Emma White ’01 of Michigan (District 6 West) at the Pueblo Blanco excavation site.


$2,000 project stipends challenge sophomores to take their education into the world.

While Mawrters are adept at learning new systems, some have voiced frustration over changes in the meaning of an "Alumnae Regional Scholar."

An Alumnae Regional Scholar no longer necessarily denotes a student on financial aid, but one who has been awarded a stipend for an independent study project by alumnae from her district. What has not changed is that all of the money contributed to the Regional Scholarship Fund is still used for need-based financial aid.

Under a revision of the ARS program that took effect in 1989, $1,000 stipends were awarded by districts to selected freshmen for enriching projects. The stipends were intended to enhance the attractiveness of admission to Bryn Mawr, but follow-up studies showed that they did not act as effective draws. Led by Marianne Pantano Rutter ’74, a past representative to the Executive Board for Admissions and Regional Scholars, a task force conducted focus groups, surveys and interviews. The resulting program, launched in 1998, increased the stipend to $2,000 and separated fund-raising and financial support from the selection of Scholars. Instead of selecting Scholars on the basis of their applications for admission to Bryn Mawr, ARS committees now make their choices on the merits of proposals which may be submitted by any sophomore in their districts.

The money for the stipends, which may be used any time before the beginning of the senior year, comes from the interest earned by Regional Scholarship Funds between the time the money is sent to the College and the time it pays the fees for financial aid students. Additional money comes from the Alumnae Association’s budget. "Our goal is to build a fund-raising base large enough that all ARS Awards come solely from interest earned," says Mary Berg Hollinshead ’69, Ph.D. ’79, representative to the Executive Board for Admissions and Regional Scholars.

Alumnae have asked, "Why spend money on projects when the $2,000 awards could be added to financial aid funds?" "Externships, internships and summer programs are becoming an important part of the college experience and help students take their education into the world," says Hollinshead. "For alumnae, selecting scholars is fun, a reward for hard work in bookstores and on benefits and mailings. Through the $2,000 awards, students are challenged, alumnae are rewarded, and both get to know one another."

Sophomores targeted
Hollinshead explains that the new program targets sophomore, because for many, "this is a difficult stage between the novelty of the first year and the choosing of a major and finding a departmental home."

Sara Macro Forrest ’92, Associate Director of the Alumnae Association, publicizes the program on campus and encourages applicants. (The program also is explained on our website.) In the fall, she runs a workshop to help students with practical issues in planning and writing proposals. Every student who applies to be an Alumnae Regional Scholar, whether she is chosen or not, thus has an opportunity to learn how to apply for grants. Students must also recruit faculty or other sponsors to write letters of support and to oversee the project. "These are the skills that are really valuable for the students," says Maria Rudolph ’81, ARS chair for District 9. Applications, submitted to the Alumnae Office by February 1, are forwarded to the ARS Committee in each district. These regional committees meet in person, by telephone, or in cyberspace to select the Scholars(s) for their districts. Each district is entitled to choose one Scholar. Districts that raise $30,000 annually are entitled to two Scholars and those that raise more than $80,000 may select three. This year, District 7 qualified for two Scholars; District 1 qualified for three; and District 2, which includes New York, Princeton and southern Connecticut, qualified for 5. Once they have chosen their Scholars, ARScommittees recruit alumnae mentors in their respective districts, not as supervisors, but, according to District 1 ARS Chair, Ann Levy Lathrop ’61, as "helpful hovering owls" who provide wise counsel and may be able to connect students with professional networks.

Class Notes Syndrome
As the new program enters its second year, staff and volunteers are identifying areas that need improvement or more attention. "Every day is a new day," says Hannah Kaufmann Moses ’46, ARS Chair for District 2. Early indications of "Class Notes Syndrome" have been observed at the grant writing workshops. "The 30 or so students in the room assume that the others are brilliant, and they have no chance," says Hollinshead. "We are rowing upstream here."

ARSvolunteers want students who are not chosen for the award to receive feedback on their proposals and any further connections that can be provided. "As a Bryn Mawr alumna, I feel an obligation to help any student who asks for it," says Rudolph.

Volunteers also are concerned that students on financial aid may not be able to participate in the program unless their projects entail little or no cost so that the stipend itself can be used as earnings for tuition. The possibility of increasing the stipend for those students is under discussion.

