Nearly 500 alumnae from 14 undergraduate classes and the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research got views of Bryn Mawr's roots and canopy—its historic treasures and goals for the future. Two special presentations from the Asch Center and the Global Children's Fund addressed at the challenges of working through identity-based conflicts towards peace.
The cathedral-like "upside-down tree" (weeping beech) and "purple tree" (copper beech) above the hockey field, the giant weeping hemlock behind Rockefeller, the "puffy" (Kwanzan) and weeping (Higan) cherries. Many of us spent hours in or under favorite trees in our years at the College. Alumnae rediscovered these treasures during a campus tour of historic and unusual species led by Assistant Director for Grounds Ed Harman.
Bryn Mawr's 135-acre campus is an arboretum with more than 75 varieties of trees, including six Pennsylvania state champions. (Points are accumulated through circumference, height and crown spread for each species.) Harman explained the latest thinking on keeping trees healthy—painting a wound will not allow the tree to heal naturally and "mulch volcanoes" kill. His answers to questions included these tidbits: species on campus are replaced when they must be removed because of disease, but foreign specimens remain a distinctive part of the landscape; one of the oldest trees is the massive Mazzard cherry above Rhoads' dumpsters; Bryn Mawr has only male ginkos and Haverford has females; an initial landscape design by Calvert Vaux was incorporated by Frederick Law Olmsted into one that was generally followed for a few decades, but has given way to newer plans; a pinetum, or collection of conifers, is being developed between Erdman and the Infirmary.
At the cultural end of Bryn Mawr's treasures' spectrum, Special Collections Librarian Marianne Hansen showed alumnae some of the materials used by students in a course created to document a study of the College's history. Scrapbooks, diaries, and letters home written by some of Bryn Mawr's earliest graduates are also on display in the current exhibition curated by Hansen of serial fiction about college girls from the turn of the last century. The session in the Rare Book Room was one of several pre-Reunion small classes led in a hands-on setting that allowed alumnae/i to explore the wealth of opportunities for learning on Bryn Mawr's campus and in the surrounding communities.
"Our Collections are a national treasure," said Eric Pumroy, director of library collections and Seymour Adelman Head of Special Collections. "We will be looking at some of the rare books and cultural resources that the College has acquired over the years and which will be part of an exhibition for our 125th anniversary.
"Bryn Mawr is extraordinary in terms of the rich materials students can use for research, even as freshmen and sophomores. In the history course, taught by Elliott Shore [chief information officer, Constance A. Jones Director of Libraries, and professor of history], each student was assigned a set of early 20th-century letters home or a diary. They were reading about what it was like to try to adjust to college life, or fights with roommates or problems at home. It was amazing how many of them said, 'I understand this!' 90 years later."
Hansen read from several documents that she would like to see studied in depth. An eight-page letter written by M. Carey Thomas to James Rhoads from Paris in August 1882 puts herself forward as a candidate for Bryn Mawr's first president and describes a clear vision for the College that became a reality. In letters to a classmate who had left, Marianne Moore 1908 tells of her struggles to express herself and how, in her senior year, Thomas praised two of her poems from the April Tipyn o' Bob in Chapel and read aloud "To My Cupbearer." "We know what Moore wrote for the literary magazines, but nobody's really looked at it carefully," said Hansen. "That's about to change. Next year a senior English major will write her thesis on Moore's work in the College magazines and how it corresponds to or differs from the rest of the material." A four-volume diary kept by Thomas' niece, Mary Whitall Worthington, Class of 1910, from the spring of her freshman year until her death while at Johns Hopkins medical school documents an enormous quantity of activities and events, in one entry alone a hockey game victory, dinner at the Deanery and gossip about prominent suffragists, and a dance. "I'd like to see these volumes scanned and transcribed," said Hansen.
Marybeth Matlack '10, a senior medieval studies major and Angelique Wille, a graduate student in the history of art, also talked about illustrated works from the rare book collections.
Other Rediscovered Treasure programs included trips to the Barnes Foundation and the Cezanne exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Wharton Esherick Valley Forge House and buildings by his good friend Louis Kahn, including Esherick's studio and Bryn Mawr's Erdman Hall; and a behind the scenes tour of by Hepburn Fellow Amy Murphy of Philadelphia's Arden Theatre, of which she is managering director and one of three founders.
