As part of Defy Expectation: The Campaign for Bryn Mawr, the College is asking alumnae/i and supporters why they support the campaign and what their Bryn Mawr experience means to them.


Path to Bryn Mawr

In grade school, I boldly announced that I wanted to be an astronaut, and my father laughed. It was the first time I realized things are different for girls than boys. Then, in high school, I experienced implicit teacher bias against girls in science and math. So when it came time to pick a college, I wanted a place where I could fully participate. I was really impressed with the alums I met at an admissions party with Director Betty Vermey ’58 and chose Bryn Mawr because it offered an extraordinary environment for young women to thrive.

Biggest Bryn Mawr challenge

The academics were extremely rigorous. I was completely underwater my first year but loved the challenge and was motivated by the exceptional professors who had such high expectations for us all. 

How does Bryn Mawr inform your work today?

In my role as director of San Francisco’s Commission on the Status of Women, I oversee seven professionals and a budget of $8 million. Our focus is the elimination of violence against women—domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. As a two-term member of the Board of Education, I have championed school board policies on Title IX enforcement and girls’ access to STEM classes. My work on SGA and as co-chair of the Asian Students Association taught me how to get things done and gave me the confidence to be the risk-taker I am today.

On the value of women’s colleges

It’s hard to communicate because it’s intangible and nearly impossible to appreciate as a student, but you know it the minute you graduate and leave campus. Going to a women’s college fosters a strong sense of independence. Young women, not men, reign in the classroom, and that experience enables us to tackle challenges confidently and fearlessly. 

How have you defied expectation?

One of my proudest accomplishments happened between 2010 and 2014 when San Francisco eliminated domestic violence homicides, which had comprised 10 percent of all murders. We did it by more than tripling the funding for our very robust grant program, as well as training 435 law enforcement officers in a victim-centered response system for domestic violence calls. It took more than 10 years of dogged persistence, but our efforts drove that rate to zero. No one expected our department, one of the smallest in city government, to have such a dramatic impact on public safety.

Why do you support Bryn Mawr?

Very simply, it changed the trajectory of my life. Bryn Mawr taught me that, with focused dedication, nothing is impossible, not even becoming the first Japanese-American elected to the San Francisco Board of Education or driving down the rate of domestic violence in San Francisco. 

Emily Murase 87
Emily Murase '87
Director, San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women, and Commissioner, San Francisco Board of Directors

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