Our Story

SMASH was one of the earliest STEM education programs created in the United States as a way to prepare students of color for STEM college studies. The very first SMASH site program launched on the University of California, Berkeley campus in 2004, but it follows a decades long legacy of diversity and inclusion advocacy by our founder, Dr. Freada Kapor Klein.

2001 | A New Approach: LPFI

In 2001, Dr. Kapor Klein founded the non-profit, Level Playing Field Institute (LPFI). Frustrated by the inability of the for-profit world to foster diversity and having already spent nearly three decades consulting to organizations on issues of discrimination and diversity, Dr. Kapor Klein aimed to tackle the problem from a different vantage point. She created a non-profit institute to rigorously and creatively address why diversity efforts had failed and more significantly, to examine and implement programs to understand and experience how diversity could succeed.

2002 | Broadening the Vision: IDEAL

Over time, the plight of underrepresented students of color in higher education became a greater priority and fueled the creation of new educational programs. The first of these, the Initiative for Diversity Education and Leadership, IDEAL, was founded in response to the passage of Prop 209 during her tenure on the Executive Board of the College of Letters and Science at UC Berkeley with three of her colleagues.
Between 2002-2012, the IDEAL program helped students navigate and graduate from higher education systems by providing students with scholarships and mentorship.
 

2004 | Developing a Pipeline of Young Scholars: SMASH

Recognizing the need for a pipeline of highly qualified Bay Area students who are prepared for college, LPFI started assessing the opportunities that students from well-resourced schools have; it then sought to close the gap as much as possible for Bay Area students of color without those resources.
In response, SMASH was founded in 2004 under the name the Summer Math and Science Honors (SMASH) Academy. It was inspired by and loosely modeled after Phillips Academy Andover’s Math and Science for Minority Students [(MS)2]. The SMASH Academy launched a residential summer program in 2004 at UC Berkeley, and in 2006, expanded to include year-round academic programming, based on student requests.
Extensive research showed that the SMASH model worked! Soon after, the national SMASH expansion began. In 2018, SMASH will be at 7 university campuses nationwide and is launching new initiatives to serve SMASH Academy alumni and scale its impact.

2018 | SMASH Today

In honor of the program’s legacy, the Level Playing Field Institute permanently rebranded as SMASH and is recognized as the primary STEM Education initiative of the Kapor Center.
SMASH is on track to serve 1000+ scholars and alumni across the nation yearly through its signature SMASH Academy and new innovative programming that has developed over the years.