Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:
Welcome back to Bryn Mawr and to the opening of the 2010–2011 academic year. Throughout the year we will celebrate the College’s 125th anniversary, and the bold vision for women and the world that shapes our past, present and future. We will launch our campus anniversary celebration at a special fall convocation scheduled for today, Monday 30 August, at 4:30 p.m. in Goodhart Hall. I encourage you to arrive early to view a wonderful slideshow of 125 years of campus life created by Jen Rajchel ’11. Following convocation, I hope you will take part in a community picnic on Wyndham Green from 5:15 -7:30 p.m. featuring international food and music.
Students, faculty, and staff have created a rich and varied calendar of events to mark our 125th year. We look forward to visits by talented performers and writers, such as Jhumpa Lahiri and Meredith Monk; creating an anniversary mural in collaboration with the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program; a fabulous birthday party catered by “The Ace of Cakes”; awarding of the 2011 Katharine Hepburn Medal to Dr. Helene Gayle, CEO of CARE International; and “Heritage and Hope,” a major international conference on women’s education in a global context. The conference, scheduled for 23-25 September, provides an occasion for global advocacy for girls’ and women’s education and will bring together distinguished scholars, activists, and leaders of girls’ schools, women’s colleges, and NGOs.
As we begin the new year I also want to bring you up to date on a number of new opportunities for students and on initiatives that faculty and staff will be pursuing in 2010–2011.
Bern Schwartz Gymnasium Re-Opening
I am delighted to announce the re-opening of the Bern Schwartz Gymnasium on Tuesday, 7 September. The gym features a completely renovated pool, new locker rooms and coaches’ offices, the addition of natural light, and a spectacular new fitness center. The “new” Schwartz Gym will provide stronger support for our intercollegiate athletes and enhanced fitness and recreation for all students, faculty and staff. A final phase of improvements, now in the planning stages, will create a regulation turf field next to Schwartz. I am grateful to our students and coaches for their patience and flexibility during the renovation period, and to our Facilities staff for their excellent work in bringing this project to completion in such a compressed timeframe.
New Academic Opportunities and Initiatives
Across the curriculum students will find new half-credit, half-semester courses designed to create more opportunities to investigate unfamiliar areas. I especially encourage freshmen and sophomores to take advantage of this chance to experiment and to experience the breadth of our courses offerings.
This fall we are also launching an exciting new interdisciplinary component to the curriculum we’re calling 360° (earlier known as “Kaleidoscope”). A 360˚allows students to participate in a cluster of multiple courses that connect students and faculty in a single semester (or in some cases across semesters) to work on a focused topic or question. The 360° topic for fall 2010 is “Changing Education,” in which students will explore the historical relationship of educational access, institutional development and pedagogical innovation. In spring 2011, Professor Imke Meyer of the German Department and Professor Christiane Hertel of the History of Art Department will offer “Vienna 1900,” an integrated two-credit course that will include archival work, web-based projects and field study in Vienna over spring break.
Led by the Curriculum Committee, the faculty will continue work on proposals for a required senior capstone experience and for enhancing the global experience of all students, and will implement new undergraduate requirements passed in 2009–2010. Concurrently, the Committee on Academic Priorities will take on a special assignment to consider the appropriate size for the College’s faculty and the scope and nature of faculty workload as we look into the future. I am grateful to the faculty for their continuing hard work to reinvigorate our strong traditions of liberal arts education and faculty research.
To provide students with stronger skills to enter the workplace, the College is exploring career certificate programs in areas such as non-profit management, finance, and social entrepreneurship. We anticipate launching these programs in 2011, and will provide additional information as we move forward.
Improved Student Services
Graduate and undergraduate students will all begin to benefit from an innovative student services organization that we are launching this year. The new organization will allow all students campus-wide to: 1) draw on a fuller range of expert staff; 2) leverage technology for easier and quicker access to more and better information; and 3) take advantage of expanded service hours. Departments in our newly-organized Student Services group are Admissions, Student Financial Services (formerly Financial Aid and Student Accounts), the Registrar, and the Career Development Office. Throughout the implementation process staff will seek student input on the most effective ways to deliver critical information and will coordinate efforts with the Undergraduate and Graduate Deans.
