In Every Corner of Campus: Kim Cassidy’s Decade of Transformative Leadership

Kim Cassidy

The average tenure of an American college president is less than six years. When Kim Cassidy steps down as Bryn Mawr’s president in June of 2024, she’ll have served the College as president for more than a decade.

As president, Cassidy led the largest fundraising campaign in the College’s history, leading to unprecedented growth in the financial aid budget; the construction of new and renovated campus buildings supporting academics and student life as well as increased staff in both areas; the development of a 21st-century curriculum; and she shepherded the College as it reckoned with its legacies of racism and exclusion. Before her presidency, Cassidy served as provost for six years, and she has been a faculty member since 1993.

“In every corner of this campus, there’s been someone who has helped me do it,” Cassidy says when asked about the keys to her success and longevity.


Cassidy’s humility as a leader isn’t a surprise to those who know her well, and they even say it has been a key part of her success.

“I've seen four presidents at Bryn Mawr, and at least that number of provosts, and each leader has their own style,” says Professor of Psychology Marc Schulz, a junior faculty member in the psychology department with Cassidy. “One of the things that really has marked Kim's style is that it's rarely about her. It's rare that I hear Kim use the first person to say, ‘I did this’ or ‘here’s a list of my achievements.’ She starts by talking about ‘we.’”

Cassidy’s belief in the importance of community hasn’t wavered during her presidency and is apparent when she talks about some of her key accomplishments.

“What makes Bryn Mawr a successful place is the people,” she says. “And so, for me, the things that we've done that support people are the things that I'm most proud of.”


When Cassidy became interim president in 2013, the College had recently experienced several senior-level departures, and her humility and belief in the need to approach challenges and opportunities as a team was key in calming the waters for staff at the time, recalls Multimedia Specialist Rod Matthews.

“The College was on steady ground, but everyone was concerned about, ‘who's coming in?’” he says. “Kim came in, and she assured us, ‘OK, we’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’re going to do it together.’”

“It was always important to Kim that members of the campus community—students, faculty, and staff––felt respected and valued,” says former Board Chair Ann Logan ’76. “And Kim always wanted to be sure that the campus community could find joy in what they did, and fulfillment in both their work and in their lives … she thought about the whole person and what the impact on the whole person would be.”

“Kim has led the campus with such generosity, care, and love for people,” adds current Chair Cynthia Archer ’75. “She’s been available, day in and day out, and people know it. Her moral compass is set with its North Star firmly placed on student success and the mission of the College.”

Kim Cassidy with students
Marc Schulz

One of the things that really has marked Kim's style is that it's rarely about her. She starts by talking about ‘we.’


Perhaps the greatest challenge the College ever faced in supporting its people began in March 2020 when COVID-19 caused an abrupt disruption to every aspect of campus life and learning.

“In the beginning, we were flying in the dark,” Cassidy says. “I never thought I’d have to learn so much about things like the ventilation systems at the college, masking, quarantining, and vaccinations. But we put together an amazing group that met every day for weeks and months.”


Although the virus essentially closed down the campus for several months, the College was able to pay full wages to its employees and didn’t experience any layoffs.

When in-person classes and on-campus housing resumed in the fall of 2020, some questioned whether the College was making the right decision. However, the campus never experienced any “super spreader” events, and the community experienced much lower infection rates than many other areas.

“I had faith in our community to do the right things to protect each other, and I also thought it was really important for student learning that we came back together,” says Cassidy.

Logan, who was chair of Bryn Mawr’s board during the pandemic, says it was during the response to COVID that Cassidy really displayed her leadership skills

“I admired and appreciated Kim’s leadership during the pandemic. She regularly consulted public health and infectious disease experts and established protocols on campus to safeguard students, faculty and staff; she made sure students who could not return home had a safe home on campus and that the staff who worked on campus—housekeeping, dining services, and campus security—were compensated and cared for in their work; and she made sure students and faculty had the tools they needed for remote learning. Every decision and plan was based on principles of care and concern. I saw firsthand how difficult it was to lead during this time and am in awe of her strength, courage, determination, and leadership.


Making a Bryn Mawr education accessible to more people and providing greater support for students have been key priorities for the College under Cassidy.

Since 2012, the College has increased its financial aid budget by more than 50 percent. In the 2023-24 academic year, the College provided undergraduate students nearly $42.5 million in total institutional financial aid.

In 2022, the College replaced loans with grants for families with incomes under $60,000. Beginning with the fall 2024 semester, the no-loan policy will be expanded to students whose family incomes are below $110,000. As a result of these and other changes, the cost to attend Bryn Mawr today is lower than it was five years ago for many low and moderate-income families.

“I’m really proud of the work we’ve been able to do in making Bryn Mawr more accessible,” says Cassidy. “And we’ve made sure that we’ve done something to help every student with financial need.”

As president, Cassidy oversaw the Defy Expectation fundraising campaign. The largest in Bryn Mawr’s history, the campaign raised $301 million from more than 107,000 gifts, including 5,000 first-time donors, and the largest single gift in Bryn Mawr's history—$25 million from an anonymous alum. In addition to raising money, Cassidy has been an excellent steward of the College’s finances. She created Bryn Mawr’s first in-house investment team in 2020 to manage the endowment, which now stands at $1.3 billion. Under Cassidy, the College has had positive operating results in each of the last ten fiscal years.

Hundreds gathered on campus to celebrate the success of the Defy Expectation campaign.

The campaign added $60 million to the endowment for financial aid and scholarships, enabling the creation of 100 endowed scholarships and fellowships. It also helped fund several capital projects, including the renovation of the Park Science Center; New Dorm, the first new residence hall in nearly 50 years; and the new Student Life and Wellness Building.

