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Geometrics of light

Major facilities projects of the last decade have addressed the two overarching goals of academic innovation and of student recruitment and retention; they include Bettws-y-Coed and Dalton; and the Isabel Benham Gateway Building, Cambrian Row, the Neuberger Campus Center and several dormitories.

A renovated Colonial Revival house with a new addition, Bettws-y-Coed provides offices, instructional space and state-of-the-art labora­tories for the psychology and education departments. Historic Dalton Hall opens up new spaces that are geometries of light. The most technologically advanced building on campus, it houses the departments of anthropology, economics, political science and sociology as well as two interdisciplinary centers—International Studies and Social Sciences.

The colonnade on Cambrian Row

The Benham Gateway Building, which houses Admissions, Financial Aid and Public Relations, is often the first stop for prospective students, visitors, and the general community. A shingle-style house designed in the mid-1880s by Phila­delphia architect Frank Furness, it was extended and renovated in 2000 by the architectural firm of Buell, Kratzer and Powell, which won an honor award from the Philadelphia chapter of the American Institute of Architects for its work.

Former faculty houses on Roberts Road were renovated and converted to create the Multicultural Center and Cambrian Row. The Multicultural Center includes space for the Office of Intercultural Affairs and for students’ socializing, studying, meetings and activities. Made possible by a gift from Lois Collier ’50, and her husband, Reg, the renovated buildings of Cambrian Row house student-activity spaces: SGA offices, the Civic Engagement Office, a center for religious life with kitchens, and meeting spaces for many student groups.

The refurbished Campus Center and Uncommon Grounds Cafe is a wireless hot spot, where students, faculty and staff gather over coffee and work on their laptops or catch up on email, hold meetings and displays. In the lounges, students play pool, watch a high-definition plasma-screen TV, listen to satellite radio, curl up by the fireplace, and surf the Internet at several com­puter stations. Career Development is also part of this hub, with offices on the second floor.

An artist’s rendering for a renovation of Goodhart Theater

“One of our most recent technological innovations is ‘One Card,’ a campus ID, library and money account card used to access dorms, the gym, and main buildings after hours,” said Director of Facilities Glenn Smith.

Rhoads, the largest dormitory on campus, was completely refurbished in 1999, with new furniture and bedroom spaces, mechanical and electrical systems, updated life-safety features, and a state-of-the-art kitchen and dining facilities. Its leaded glass windows were also conserved and adapted.

Erdman’s roof and slate sidings have been replaced. Merion and Radnor received a complete exterior restoration. Extensive interior and exterior repairs are being completed on Denbigh, which also received a new slate root that matches the 1891 original.

Projects completed in Park Center include a physical chemistry lab; a biology genetics laboratory/ office; a computer and robotics lab; a synthetic and physical chemistry lab; and renovation of the green­house. A multi-year project on the biology wing will begin this summer.

“As important as the buildings are our beautifully landscaped 136 acres,” said Smith. “We maintain a number of gardens and have a tree replacement program underway. The stormwater management pond below Rhoads and the stream restoration at the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research have received Growing Greener Grants from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania for their environmental contributions.

“It’s been a very busy and exciting time to be involved in Facilities Services on this campus over the last 10 years,” said Smith, “and we’re excited about what the next 10 might hold.”


Student life

The dynamic between outward and inward focuses in the design of the campus is also being addressed at other levels in the community.

One of Vickers’ first concerns was the quality of students’ lives and their ability to balance hard work and good fun. Mixed-use spaces such as Campus Center lounges and Cafe have been created to bridge activities and connect people, permitting conversation and study, technology use and entertainment.

“The spaces in the student activities buildings on Cambrian Row are quite heavily used,” said Dean of the Undergraduate College Karen M. Tidmarsh ’71. “The building for SGA, Honor Board and other student government committees has a kitchen and areas where students can cook and eat together that’s wildly popular. The facility for student religious groups and their advisors also makes a real difference, both in comfort and as a statement of the College’s support.”

Improvements in athletics include a Wellness program and more machines and longer hours for the Fitness Center. The additions of varsity programs in rowing and track as well as intramural sports have given students more opportunities to compete or just play for relaxation and pleasure.

Tidmarsh also noted the importance of programs that help students improve academic strategies: the writing center offers tutorials to help them write papers and fellowship and internship applications; a peer mentoring program coaches students in skills such as time management, note taking, and exam preparation; and there is peer tutoring in a range of subjects, including elementary and intermediate foreign languages and introductory math
and science.

“We’ve been doing a much better job in supporting efforts to make a diverse community work,” said Tidmarsh. “The restructuring of the Office of Intercultural Affairs to meet the needs of students and cultural groups has been very important, as has been the creation of the Diversity Leadership
and Council groups to share the responsibility of monitoring the College’s diversity initiatives.

The renovated Cafe

“Until the larger society has overcome prejudice and racism, we’re not going to be free of incidents, from time to time, which remind members of our community that respect and good relations are fragile and can be very much disrupted by lapses in judgment revealing a bias somebody hasn’t faced up to or addressed. I am heartened that we have put in place new mediation and facilitated dialogue structures, which help students who are in conflict to talk face-to-face and make sure they have heard each other.”

