Dear friends of Bryn Mawr,
Last week, the College welcomed the Class of 2012, and it was exhilarating to see our magnificent campus come alive at last. The exquisite spaces I had explored during the quiet summer months now reverberate with the clamor raised by hundreds of bright, high-spirited young people who are eager to embrace the intellectual and personal challenges of life at Bryn Mawr and make their marks on the world.
I share their excitement and their delight in the possibilities that lie ahead; like them, I feel deeply honored that I have been chosen to join such an extraordinary community. At every turn, I find something new to admire in it. Each individual member I have met has demonstrated a unique collection of personal virtues, but the characteristic that seems all but universal among them is a deep devotion to the community as a whole. What leader could respond to such commitment with anything less than equal commitment and enthusiasm? No wonder I look forward to my schedule of meetings and social events on campus, and the travel plans that will allow me to begin to get to know the larger, more dispersed community of alumnae/i, friends and supporters of the College. I hope to meet many of you during this year’s travels. In the meantime, here is some recent news from a place that is dear to all of our hearts.
Facilities Renewal. The big story in buildings and grounds is, of course, the extensive renovations to Goodhart Hall, which began in June. The first phase of the project involved the removal of most of the center section of the building, where the new teaching theater will be built between the Common Room and the Music Room. That phase has concluded, and Director of Facilities Glenn Smith reports that the project is on track for its planned completion by August 2009.
Like the incoming class, I am the beneficiary of Nancy Vickers' decade-long focus on deferred maintenance, which continued into this summer with the completion of important, if mostly invisible, repairs to Rockefeller Hall. The second phase of a three-phase project to improve laboratory space in the biology wing of the Park Science Center has also been completed. I was impressed by the efficiency with which these renovations, which must be conducted within the small window of summer when some of the labs are vacant, were planned and executed.
Athletics and Fitness. High on my list of priorities for the coming year are improvements to our athletics and fitness programs. They are a critical aspect of student life, one that has become essential to the recruitment and retention of students in this post-Title IX world. According to Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jenny Rickard, almost 50 percent of our students participated in varsity athletics in high school. But Director of Athletics and Physical Education Kathy Tierney reports that only about 25 percent of graduating seniors have participated in intercollegiate athletics during their Bryn Mawr years.
There is a wealth of evidence that regular exercise in general, and participation in athletics in particular, improves academic performance and has a profoundly positive effect on emotional well-being. It is clear that our major athletic facility, completed 25 years ago, no longer meets our needs. To my delight, I arrived in my office on July 1 to find a generous gift from Ruth Kaiser Nelson '58, who chaired the very successful Challenging Women Campaign, waiting on my desk. Her $1 million pledge is intended to spur further donations toward a renovation plan to be developed in consultation with Buell Kratzer Powell, the architectural firm that designed the splendid Benham Gateway with such sensitive attention to the historic building from which it grew. I look forward to reporting on the progress of this work.
Graduate Education. In April, the Board of Trustees approved a new set of principles and practices for graduate education at Bryn Mawr. The faculty have begun work to create new forms of integration between the graduate schools and undergraduate college and among the graduate programs as a means to enrich the experience of all our students. This fall we will also introduce a new administrative structure for graduate education. A single Dean of Graduate Studies will be appointed to oversee programs in both schools. We will also launch a national search to fill the new position of Director of the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research (GSSWSR).
This year, while Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) Dean Dale Kinney is on sabbatical leave, Professor of Physics Elizabeth McCormack has agreed to serve as Acting Dean of GSAS. GSSWSR Co-Deans Raymond Albert and Marcia Martin, who were appointed in 2002, stepped down as of June 1. During the search for a new Director of the GSSWSR, Marcia will serve a one-year term as Director of the Master’s Program, overseeing all operations of the School. Raymond will continue as Director of the Law and Social Policy Program and as Chair of Bryn Mawr’s Diversity Leadership Group and Diversity Council.
Curricular Renewal. Members of the faculty worked closely with the Board's Task Force on Balancing Mission and Resources as it developed its recommendations for affirming the College's historic commitment to graduate studies in a way that complements the institution's mission as an undergraduate liberal-arts college for women. The task motivated a further question: exactly what is the mission of a liberal-arts college in the contemporary world--and how well does our undergraduate curriculum support it?
A Committee on Curricular Renewal will investigate those questions. The group, which includes student representatives, Provost Kim Cassidy and Dean of the Undergraduate College Karen Tidmarsh as well as faculty members representing all the academic divisions and levels of seniority, is charged with the first comprehensive review of the College's curriculum since 1985. Fittingly, the committee includes Mary Katharine Woodworth Professor of Political Science Steven Salkever, who participated in the 1985 review.
I have touched here on just a few of the exciting things happening at the College. There are many more, including a vibrant Performing Arts Series that has addressed the temporary loss of Goodhart Hall with ingenious site-specific productions, such as a dance performed in a parking lot with moving automobiles as props; a compelling roster of Hepburn Center Fellows; a lecture series on women scientists as university presidents; and, of course, preparations for my own inaugural celebration, to which you are all warmly invited.
Best wishes to you all,