A passion for dirt
Highlighted here are projects that have been completed under the new program.

Kathryn Lafrenz ’01 (District 8), who used her grant to work at the Athienou Archaeological Project in Cyprus last summer, spent the fall semester in Israel and plans to earn a Ph.D. in archaeology. She wrote in her proposal of discovering her passion for dirt and fieldwork as a high school student in Arizona: "While working in my trench, I breathed dirt, tasted dirt on my chapped lips, and wore a cloak of dirt on my skin. The cadence of individuals and rhythm of generations were the threads of this mantle, and all I could smell and taste was history." Lafrenz had already worked at Athienou in the summer of 1998 and says that returning as a staff member instead of a student made her time there a completely different experience: "I gained confidence in my abilities as a student of archaeology by teaching others what I knew from my classes at Bryn Mawr and field experience in Arizona and Cyprus."

Emma White ’01 of Michigan (District 6 West) began her archeological training in the field school run by Arizona State University at Pueblo Blanco in central New Mexico, a previously unexcavated village that had been inhabited from approximately 1300 A.D. until the late 17th century. "We dug in trash middens to answer research questions about Pueblo Blanco’s relationship to three nearby pueblos and about their connections to the outside world, including Plains groups," wrote White, now studying in China.

Kristin Henry ’01 of New Hampshire (District 1)spent two months between a summer term in Florence and her current junior year abroad in Aberdeen visiting museums in Europe. "My goals were to make the proverbial student’s pilgrimage to the shrines of art history," Henry said, "and secondly, to figure out where and how my relationship with Christ intersects with my relationships with people and art, and what it might mean for me to be simultaneously a missionary and art historian.

"While, in the end, I did have a fantastic opportunity finally to examine in person the images which have long confronted me from book pages and slide projectors, my goals shifted a bit as I realized that museum-goers are as fascinating objects of observation as the art (or is it something more profound?) they are seeking, and that I am a subject for some scrutiny myself."

Henry’s faculty mentor was Steven Levine, Leslie Clarke Professor in the Humanities and Professor of History of Art; she also had a model experience with her alumnae advisors, both museum professionals and art historians. Henry’s ARS committee referred her to Judith Hoos Fox ’71, in her own district, and then Candace Adelson ’71.

"Both Judith and Candace were wonderful counselors in weekly (sometimes daily) communication with me as I prepared to leave the States," Henry said, "and Candace has been an amazing support, advisor, encourager and sounding board as we e-mailed regularly throughout my travels and I updated her on where I was, what I saw, and just what I was thinking about any and everything to do with eclipses, art, and ‘Spectatorship.’ She’s fabulous!"

Henry had originally planned to present her journal writings with a collection of photographs and slides. "Instead, I’ll be adding thoughts on photo-tourism and why I couldn’t bring myself to do it," she says. "The wonderful truth I’ve discovered about travel is that failure as a "tourist" (ie: missing more than one of those must-see sights, lingering for more than a few hours in any given place, and coming home without a complete collection of here-I-am-in-front-of-X photos) makes for the most successful of trips!"

Scholarships, Alumnae and Regions

Since the early 1920s, alumnae across the country have raised scholarship funds, now around $300,000 annually. Most of the money in recent years has come from shops in the Northeast that sell used books. An annual letter of appeal is sent out by many districts. Additional funds come from annual book sales, Bed and Breakfast services, product marketing, and special benefit events.

The ARS program has evolved over time to meet new circumstances while keeping its focus on Scholarships, Alumnae and Regions. Alumnae have treasured close ties with financial aid recipients from their districts and proudly kept track of "their" students’ doings, even years after they graduated. From teas, held decades ago, at which alumnae quietly screened candidates for financial aid to selecting Scholars in parallel with the Admissions process, to the newest program targeted at sophomores, alumnae have always wielded substantial influence in selecting Scholars. Such decentralized responsibility is rare and presented some problems in the past. ARScommittees in each district reviewed some information from the applications of qualifying potential freshmen from their region, but sometimes the top-ranked applicants did not choose to come to BMC, which was disappointing for the committee. The financial aid scenario also has changed drastically nationwide. Today, the College awards need-based scholarship packages of grants, loans and on-campus work study according to a uniform policy.

