Global Bryn Mawr

An Interview with Alice Lesnick

What is Global Bryn Mawr?

Global Bryn Mawr supports, incubates, and celebrates global engagement at the College.

How does it benefit students?

Since the Global Bryn Mawr initiative began in 2016, we’ve created new grant programs; supported study abroad partnerships, exchange opportunities, and international internships; welcomed visiting scholars; created travel registries and travel preparedness; and put the College’s commitment to global engagement in the spotlight.

We’ve also created a framework for global learning capacities, to help students articulate what they’ve learned in ways that benefit their academic and professional lives. If, as T.S. Eliot said, you “had the experience but missed the meaning,” you're only halfway there.

It’s crucial for our students to experience cross-cultural learning—to understand that knowledge emerges from a great range of centers, histories, and languages. Students want to engage real challenges in and beyond the classroom. Preparing for and reflecting on global experiences helps students clarify their purpose.

What is your role as associate dean of global engagement?

Among other things, I work with colleagues on global learning programs. One example is our Summer Arabic Language and Interdisciplinary Learning program in Jordan, now in its fourth year, led by Professor Manar Darwish. Through a partnership with Sijal Institute in Amman, students study Arabic and take a course taught by a BMC colleague; this summer’s will be on the archaeology of Jordan and the Middle East, taught by Matthew Jameson, an advanced graduate student at Bryn Mawr. Through Sijal and Bryn Mawr’s Career and Civic Engagement Center, students can also continue learning Arabic while doing an externship with a human rights, social service, or educational organization in Amman.

How did you get involved with international education?

As director of the Bi-Co Education Program, it’s important to me to foster opportunities to study global education. Years ago, I got an inquiry from a Haverford alum who had majored in sociology at Bryn Mawr, working with Professor Mary Osirim. As an undergraduate, he had gone to Ghana to work with microfinance and met a couple of young community leaders who invited him to collaborate on starting a school.

He asked if our Education Program would collaborate and help him start a Bi-Co summer internship at the school, called Titagya. We started connecting remotely.

At the same time, Kim Cassidy was developing our 360 program of themed course clusters. So I worked with two faculty colleagues to lead one of the first 360s: “Learning and Narrating Childhoods.” With the chief’s permission and the invitation of local leaders, we and our students visited Dalun, in Northern Ghana, where one of the schools is located. And the doors and windows just kind of blew open from there. The initial engagement has grown into the Laɣim Tehi Tuma/ Thinking Together Summer Action Research Fellowship, which includes internships with other area education organizations in Dalun; introductory language learning, shared reading, reflection, and inquiry-based research; and cultural immersion oriented by Black studies and the goal of global Black liberation.

Why is Global Bryn Mawr important?

I think of education as a process of becoming increasingly less isolated — by your own background, experiences, and biases — and becoming more capable of connection. As my colleague Alison Cook-Sather has written, education is also a process of translation — not only across languages but also across experiences — even within our own selves.

Education fundamentally entails risk, to see things from a new vantage point. The opportunities fostered by Global Bryn Mawr help students both intellectually and practically take and understand those risks, during and after their time at the College.