In a June 8 personal commentary for The Women's Media Center on President Obama's June 4 address at Cairo University, Shazia Z. Rafi '79 recalls traveling on the Paoli Local back to Bryn Mawr for her 30th Reunion and what has happened in the Middle East since she and three classmates graduated. "Our little group from the Middle East and West Asia, Nayla from Lebanon, Nassrin from Iran, Mai from Saudi Arabia and myself from Pakistan, had seen three decades of turbulence, war, dislocation and terrorism, with our lives turned upside down. . . . All four of us have fled to distant shores and live the émigré existence—one eye on news channels from home and one on the clock." (Rafi's article may be read at www.womensmediacenter.com/ex/060809.html). Two Reunion presentations also addressed the challenges of working through identity-based conflicts towards peace.
Asch Center delves into global ethnic conflicts
Alumnae were introduced to the Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict at Reunion on Saturday morning. Professors Rick McCauley and Marc Ross—co-directors of the Center—described what ethnic conflict is, the goals of the Center, and their particular fields of research. "The importance of the Asch Center," said social psychologist McCauley, "is that we live in a day of globalization, and most people agree that ethnopolitical conflict is perhaps the major political problem in the 21st century." McCauley, who is the Rachel C. Hale Professor of the Sciences and Mathematics, and a lead investigator of the National Consortium for Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, said, "We aim to create a new interdisciplinary subculture of people interested in a holistic view of ethnic conflict."
This interdisciplinary, holistic view involves "analyzing the origins and escalations of ethnic conflict; peace building; and ameliorating the effects of ethnic conflict, especially for the tens of millions of refugees and displaced persons," said McCauley. An example of the kind of work the Center has done has been the examination and evaluation of the disinterment of the disappeared in places like Argentina.
"When you think about it," said McCauley, "it is not at all obvious that having people see the remains of their loved ones, and having forensic people tell them all the details of how they died and of what injury—that that's a positive experience for the survivors." As well, Center researchers have evaluated stereotype reduction workshops in South America, asking if the workshops do any good, and what impact they actually have.
Ross, who is the William Rand Kenan, Jr., Professor in Political Science, identified the kinds of ethnic conflicts that can occur. "Political scientists think about two very broad categories for these kinds of conflicts," said Ross. "One is called interest-based conflicts: real people fighting about real things—oil, territory, offices, defense contracts. The other is identity-based conflicts: people are fighting about honor and recognition, personhood, grouphood."
To study the latter, Ross focuses on group narratives, collective memories, cultural expressions and enactments, and visual culture and symbolic landscapes, "asking who controls what's visible and what's prominent in society." He told reuners the story of District Six, in Cape Town, South Africa. It was declared an all-Whites area in the 1960s and more than 60,000 residents were forcibly removed. Over a period of years it was demolished and never rebuilt.
In 1994, the District Six Museum opened. "It's about what happened to ordinary people at the time and it's just a very moving exhibit in this church," said Ross. "It was supposed to stay open for a couple of weeks, and it never closed. They put a huge canvas on the floor and drew a map of the neighborhood (see photo on page 17). They asked people who visited to write down the names of shops or places where they had lived. The canvas is full."
There is also a memory cloth; people are invited to write down their memories of life in the disappeared District Six neighborhood. "When I was there it was almost a mile long," said Ross. "While it can seem like voyeurism, the way the museum is laid out and the way everything is presented, we felt more like witnesses. These people want to tell their stories.
"These kinds of representations have made the past more visible and have produced, at least for this community, a certain amount of healing."
On campus to celebrate her 20th Reunion, founder and president of the Global Fund for Children, Hepburn Center Fellow Maja Ajmera '89 presented a screening of War Child, a feature documentary film supported by GCF. C. Karim Chrobog's directorial debut follows the life of Emmanuel Jal, a former child solider in Sudan's civil war. Today, Jal is an emerging international hip hop star with a message of peace ("gua") for his war-torn land. At the age of 7, he was one of 10,000 children conscripted on both sides of the two-decade long conflict in southern Sudan. His life has been fraught with challenges and heartaches, and his story is one of triumph and survival. The film includes remarkable footage taken of Jal in a refugee camp. Even at the age of 7, his charisma was so evident that National Geographic focused its 1980's reportage on him as spokesperson for the children.
