This semester, new signage was installed that complements Bryn Mawr’s Collegiate Gothic architecture and the ironwork created for Goodhart by Samuel Yellin. The designs reflect as well the aesthetic values of current and prospective students, alumnae/i, faculty and staff, who were interviewed as a part of the plan’s development. The radical change is that although the signs look as though they have always been there, a lack of campus directions in the past has made it difficult for first-time visitors to find their way around. Photos by Paola Nogueras '84.
Bryn Mawr College has undergone as much innovation in the last decade as in the rest of the 20th century, yet its quintessential look and feel shine full.
“Since arriving at Bryn Mawr in the summer of 1997, Nancy has led a process of transformation that has affected all corners of the College,” said Chair of the Board of Trustees Sally Hoover Zeckhauser ’64, praising her as “a visionary academic leader, a forceful defender of the women’s college experience, and a stalwart advocate of shared governance of the College.”
During Vickers’ tenure, undergraduate applications to the College have risen 40 percent, and its endowment has nearly doubled. The more than $200 million raised so far by the Challenging Women Campaign has enabled Bryn Mawr to renovate numerous buildings, create a more vibrant campus life, strengthen the curriculum and initiate interdisciplinary programs. Campus use of technology has been upgraded, cross-cultural communication embraced, and a legacy of civic engagement and student activism renewed. Opportunities for summer internships and undergraduate research have increased exponentially.
While the College conducts a presidential search over the next year, Vickers will focus on two endeavors that will strengthen Bryn Mawr in the long term. She will complete the Challenging Women Campaign and its remaining priorities: increasing financial aid for students, raising faculty salaries, and funding the renovation of Goodhart theater and arts center. Vickers is also committed to the work of the Trustees’ Task Force on Balancing Mission and Resources, which will result in ways for the institution to make more participatory budgeting decisions.
Rhoads overlooks the new pond.
“It’s nice to celebrate the wrap-up of a presidency and a campaign,” Vickers said, “but what remains to be done is deeply and intrinsically part of Bryn Mawr, not some vision of mine. What’s been so striking through the entire fundraising process is people’s loyalty and dedication to the College and their desire that it remain as distinguished as it has historically been.”
Vickers finds Bryn Mawr students a source of constant delight. “They astonish me,” she said. “I went out to dinner with the SGA executive board this spring, and I was struck afresh by how smart and accomplished, leaderly, confident and interesting they were. Every outside review committee that comes to this campus tells us at the debriefings that we have the most extraordinary students and that we should feel grateful for them—and indeed we do.”
She is also proud of the faculty pipeline created over the past decade. “The generations of young scholars that I see coming up are exceptional,” she said. “I’m thrilled to see the faculty of the future of the College and how they have brought new knowledge into the curriculum.
New tenure-track positions have been created to support minors in film studies and in international studies, a major in computer science, and concentrations in environmental
studies (the Johanna Alderfer Harris Environmental Studies Concentration) and geoarchaeology.
The Middle East Studies Initiative is a tri-college effort by Bryn Mawr, Haverford and Swarthmore faculty and students to increase the presence of the Middle East in the undergraduate curriculum. In addition to first-year Hebrew and Modern Standard Arabic, courses on the Middle East at Bryn Mawr are taught in classical and Near Eastern archaeology, comparative literature, general studies, history and political science.
A dynamic system
Since the mid-1990s, the College has looked at its campus as a whole of interdependent parts, attending not only to critical repairs but finding value in under-used buildings and related landscapes. This integrated planning process has resulted in the creation of a “gateway” building for the public entrance to campus and a student activities village along Roberts Road, among dozens of different projects over the last 10 years (see page 17).
In April 2007, the Board of Trustees endorsed plans for a renovation of Goodhart that would replace its electrical and mechanical systems, and create more flexible performance venues, with a reconfigured main theater, new backstage facilities, and the addition of a smaller teaching theater. (Major repairs to Goodhart’s roof, masonry, flashing, windows, doors, and ornamental lighting were done in 1998–99.)
The new stairtower addition for Dalton Hall
“Goodhart was built in 1928 and is on the brink of sheer systems failure,” said Vickers. “I feel a particular urgency about addressing its maintenance needs above and beyond the enhancements that would modernize it and meet the rapidly growing student interest in the arts.
“A master plan for campus development projects had
been completed for us by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates just before I arrived in 1997. The next president will also
need a sense of priority and sequencing that balances Bryn Mawr’s appeal to prospective students and the quality of current student life (expanding Schwartz Gymnasium, for example), with deferred management needs (I think immediately of the biology wing, Thomas, and the Health Center). Some of these would need to be done in the gap between the close of this campaign and the start of the next one. Some need to be addressed within 10–15 years as priorities in the next campaign.
The College’s budget is also a dynamic system. “We are an institution that has a very small enrollment base, but we choose to offer a lot of programs,” said Vickers. “Some of those have significant financial impact. Others don’t but may consume a fair amount of our energy or complicate the operation of the College. If I, for example choose to bring Posse Scholars to campus, or sustain our commitment to international financial aid, the dollars I’m spending are not available in another part of the budget for faculty and staff salaries or deferred maintenance. Every piece of this huge mosaic has a persuasive nobility, a substantive importance about it when viewed independently, but we need to understand the consequences of our choices for other areas
of the budget.