The personalities of trains

April Terrell ’01 of Indiana (District 7) studied the sense of community that develops on long journeys by rail. She traveled on a variety of trains, making a circuit around the United States and to Canada. "I want to learn some of the untold personal stories that lie in the scenery and perhaps make some of my own," she wrote in her proposal.

"Every train had its own ‘personality,’ if you will," Terrell says. "Canadian trains formed more sociable communities. Since there weren’t many creature comforts in coach, these trains had more adventurous, backpacking types of passengers. Amtrak catered more to families and retired folk—especially on the West coast. Many movies were shown on Amtrak trains. People were entertained by that and didn’t talk much to other passengers. People were also so distracted by the movies shown that they didn’t pay attention to the absolutely gorgeous scenery we were passing."

Terrell’s first interview was with an elderly woman on the way from Chicago to Toronto. "She suggested a quick and cheap way of exploring a city. She gets on a bus and rides the route completely around the city. I ended up doing that in Winnipeg. For 25 cents, I was able to ride a shuttle all throughout the downtown area. It gave me a good sense of the layout of the place."

The following entries are excerpted from Terrell’s journals:

May 22, 1999; 4:00 a.m., between Winnipeg and Saskatoon
" ‘Guitar guy,’ who has frizzy red hair, is coming back from teaching English in Quebec to little kids. He is going up north to some tiny town in Saskatchewan where his grandparents are celebrating their 50th anniversary. It’s supposedly going to be some big shindig. He invited us all to go. I wish I could, but I have a tight schedule. It would be fun, though. The geo-morphology major from Toronto is seriously considering going. …It’s such a wonderful random thing—we’ve known each other for only a few hours, yet we’re ready to go off on some adventure and party in some population-500 town."

May 23, 1999; morning, Canadian Rockies
"I should have taken a picture of my hands. They had red and blue pen all over them. Two little girls, Alisha and Sarah, ages 9 and 10, drew smiley faces, cats, dogs, pine trees, hearts, mice, and trains on my hands. I met them up in the dome car. They were a part of the Girl Guide group going to Jasper for a weekend of camping.…We talked about our pets and how siblings can be a pain to live with. We got to the subject of doodling. Alisha was an expert. ‘In my many years of doodling,’ she started one sentence. She had invented many original doodles, such as a cookie kitty and a cookie person. I have no idea how they got these names. Sarah demonstrated to me the "This is his costume party!" doodle. You write T-H-I-S, one letter on each finger. From there you can spell this, is, and his by moving fingers. When you come to costume party!, you open your hand to reveal, in this case, a cat with a birthday party hat on his head....I’ll have to teach it to Emily, my much younger sister."

Java postponement a bonus

Anneliese Butler '01 of Virginia (District 4) had planned to accompany assistant professor of anthropology Steve Ferzacca and his wife, Janice Newberry, also an anthropologist, to Yogyakarta, Java as a research assistant. When Butler decided to delay her trip and do more preparation for fieldwork, Ferzacca and Newberry directed her to the South East Asian Studies Summer Institute (SEASSI), an intensive training program for languages unavailable at most universities that is geared towards both students (mainly graduate) and professionals with a special interest in that part of the world. The language classes were complemented by area-studies mini-courses (for example, Postcolonial Art in Southeast Asia, Gender and Sexuality in Southeast Asian Societies: Lessons Learned From the Margins) taught by outside experts. Last summer, the program was hosted The University of Oregon in Eugene. "I fell head-over-heels in love with Oregon—one of the most striking differences is the sheer amount of open, undeveloped space compared to the East," Butler said. "Since U/Oregon’s Summer Session was in full swing, I also got to see up close what life at a large university might be like without giving up the benefits of small classes and close teacher-student relationships." Butler was delighted to find that Indonesian came to her easily. She still hopes to study in Java this spring and meet up with her professors in Yogyakarta. "It’s a very exciting time in Indonesian history with the possibility of democracy and an end to decades of corruption and tyranny—a very insecure time, as well. I do not regret having had to postpone and adjust my original project. This summer has been one of the best I’ve known, and I feel both intellectually and psychically better prepared for what I hope lies ahead."

cover icon Return to Spring 2000 highlights