Ajmera founded GFC a few years after she saw the train platform school in Bhubaneshwar, India, where 40 children were receiving food, clothing, and instruction in reading and writing for only $300 a year. This program inspired her to "put small amounts of money into innovative grassroots groups serving the most vulnerable children around the world." After obtaining a master's degree in public policy at Duke, Ajmera started GFC. Ajmera's first project was supporting Bhubaneswar's Train Platform School, which she did with profits from Children from Australia to Zimbabwe: A Photographic Journey Around the World. Since 1994, GFC has disbursed nearly $15 million in 69 countries to more than 350 non-governmental organizations over the world, serving more than one million children. GFC has published 25 books and resource guides for young readers, sponsored two other films (Journey of a Red Fridge and Going to School in India), and collaborated with the International Center of Photography (ICP) in sending photographers to developing countries to capture positive images of children.
State of the College
President of the College Jane McAuliffe brought alumnae/i up to date on what's been going on at the College this year and as the community looks to the future.
McAuliffe said she had been excited to arrive at Bryn Mawr just as faculty were gearing up for the first comprehensive review of the curriculum since the 1980s. "Faculty have been thinking, probing, reading, and arguing about what a liberal arts education for the 21st century should be, and then breaking into subgroups to address particular issues," she said. "How do we effectively graduate students who can write? How do we make language learning a ticket to cultural fluency? How do we lay the foundation for a lifetime of learning, through our distribution requirements, by ensuring that students have exposure to all of the major areas of human inquiry? How do we educate our students for a global world? All of our graduates, I'm convinced, are going to be in many ways boundaryless, borderless, moving around the world. We want to make sure they are equipped to do that in a way that lets them lead, both domestically and internationally. So there have been lots of great conversations this year, and it's been fun to participate in as many of them as I can.
"We've had an extraordinary admissions year, with the largest number of applications in the history of the College, up six percent from last year," she said. "This was during a period when a number of very prominent liberal arts colleges saw a decline in applications because the economy is having an effect on the ability of families to anticipate an education of the kind that Bryn Mawr can offer. The class currently comprises 370 students from 35 states; the greatest number from New Jersey, then California and Pennsylvania. Fifteen percent are international, the highest we've ever had, from 27 countries with the largest proportions from China and India; 37 percent are U.S. women of color, with a big jump in the number of Hispanic/Latina students, at 8 percent. Almost 20 percent of the class will be the first in their families to go to college. The academic quality of this class is as high as you could possibly want. On the challenging side is that this class exhibits far greater financial need than our previous classes. We will need to dig deep into our budget in order to fund the opportunity that we are able to offer to these talented young women, who could not otherwise afford to attend Bryn Mawr."
"I do want to end with a word of profound thanks to all of you for your continuing support of the College. It means absolutely everything to the institution, and you're wonderful to do it."
The speech for the 50th Reuning Class given at the Annual Meeting by Bette Haney Duff '59 was one of the most creative of the last 20 years. It was one side of a cell phone conversation:
Excuse me. . .one minute, I have a phone call.. . .Hey Phoebe. . .old Phebes! Good to hear from you. . .but where are you? We're all here. . .it's our 50th reunion, the big 5-0. Why aren't you here?. . .You're busy? A new husband! Hey that's great!. . .I know, I know, all the experts say we should stay active.. . .Well, I remember Phoebe, you were always active! How could I forget?. . . Speaking of active, we've got a great group here for the reunion. But you know how it is Phoebe, when we look at each other we don't see 70-year-old women, we see the beautiful, bewitching 18 year olds we once were.. . .What's that Phoebe? You're still bewitching! Of course, of course, how could I forget?. . .
You want to know what the College is like these days. Well, there have been some changes here Phoebe. You don't have to wear skirts to class and dinner. No more rolling up your jeans under your skirt.. . .And then of course with cell phones, there is a phone for every ear. Remember when we lived in Denbigh? There were 68 of us in the dorm and one telephone! It's a miracle we ever had a date!. . .You never had any trouble getting dates! Of course not Phoebe, how could I forget?. . .