An anthropology lab
The primary goal of the Task Force on Balancing Mission and Resources is to educate itself on the full range of Bryn Mawr’s financial commitments. “It has already looked at facilities, deferred maintenance, enrollment management, and class scheduling,” said Vickers. “This year, it is taking a close look, among many other things, at the College’s commitment to graduate professional education. If we do our work well, we will be able to have tough conversations in a fair-minded, transparent, and consultative fashion that will permit us to make sometimes difficult decisions with a broader understanding and participation on the part of the community.
“I would love to get us to the point where we can figure out how we create within this budget, which has often felt very straitjacket-like to me, some flexibility to ensure our commitment to innovation and assure that when a brilliant idea comes along, it can find a source of funding in a discretionary budget or a reserve. We already do that, but on an ad-hoc basis and with very limited funding.”
Executive Director of the Alumnae Association Wendy M. Greenfield said, “Time and time again, I am impressed by how much alumnae/i enjoy hearing from Nancy and consider her one of their own. She considers their questions so carefully, answering in a straightforward fashion, including
all relevant information even if it may not be popular—
never ‘spinning’ it.
The Isabel Benham Gateway Building, made possible by Isabel Benham ’31.
“Nancy is always eager to attend alumnae/i gatherings. She uses her extensive contacts and friendships with other scholars to deepen our experience at these events. An example is the luncheon that Williams College President Morty Schapiro hosted for us there as part of the 2005 Cultural Interlude in the Berkshires, a lively and stimulating experience for the 80-plus alumnae who participated.
“Nancy’s curiosity is one of the things that enticed me to come work here. During my interview, I told her I thought that Bryn Mawr was a lot like Jell-O, a brand I used to work on in the advertising world. Bryn Mawr and Jell-O were both classic brands that were losing their relevance to a new group of consumers. For many academics, marketing is a dirty word, and the interview might have been over before it really began. That was not the case with Nancy. She was fascinated by the analogy, asked a lot of very thoughtful questions, and we had a wonderful conversation. I came away feeling that it would be a special opportunity to work with such a brilliant, open-minded, and warm person. Eight years later I still feel the same way.”
A strong endowment will continue to support College programs into the future. Bryn Mawr’s has nearly doubled in the last decade, and changes in investing, management
and spending have made it a steadier, less volatile source
“Under Nancy’s leadership the College has taken a more active role in modernizing and managing its endowment,” said John Griffith, who became Bryn Mawr’s chief financial officer and treasurer in September 2005.
“The transition was difficult due to the complex nature of our new strategy and its vast difference from what we had been doing, but Nancy never wavered in her support,” said Griffith. “Throughout, she kept reminding us of the important role the endowment plays in the vitality of the institution, and the fiduciary responsibility we had to our donors, alumnae/i and generations of future students.”
Cambrian Row, made possible by a gift from Lois M. Collier ’50 and her husband, Reg.
The College has hired the premier endowment consultants, Cambridge Associates, to work with it to diversify broadly, following the model that has been very successful at peer institutions.
“The approach invests in alternative assets that have longer-term investment horizons than most, reducing returns in the short term as investments are maturing,” said Griffith. “Ultimately, the returns exceed those of traditional investments.
“We have also increased the number of managers we
had from 10 to more than 60, which enables the College to increase its projected investment returns while reducing
the risk in the portfolio.
“This February, for example, the market was down 1.6 percent, but we were up .4 percent—a 2 percent swing or $12.2 million. We are at $614 million at the end of February. This really shows the power of diversification.”
The ambitious Challenging Women Campaign, which had raised more than $200 million in March 2007, triples the $75 million minimum goal of the previous Campaign for Bryn Mawr, which ended netting close to $92 million. A new generation of leadership stepped forward for the Challenging Women Campaign with its vice chairs, Denise Lee Hurley ’82 and Catherine Allegra ’84.
View of Goodhart from the conference room in the new addition to
Bettws-y-Coed for the departments of psychology and education.
The Annual Fund program, which helps to provide flexible, unrestricted funding for the College’s operating budget, has been an integral part and a distinctive feature of the Challenging Women Campaign. The program includes
two funds, the Slade Society and the Parents’ Fund, which have burgeoned.
“The Slade Society, created in 2001, defines leadership donors of $2,500-plus to the Annual Fund as a group that collectively supports the College,” said Director of Resources Martha Dean. “I think this identity, which has grown through recognition, special events, and the wonderful hard work of the Slade Committee, accounts for much of the growth in the overall Annual Fund during the Campaign.”
Gifts at the Slade level were $1,920,703 from 217 individuals in 2000 and grew to $3,884,564 from 539 individuals in 2006. The Parents’ Fund increased by a phenomenal 76 percent from $213,166 in fiscal year 2005 to $374,607 in fiscal year 2006.
Geometrics of light
Proud to be Bryn Mawr
Return to May 2007 Highlights