When she looked at brochures from Bryn Mawr, Jesenia Gervacio ’07, thought, “I can see myself there,” but was not so sure on her first visit to campus. “I thought, ‘This is like a castle!’ (The flags were up.) Harry Potter! This is not a real place; this is a movie.’ ”

Gervacio, a double major in psychology and Spanish and a minor in education, is a member of the Posse Program, which identifies talented potential applicants in urban public schools whose students are unlikely to reach Bryn Mawr through traditional recruiting efforts. When they matriculate at Bryn Mawr, the students in each Posse—about 10 each year—provide support for one another and have taken leadership roles on campus.

“At first, I didn’t feel part of the community, but it grows on you, and you grow into it,” said Gervacio. “And, it’s changed a lot. There’s more diversity on campus than ever before; it used to be that I knew every student of color by first and last name; now I run into people I’ve never seen before. I also think that the Posse Scholars have inspired a broader range of students to participate in SGA, whose assembly meetings have become more welcoming to all students, whether or not they are representatives.”         

A training institute for student leaders held at the end of the summer has helped keep them in touch with one another during the year as well as with administrators, staff and faculty. The leaders, who include SGA representa­tives, hall advisors and presidents, team captains, the heads of cultural groups, and newspaper editors, are in turn being trained to train other students. “We like all of our graduates to feel that they have the potential to be leaders at some level, as they will be in their own households, jobs and communities,” said Tidmarsh.


Interdisciplinary centers

After an extended series of consultations with faculty, students, staff and alumnae, Vickers developed The Plan for a New Century, adopted by the College’s Board of Trustees in March 2000. The Plan reflected the entire community’s sense of Bryn Mawr’s mission and goals for the next 10 years and identified the two major challenges facing the College that became funding priorities for the Challenging Women Campaign: 1) fostering innovation without signifi­cant expansion and 2) recruiting and retaining the most qualified students.

One of the Plan’s initiatives was the creation of interdisciplinary centers that would allow academic departments, traditionally very strong at Bryn Mawr, to come together around emerging questions and fields of knowledge or inquiry that are at the intersection of two or more traditional disciplines.

The first four centers—International Studies, Science and Society, Visual Culture, and Social Sciences—have defined research agendas, produced publications, stimulated development of new courses, and awarded summer internships to undergraduates and funded faculty projects. All have sponsored conferences, lectures and colloquia around topics spanning the traditional disciplines.

In 2002, the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research launched the Center for Child and Family Wellbeing to foster an interdisciplinary focus on a broad range of issues and challenges faced by today’s children and families.

Bryn Mawr’s public relations successes also include international recognition of the College through the Katharine Houghton Hepburn Center, launched in 2006.

Proud to be Bryn Mawr

The success of undergraduate admissions proceeds on all fronts. Refined recruiting messages and practices have resulted in a 40 percent increase in applications since 2001 and an acceptance rate of 45 percent, down from 61 percent in 2001.

“I tend to see our admissions suc­cesses as a result of The Plan for a New Century,” said Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jennifer Rickard, “since that is when concerted efforts were made to improve the College’s ability to recruit and retain the best students through programmatic enhancements and new ways of conveying Bryn Mawr’s unique strengths.”

NBC interviews Caitlin Manley ’09 about her project for Introductory Computer Science (story in archways section). Photo by Paola Nogueras ’84.

In 2003, following market research studies and extensive conversations with students, faculty, staff and alumnae/i, Bryn Mawr’s strengths and values were distilled into one message that resonates with the kind of student it wants to attract—a young woman who is “Proud to be Bryn Mawr,” with “an intense intellectual commitment, a purposeful vision of her life, and a desire to make a meaningful contribution to the world.”

The increase in applications has allowed the College to become more selective. The median SAT score has been rising since the 1990s; medians of 1310 to 1320 are now the rule rather than the exception. The College also continues to enroll a diverse student body. Since 2002, students of color have made up an average of 27 percent of each incoming class, and on average 12 percent of each class has been students with foreign or dual citizenship. The economic diversity of Bryn Mawr’s student body consistently ranks near the top of the list of highly selective colleges, as measured by the average of 17 percent who are eligible for Pell grants (federal aid available to low-income students).

Collaborative learning

“The most daring transformation was Nancy’s decision to put together all of the administrative departments that deal with print and electronic information, with academic and administrative computing, with communications technologies and multimedia productions, with language pedagogy and visual resources,” said Chief Information Officer and Constance A. Jones Director of Libraries and Professor of History Elliott Shore. “This change has made it possible for us to think about the education of our community in much more holistic terms, no longer constrained by organizational matters, but much freer to facilitate the interaction between and among faculty, students and staff. We are just beginning to benefit from this freedom to work together. The future looks very bright as we learn to utilize all of the new tools for learning.

“One of the most remarkable outcomes of the transformation of libraries and computing into Information Services is the Teaching and Learning Initiative (TLI) . This idea, which has its roots in an earlier collaboration between the libraries and the education program, has blossomed under Nancy’s tenure into a multifaceted approach to education in the early 21st century that is animated by the under­standing that students, faculty and staff working together can improve learning. One of the signal achieve­ments of this new program is the connecting of students with staff in partnerships in which each of the partners teaches and learns from the other. It has helped to move Bryn Mawr much closer to its goal of becoming a community. Further connected to this project has been the creation of a staff education coordinator, who draws from her background in education to assess individual, departmental, and campus-wide learning needs and to create appropriate staff education classes. This process encourages active learning, meaningful teaching, and collaboration among community members that blurs traditional role boundaries. By supporting this kind of innovative and exciting work, Nancy has not only encouraged our community to become more integrative, cooperative and reenergized, but also to strive towards embodying the College’s mission within and beyond academic contexts.”



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