But you know, while many things have changed, some things remain the same. The campus is as beautiful as ever. And having heard the administrators and faculty speak, I can tell they really care about the students' well being. Remember how our professors were not only exceptional scholars, but they also really cheered us on to do well. They cared if we were having any academic problems.. . .What's that Phoebe? You never had any academic problems?. . .Of course not. Sorry, how could I forget?. . .
Well, you may not have had any problems, but I certainly had a few academic snags along the way. I remember in particular Organic Chemistry. Frank Mallory was so patient in showing me how to organize and understand the material. He is still teaching today, and I'm sure the students still appreciate his caring.. . .Even the President, Miss McBride, was supportive. I remember our freshman year she announced that if she had been unable to meet our parents the day they brought us to College, we should bring them to meet her on their very first visit. So, when my mother and grandmother came to visit, I called Miss McBride and said that they had been unable to come with me that first day. She said to bring them to her home that Sunday afternoon. So we went and had a lovely visit. Although I don't think that I said a word. . . .I know, I know, Phoebe, that doesn't sound like me, but I was in awe of Miss McBride. . . .
Anyway, as we were getting ready to leave, I didn't notice that my grandmother was having trouble getting her coat on. Before I knew it, Miss McBride had hurried across the room saying, 'Here, let me help you with that.' And that image of her noticing and helping my grandmother has stayed with me all these years. And you know Phoebe, as I read our class biographies in our Memory Book, it struck me that over the last 50 years, that is exactly what all of us have been trying to do, 'help people on with their coats.' Some of us in very spectacular ways, others of us in less spectacular but no less important ways. I think that the Bryn Mawr message of helping and caring must have stuck with us.. . . But listen, Phoebe, I've got to go. Cathya Wing Stephenson is about to announce the class gift.. . .She called you? Of course she called you. She called everyone. Cathya has been on the phone for the last two years. So did you send in some money?. . .You told her that your new husband was very expensive.. . .Well, I'm sure she understood if you told her that economic times were tight right now.. . .She told you what? She suggested that you mortgage your home? Come on Phoebe, she never said that. I know she would never say that. You're exaggerating! Admit it, you're exaggerating!. . .I thought so. You know, we're lucky that she agreed to be Class Gift Chair. She has deep respect for the College. Her mother graduated from Bryn Mawr as did her daughter. She and a colleague founded the International School in Washington. Believe me, she has helped many people on with their coats during her life.. . .
Hey listen Phebes, you come back to the next reunion, and bring that new husband with you. We will welcome him with open arms!. . .That's what you're afraid of.. . .Ah Phoebe, it's never dull talking to you. Take care now, take care.
On May 29, at a dessert reception following the Reunion weekend welcoming dinner, four Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research alumnae/i were honored with our second annual leadership awards. Two alumnae received Emerging Leadership Awards. Sarah Hollister, M.S.S., M.L.S.P. '07, is a policy analyst at the Pennsylvania Department of Education who was selected to participate in the Pennsylvania Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP), a professional development program for individuals whose work record reflects strong leadership abilities and a concern for issues important to children and education. Raheemah Shamsid-Deem Hampton, M.S.S. '02, has worked as a supervisor in court services as well as a special projects manager in the commission's office of the Department of Human Services, and was most recently appointed director of children and youth at the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare's Office of Children, Youth, and Families, responsible for Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties. John Loeb, M.S.S. '69, who received the Exceptional Leadership Award, has served as senior vice president at Public Health Management Corporation for more than 35 years and has been a guiding force in that agency's growth from a small, experimental, federally-funded program to one of the largest and most successful public health institutes in the nation. He is also a member of the School's Board of Advisors, where he is so respected by his colleagues in that group that they selected him to be their representative on the search committee for our new dean, Darlyne Bailey. Bertha Waters, M.S.S. '79, the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award, spent much of her professional career at the Pennsylvania Department of Education as the equity coordinator, and has for decades participated in community advocacy initiatives and been a pioneer in the fight for economic and social justice and social change, committing both words and actions to civil rights and anti-war movements, and being a very early supporter of gay and lesbian rights in Philadelphia at a time when few others were willing to address that issue.