The College will launch a faculty advising program this fall designed to complement advising provided by the Dean’s Office. This pilot will provide a group of first-year students with one-on-one faculty advising from the beginning of their college experience. Faculty advisors will help students think about their goals for a liberal arts education and to reflect more broadly about course choices in relationship to these goals. I extend warm thanks to the faculty members who have volunteered to take part in this pilot program.
Enhancing Campus Life
On July 1 we welcomed Michele Rasmussen as the new Dean of the Undergraduate College. Over the coming months Dean Rasmussen will begin conversations with students and staff about enhancing students’ campus experience. I look forward to reporting on the results of her new leadership.
In 2010–2011, the College’s Diversity Leadership Group and Diversity Council conducted a Campus Climate Assessment, which surveyed students, faculty, and staff to obtain a sense of our community’s lived experience of diversity. The results were shared through a faculty presentation and a student workshop led by Dr. Shaun Harper, a national expert on student engagement, and via the play Restless, written, directed and acted by students to communicate the survey’s key findings. This fall we will continue the exploration begun last spring, including campus conversations sponsored by the Office of Intercultural Affairs and a conversation with the College’s Board of Trustees.
New Uses of Technology in Teaching and Research
Katherine Rowe has taken on a new responsibility at the College, effective July 1. In addition to her current work as Chair of the English Department and Director of the Hepburn Center, Katherine will serve as the Director of Digital Research and Teaching, a role in which she will focus on coordinating efforts among faculty, librarians, and IS; identifying opportunities for Tri-Co and national collaboration; and seeking funding to support faculty scholarship and classroom innovation in the digital humanities. Please welcome Katherine to this new position.
Members of the Sociology, Psychology and Chemistry departments will pilot the use of on-line learning modules to supplement course instruction. In courses using statistical or computational work, students will have the opportunity to practice new concepts using technologically "smart" teaching tools. These modules review concepts, engage students in practice activities, and provide both the student and the faculty member with immediate and ongoing feedback about students' strengths and weaknesses. This information allows the faculty members to be more efficient and effective with their class time. Results of the pilot will be shared with other members of the faculty and with other liberal arts colleges who are experimenting with this approach.
Professor Elliott Shore will be working with NITLE to pilot a new telepresence technology in his class on the history of Bryn Mawr intended to engage alumnae in the work of this course. Student members of his class, which is part of this fall’s 360°, will also use a new mobile camera technology to interview participants in the women’s education conference and community members working on the 125th anniversary mural project.
Provost Kim Cassidy will be joined by a small group of Bryn Mawr and Haverford faculty who have been invited to visit Singapore’s highly regarded Nanyang Technical University to consult on NTU’s liberal arts curriculum.
In January, a gift from an alumna will make it possible for a small delegation of student and faculty to join me at a conference hosted by the Asian University for Women in Bangladesh. I hope that each of these trips will contribute to our efforts to establish priorities for future global partnerships.
Continued Work to Align Resources and Priorities
Throughout the campus community we have worked hard to meet the challenges of providing a world-class education while spending less. We are proud of our work to date. In fact, a recent article in Forbes found that Bryn Mawr is one of only four colleges or universities nationwide to receive an upgrade in its bond rating this year, a key measure of the College’s financial strength.
Nonetheless, our work is not done. Clearly the economy will not return to the pre-recession status quo in the near future. We must therefore continue to examine ways in which we can align scarce resources with our highest priorities: supporting students and faculty, and promoting innovation. Over the summer Chief Administrative Officer Jerry Berenson and Chief Financial Officer John Griffith continued with the ongoing analysis of the College’s budget and they anticipate making new recommendations regarding the strategic allocation of resources to me later this fall.
I look forward to seeing all of you at convocation and community picnic. I hope 2010–2011 will be an exciting and interesting year for each of you and for the College as we celebrate this important anniversary in the College’s history.