ]
RE: [Dave] Have you met anyone famous.
I've met lots of famous people, including the President and the First Lady. But I enjoy meeting everyday people who are kind and good most of all.

[ RuthSimmons/SmithCollege - 56 - 10:45:46 ]
RE: [MrPattersonsclass] Can a shy person become a president? What kind of behavior must a president show? asks Rakeem.
Rakeem, a shy person can be president as long as they work at overcoming the reluctance to socialize and speak out. I am basically a home body (someone who likes to stay at home) but I am able to participate in all of the activities that a president does because I work at overcoming my inhibitions. Everybody has something to overcome in order to become successful.

[ RuthSimmons/SmithCollege - 61 - 10:47:49 ]
RE: [Angel] Something simple! What kind of cuisine do you like to eat?
My favorite cuisine is mexican and southwestern (I grew up in Texas.) I also like French cuisine and creole cooking from New Orleans. What do you like?

[ RuthSimmons/SmithCollege - 62 - 10:49:36 ]
RE: [samantha] since you went to an all biack elementary school how did you not see that it was segregated?
I was in an all black elementary school because black and white children were not allowed to go to the same schools at that time. Because I had wonderful teachers, I did not focus on the fact that it was segregated; I tried to get the best out of the education I had access to.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 63 - 10:49:44 ]
Once again, at the conclusion of the chat, be sure to share your thoughts with us at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/qchats/qchat-surveys.

[ RuthSimmons/SmithCollege - 64 - 10:51:02 ]
RE: [Joy] What is the most stressfull part about your job?
The most stressful part of my job is my schedule. I work very long hours with very little time for rest, relaxation and reading. And I love to read!

[ RuthSimmons/SmithCollege - 65 - 10:51:54 ]
RE: [katy] Do you beleave it took you longer to achieve your current position than it would a male?
I don't know. I have male friends who have not become president of a college so I guess I did o.k.

[ RuthSimmons/SmithCollege - 68 - 10:57:38 ]
RE: [Angel] Conditions have been worsening with todays youth! How do you feel about the way teens are being brought up today? What do you think the solution could be? Are there any difference or similarities to when you were brought up?
When I was young, my parents or family members were around all the time. Sometimes, I think young people today need more adults in their lives to fuss at them, set them on the right course, help them with problems, and so on. In my family, we were always corrected immediately if we did something wrong but we also knew that we could count on our friends and teachers and family members. So I think the solution is stronger, closer communities helping those who need help, assisting young people as they grow up. We also need to help families who do not have the means to provide oversight for their children.

[ RuthSimmons/SmithCollege - 71 - 10:59:35 ]
RE: [Brian1] Do you have any other goals for the future now that you are president of Smith's?
My goals for the future include spending more time with my family, doing some volunteer work in schools where I can continue to encourage young people to achieve, and having some fun!

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 69 - 10:58:35 ]
EVERYONE, we will now be ending our chat with Dr. Simmons from Smith College. We would like to thank you for joining us today and for your great questions. Be sure to share your thoughts about today's chat with us at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/qchats/qchat-surveys.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 70 - 10:59:21 ]
We would especially like to thank Dr. Ruth Simmons for her thoughtful responses to our questions, and for sharing her valuable time and expertise with us today.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 72 - 10:59:46 ]
We hope you can join us for our final Black History Month Chats with Oran Cox and Paul Langston from NASA Ames Research Center. The chat with Oran Cox is scheduled for Thursday, February 25 at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time. The chat with Paul Langston is also scheduled for Thursday, February 25 at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time. Check the Black History Month schedule page at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/ltc/special/mlk99 to learn more about this chat. Also check our schedule of events page at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/common/events to learn about other upcoming chats with NASA experts.


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