Reunion panel focuses on learning differently
As part of Reunion 2009, the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research presented a panel discussion that focused on the effects of learning differences and disabilities on children and their parents. There are enormous risks and consequences associated with poorly understood and improperly diagnosed learning disabilities. Many children with learning differences have disturbing and painful educational histories and often have come to distrust and perhaps even hate school. Their schools, peers, and even their parents may have labeled them as lazy, class clowns, or, most troubling of all, stupid. The classrooms they inhabit often are unable to break rigid boundaries in order to hear their unique voices. Working with students with learning disabilities involves not only navigating their different learning styles but also becoming aware of emotional and behavioral overlays.
Associate Professor Janet Shapiro, who directs the School's Center for Child and Family Wellbeing, facilitated the panel of GSSWSR alumnae/i and noted that in recent years, many researchers have described the connection between a range of learning disabilities and the social and emotional development of children and adolescents, highlighting the effects that go well beyond the spheres of cognitive functioning and educational attainment.
Research on learning differences and disabilities describes ways in which specific types of learning differences affect multiple domains of functioning. In addition to the more cognitively-shaped tasks of attention, memory, information processing, organization and both receptive and expressive language ability, learning differences may affect a range of social and interpersonal skills. Lack of success at school is one of the most common factors involved in referrals for social work intervention for school-aged children and adolescents. Thus, those of us concerned with the mental health and developmental wellbeing of children and adolescents must all be informed regarding the nature of learning problems, challenges, and differences, and how these issues affect not only children's educational success and opportunities, but also their social development, emotional wellbeing, and capacity for relationships both within the family and with peers and teachers in the wider community.
Jeffrey Darcy, M.S.S. '04, is a clinical social worker at Crefeld School, an alternative learning community that believes that all people learn differently and that students must work to discover their own learning style, acknowledge their strengths, develop compensation strategies to address their challenges, and become advocates for themselves as learners. Darcy invited participants to engage in two exercises that demonstrated what it might be like for a child who does not see the world the way other people see it. While there was surprise and awe in reaction to this experiential exercise, there also was for some frustration that one could imagine might dissolve into anger and a tendency to shut down or check out.
Karen Earle, M.S.S. '83, is a clinical social worker in private practice and at Benchmark School, a school whose mission is to provide a supportive and stimulating learning environment for children who struggle as readers and writers. Using a powerful narrative approach, Earle offered a first-hand account of the impact on a family of having a child with a learning disability. She described the grappling to make sense of why a child could not learn, the challenge of accepting the discovery of a learning disability, and the struggle to understand how as bright and caring parents they could have missed this in their own child.
Thomas Hurster, M.S.S. '80, a clinical social worker at Benchmark School for more than 20 years and an adjunct faculty member at the GSSWSR, discussed a learning disability approach with its emphasis on diagnosis and labeling ("I'm not dumb, I'm dyslexic") and a more phenomenological perspective that is strengths-based and focuses on self as learner—what is hard, what is easy, what strategies do I need to adopt in order to be successful. He stressed the ways in which therapy can help children rewrite their life narratives.
—Marcia L. Martin, PhD '82, Director, GSSWSR
Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research award winners were honored at a dessert reception. From left: Raheemah Shamsid-Deen Hampton, MSS '02, an emerging leader in the field of social work; John Loeb, MSS '69, for his extraordinary contributions to the field of social work; Bertha S. Waters, MSS '79, for her lifetime of leadership to the field of social work; and Sarah Hollister, MSS, MLSP '07, an emerging leader in the field of social work.
Songmistress Angie MacWilliams Wishnak '59
|Annual Giving Awards|
|At the Annual Meeting of the Alumnae Association, The Maisie Hardenbergh Dethier '43 Award for Highest Annual Fund Participation was presented to the Class of 1939 with 76 percent participation. The Ellenor Morris '27 Award for the Highest Annual Fund Total was presented to the Class of 1958 with a gift total of $334,405. The Barbara Auchincloss Thacher '40 Award for the Greatest Improvement in Annual Fund Participation Among the Ten Most Recent Classes was presented to the Class of 2006 with an increase in participation from 16 percent to 29 percent.
Lovina Brendingler Carroll '46
Carolyn Lloyd and Denise Szekely carry '99 balloons
Rhea Graham '74 carries class banner.