Student-Run Initiative for Spontaneous Fun Brings Smiles, Flash Mobs to Campus

May 13, 2014
close-up of many multicolored playground balls on the grass

An initiative called Wellesley SMILES, new to campus this year, seeks to create “pop-up” moments of fun and spontaneity in student lives. Wellesley SMILES was recently featured this spring in USA TODAY’s college section, as an example of “random acts of kindness” movements across the country.

“We reached out to Dean [Deb] DeMeis in April of last year, right around when everyone starts to get kind of down and the weather isn't helping,” says Hannah Ruebeck ’16, who founded the initiative with Anne Dickinson Meltz ’16. “In our first year here, both of us had recognized a culture of ‘busyness’ on campus that seemed to be getting in the way of some student connection and community building. We had a ton of ideas, and Dean DeMeis liked this idea of ‘pop-up events,’ which eventually became SMILES (spontaneous moments in the lives of everyday students).”

Partnering with the Office of the Dean of Students, Ruebeck, Meltz, and their team of enthusiastic students have dedicated themselves to creating moments of fun that are grounded in core values of community, spontaneity, and the contagious nature of happiness. Ruebeck has enjoyed each spontaneous moment as it has happened. “Some of the best have been the ‘Happy Chalk’ in the Academic Quad, the balloons in the dining halls, and the balls we just put out on Sev Green [pictured],” she says. Other events have included a choir flash mob and a pick-up dodgeball game with Tau Zeta Epsilon. Together, these moments “all bring students together and really embody the ‘light-hearted events with long-term effects’ goal of the program.”

“In other words,” said Meltz, “ maybe someone will pause during their busy day to go out on Sev Green and kick a ball around for a little bit. That will put them in a slightly better mood, which might make someone else a little bit happier. It's the butterfly effect through a lens of happiness. Positive energies are contagious and we hope to spread positivity through our events, and hopefully brighten up someone's day.”

And as they told USA TODAY, the group’s physical tokens—and Wellesley students’ smiles—are the best form of publicity.

Find out more about Wellesley SMILES on their Facebook page, and check out the Student Life-sponsored “Take a Break” calendar for finals period.