Going Above and Beyond
Dear Friends: In becoming president of the College, I began a new education about Bryn Mawr and one that continues to deepen my knowledge of this campus and of higher education more generally. While my experiences as faculty member and provost gave me a deep understanding of teaching, research, and academic innovation, I have had much to learn about subjects ranging across all aspects of our operations (from bond refinancing to stormwater management) and all parts of our campus community (from negotiating changes in federal policies affecting international students to meeting accessibility needs in the classroom and the built environment).
One joyful part of my presidential education has been my greater understanding of the critical role that the College’s staff plays in the lives of our students and in creating a sense of belonging to this community. The role of a college’s staff is one of service to the primary teaching and research mission of the institution and of support for the student experience, from residence halls to health and wellness. This service is indeed critical to our educational success and to the quality of campus life, especially at a residential college. But at Bryn Mawr, I have learned that our staff plays roles in students’ lives and education that reach far beyond the service outlined in their job descriptions.
The College News issue published in late March included a center spread of student reflections on the impact of staff members on their daily lives and on their overall college experience. Contributors celebrated members of our housekeeping staff for the warmth and caring they bring to the students they come to know in the dorms, libraries, and academic buildings where they work. Students wrote of how these staff members make them feel at home, provide advice, become friends, remind them of why all the hard work is worth it, and, in one student’s words, “shine light wherever they go.” Housekeeping staff check on students, provide everyday kindnesses, and, in another student’s words, “help make Bryn Mawr home.”
Most of our students hold part-time jobs on campus, and for new students, that first job is usually one in Dining Services. Many continue to work in Dining after their first year, and our staff has created opportunities for them to move into supervisory jobs and to gain management experience. Students contributing to the College News issue described Dining Services staff variously as “mentors,” “father figures,” and “sources of motivation to keep pushing when things hit hard academically.”
Staff members from across the campus go above and beyond for students and faculty every day. A senior member of our Facilities staff makes time to talk to any student who is interested in learning more about our energy management and sustainability practices. Staff members volunteer as mentors to students who are the first in their families to go to college. The weekly “dean on call” responds to phone messages and texts from students on nights and weekends. Librarians and educational technology staff collaborate with students in their experiments with virtual reality, in designing digital exhibits, and in piloting an oral history project for the College Archives. Staff from across the College volunteer to teach in THRIVE, the program we created several years ago for first-year students to support successful transition to college.
This list could be much longer, but I hope it offers you a sense of the ethos of caring and commitment that characterizes Bryn Mawr’s staff and the campus culture they help to create. Our students and faculty are fortunate to have their support, and as president, I could not be more grateful for and proud of their work.