“I think Kim is great at raising money for the school because she doesn’t think of it as raising money,” says Denise Hurley  ‘82, who chaired the campaign. “She thinks of it as a way to get people involved and engaged in the college, and in the community as a whole at Bryn Mawr, and more than anything, she is a community builder.”

Opened in fall 2018, the 10,000-square-foot addition and renovation of the Park Science Center created an exciting new hub for Bryn Mawr students and faculty on the campus' northern edge. It also updated and added laboratory and classroom space.

Renovated Park Science Center

The Student Life and Wellness Building, known as The Well, opened in 2022.

The Well

In addition to the new Health Center, The Well houses The Impact Center for Community, Equity, and Understanding and the Career & Civic Engagement Center, all of which have been brought together in the center of campus to advance a concept of wellness where students learn to care for themselves and the communities that are important to them.

Career resources for students have flourished under Cassidy’s tenure. What was once a service shared with Haverford has grown into a College staff of 16.

Taking a holistic approach to health, the Center provides an array of offerings that address professional and civic aspirations. Experiential learning is front and center with Praxis courses, internships and externships, workshops and intensives, volunteer programs, and a leadership learning laboratory that fosters the skills students will need as future leaders.

“I think we used to be much more complacent about assuming our students would do great just because they get a great education,” says Cassidy. “But oftentimes, that first job is about having something specific in addition that will help you get your foot in the door.”

Academic offerings were also expanded during Cassidy’s tenure.

Since 2013, the College has hired 108 tenure-track and continuing non-tenure-track faculty members. It created new majors in environmental studies, international studies, biochemistry and molecular biology, and neuroscience, as well as new minors in health studies, museum studies, and data science. Both education and creative writing transitioned from being minors to majors, and the innovative 360 program has continued to challenge faculty and students to examine topics in exciting new ways.

As a longtime faculty member, Cassidy understood the central role faculty play in governance and decision-making and was able to work with the faculty to advance the mission of the College.

"Kim has been an unremittingly patient, thoughtful, and engaged presence in faculty meetings,” says Catherine Conybeare, chair of the faculty and the Leslie Clark Professor in the Humanities. “She is deeply committed to faculty self-governance and has worked deftly alongside faculty leadership throughout her tenure as president."

Kim Cassidy
Anita Ntem ’18

President Cassidy was always open to listening to students, taking their feedback, and then putting the action behind the talk.


Cassidy’s presidency will also be remembered as a time when the College began to seriously grapple with the racism and antisemitism of founding dean and longtime president M. Carey Thomas and the legacy of exclusionary practices at the College.

In 2017, Cassidy placed a moratorium on the use of Thomas’ name in reference to what, at the time, was known as Thomas Library and Thomas Great Hall. The following year, the Board voted to permanently change the names of those places to Old Library and Great Hall, and last year, the Board of Trustees voted to remove Thomas’ name from the building.

“The work of creating a campus of inclusion and belonging is continual and requires focus, renewal, and purposeful action,” wrote Cassidy when announcing the removal of the name. “I am proud of the work we are collectively doing to understand our past and simultaneously create new systems that promote equity, inclusion, and belonging for the future.”

Anita Ntem ’18 was among the students at the College when the moratorium was announced and worked with the president’s office in planning one of the annual Community Days of Learning, a precursor to today’s teach-ins.

“President Cassidy was always open to listening to students, taking their feedback, and then putting the action behind the talk,” Ntem says.

In 2025, a campus monument titled “Don’t Forget to Remember (Me)” will be installed in the Cloisters at the center of Old Library as part of the ongoing effort of historical reckoning. 


A scholar-athlete herself as an undergraduate at Swarthmore, Cassidy has been a mainstay at Bryn Mawr games and meets rain or shine.

“I remember being out at championships a few years ago, and a coach from another school confided in me that he didn't feel supported by his athletic director or the college president,” recalls Cross Country and Track and Field Coach Jason Hewitt.

“He kind of gave me the 'I bet you have the same challenges at Bryn Mawr’ lean in, and I had to chuckle. I said, ‘Actually, I don't feel that way at all. You see that person up in the stands cheering for the Owls? That's our president.’”

Jason Hewitt 

You see that person up in the stands cheering for the Owls? That's our president.

Her commitment to athletics goes well beyond cheering. As she leaves office, the finishing touches are being put on upgrades to Shillingford Field that will allow it to be used for field hockey games and allow all the teams who had to share Applebee Field to have greater flexibility for practice.

“It’s been really exciting to see our athletics program grow over these last few years,” says Cassidy. “We’re now a school that other teams must pay attention to.”

Efforts to inject fun and a sense of community into students' lives weren’t limited to athletics.

As president, Cassidy always participated in May Day, putting together regular pop-up events with everything from food trucks to crafts to wellness activities. She regularly hosted community dinners and instituted initiatives like the Community Building Honor Roll to recognize students' contributions in and outside the classroom.


As her tenure winds down and Cassidy prepares for a sabbatical and a return to teaching, she has confidence in Bryn Mawr’s future.

“I feel like the college is at this really strong moment. There's a lot of positive momentum,” she says. “Our commitments to academic excellence, greater access to a Bryn Mawr education, support for students, faculty, and staff, and preparing our students for lives of purpose are unwavering. I also see a lot of pride and joy on this campus, and that’s very important to me. As I return to the faculty, I’m excited to witness the transformative impact the Bryn Mawr community will undoubtedly continue to make, both on our campus and beyond."

 Celebrating Kim Cassidy Visit our page celebrating Kim Cassidy for more, including a timeline of Cassidy's presidency and a chance to leave well wishes.