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Pensby Center
Bryn Mawr College
101 N. Merion Ave.
Bryn Mawr. PA 19010-2899
Phone: 610-526-6592
Fax: 610-526-6593

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Pensby Staff


Vanessa Christman is Assistant Dean of the College and Director of Leadership and Community Development. A member of the Diversity Leadership Group, she is dedicated to improving campus climate and building community at Bryn Mawr. Vanessa serves as Interim Posse Liaison and as Administrative Coordinator of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship. She co-directs the Leadership Empowerment and Advancement Program (LEAP) and leads the Bryn Mawr team for the Tri-College Identity, Equity and Social Justice Institute. She also serves as liaison to religious advisers and works with students to coordinate interfaith programs on campus and in the wider community. Vanessa’s career in education has included several teaching positions— at a private girls' school, a community college, and a public university. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Franklin and Marshall College and received her graduate degree from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. Vanessa currently serves on F&M’s Alumni Association Board, working with the College’s regional alumni chapters. She and her husband David have two children, a cat and a very enthusiastic dog.


Stephanie Nixon joined Bryn Mawr College as the Director of Diversity, Social Justice and Inclusion in July 2012 and also serves as Title IX Officer.  Prior to working at Bryn Mawr, Stephanie was the Director of Residential Programs at Columbia University and worked in residence life and student activities at Willamette University and at the University of Virginia. She has served as co-chair of the Asian Pacific American Network for ACPA, an international association for higher education professionals and currently serves on ACPA’s directorate for the Mid-Level Professionals Community of Practice and on the Equity and Inclusion working groups focused on Bias Incident Response Protocols and on Eliminating Native American and Indigenous Mascots in higher education. Stephanie has served as an intern with the Social Justice Training Institute for higher educational professionals and with the faculty for the national Student Social Justice Institute. Stephanie has facilitated trainings and consulted on developing social justice competencies and increasing bystander intervention at other institutions and with community groups. Stephanie recently co-authored a chapter about the intersections of Multiracial and Multiethnic Asian American Pacific Islander identities in a March 2012 published book, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Higher Education. In addition to her higher education experiences, Stephanie has worked with non-profits and community agencies, including serving as a college access program volunteer with Willamette Academy, a college pipeline program supporting first generation, recent immigrant, students of color and indigenous students in Oregon; as a youth educator and grassroots organizer with Planned Parenthood; as a shelter volunteer with SHE, a domestic violence shelter for women and children in Virginia; and as a hotline volunteer, volunteer advocate, self-defense trainer, and volunteer advisory board member with the Sexual Assault Resource Agency in Charlottesville, VA. Stephanie received her B.A. in Biology and Interdisciplinary Studies and her Masters in Education from the University of Virginia.

Oanh Whalen joined the Pensby Center in 2013. Oanh handles website maintenance, finances and scheduling at the Pensby Center as well as providing support for International Student and Scholar Services and Advising.  Oanh received her B.A. in International Studies from the College of William and Mary and her M.A. in Geography from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.  She lives with her husband, two daughters and a dog and cat.  She enjoys knitting, running and playing guitar in her free time.

Alexis De La Rosa is from Claremont, CA and is a Psychology Major, English Minor with a LALIPC (Latin American, Latino and Iberian Peoples and Cultures) Concentration. She is a rising junior at the college and is the current Co-President of Mujeres, the Latina/o affinity group on campus. This summer, her research for the Pensby Internship will revolve around the student experience in regards to diversity at Bryn Mawr. She will study diversity in academic and social settings of the college, paying particular attention to the Latina/o experience. Alexis is especially excited about a photography component which she plans to incorporate with her the research results. This internship is important to Alexis because her research will look at the absence of existing records on the experiences of students of color at Bryn Mawr College. Eventually, she hopes to work with increasing diversity in the workplace and increasing opportunities for minorities to hold positions of power. Her inspiration comes from the experiences of her parents and the adversity they faced being minorities in their respective workspaces. In addition to Vanessa Christman who oversees the Pensby Interns and their work, Alexis’ faculty sponsor and mentor is Dr. Jennifer Harford Vargas, Professor of English at Bryn Mawr College.


Lauren Footman, Class of ‘14 is from Yeadon, PA and is majoring in English, with a double minor in Political Science and Africana Studies. Since arriving at Bryn Mawr Lauren has chartered a college unit of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), of which she is now the President. She is also a tour guide for the admissions office, as well a student coordinator for the Alliance of Multicultural Organizations (AMO) which is facilitated by the Pensby Center.

Lauren describes her hopes for the Pensby Internship experience: “I was unaware of the racial history of the college.  As a student the institution’s historic relationship with people of the African Diaspora has helped mold my student experiences. Since I matriculated at BMC, I have become more aware of the struggles of blacks in this community, which made me eager to apply for this internship. Beyond the academic and institutional need for this project, I have a personal one too. I feel that discovering this history will help me better understand the legacy in which I continue, but also understand how I can help the institution move forward in recognizing other marginalized communities represented on campus.”

Throughout the summer Lauren will work with Special Collections, to reveal and contribute insights into the experiences of Bryn Mawr College students, faculty and/or staff from Africa and the African Diaspora. She intends to interview alums, along with faculty and staff to document their personal reflections and share their experiences. This summer research will culminate in an online exhibit to adjunct the college library’s webpage with recordings, photographs, and texts.

Alexis and Lauren will also be working on a joint project to catalog Evelyn Jones Rich’s ‘54 papers.  Cataloging Ms. Rich’s personal documents will provide more insight to the experiences of her and other women of color during this interesting time in the College’s history.