Carrie Lee Lancaster ’19: Education as Evolution


Lancaster came to Smith from rural York, S.C., knowing she wanted to play basketball at a women’s college. Although a series of injuries changed Lancaster’s sports trajectory, the government major looks back on her four years at the college as a time for transformative courses, mind-bending research collaborations, and traveling the world.

A STRIDE scholarship allowed her to research language acquisition and cultural interchange with Spanish professor Nancy Sternbach, and then to work with Prof. Carrie Baker on an analysis of media coverage of child sex trafficking.

In her second year, Lancaster took “Gender, Law and Policy” with Baker, “and I woke up every morning being so excited to go to class!”

In Baker’s reproductive justice course, Lancaster met leading activist Loretta Ross, who became an inspiration and a mentor.

“She helped me see that the discourse around reproductive rights excludes marginalized voices,” Lancaster notes. “Smith has helped me understand the complexities of whatever this [body] is, and I have really loved that.”

Lancaster has taken her studies off campus, traveling to India for an Interterm course on Tibetan studies (“We got to meet the Dalai Lama!”), Argentina (for a program on human rights and social movements), Spain (to study Islamic history and culture in Granada), and Geneva, Switzerland, for the college’s joint B.A. and M.A. program. In all cases, her time in a new culture opened her eyes to issues she hadn’t considered before and allowed her to make connections among experiences and ideas.

“My first two months in a new place are always the hardest,” Lancaster says, “and then I just don’t want to leave.”

Looking forward, Lancaster will spend the summer working on campus, then return to Geneva to finish her master’s degree. She’s excited about her thesis on African American feminist activism at the United Nations — a project inspired by her Smith meeting with Loretta Ross.

And then? “There are so many things I want to do in life! I thought I’d be a lawyer — but I might want to work in the non-profit sector, and maybe I’ll earn a Ph.D.”

Ultimately, Lancaster is interested in understanding how individuals can make change in society. “As a collective, we can create change,” she says. “And as individuals, too.

“At Smith,” she adds, “I feel like we’re being educated to live in community — and also to really find what we believe in, to really figure ourselves out.”

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