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.


Childhood Ambition

A pilot, until I discovered math and physics and then I wanted to become a university professor.

Why Bryn Mawr?

For the last two years of high school, I attended The American School of Tangier in Morocco. The school’s director held Bryn Mawr in high esteem, and my math teacher’s daughter was an alumna. The College had an excellent reputation, and that was all I needed to know.

Most Influential Bryn Mawr Mentor

The entire physics faculty, particularly Al Albano. They were dedicated and believed in our ability to do the academic work and contribute to research. Several of us worked in labs under the guidance of a faculty member—an invaluable experience and real confidence builder at such a young age.

What Dorm Do You Most Associate With?

I loved Rhoads and the friendships I developed as a frosh, but switched to Erdman the next year—I think to be closer to breakfast.

Favorite Tradition

Ice cream sundae study breaks during finals.

What Was Your Path After Bryn Mawr?

I earned a B.S. in electrical engineering through Bryn Mawr’s 3+2 program with Caltech, then a Ph.D. from MIT. I taught for a few years and loved academia but decided a career in industry was more feasible with three small children, so joined a couple of successful start-ups in various leadership roles in implementation, product management, and partnership management. But my heart was always with students—my husband and I served as faculty residents in an MIT undergraduate house. When they announced the Sandbox Innovation Fund, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to launch it as the first executive director. It was a perfect fit.

Tell Us About Your Work Today

The Sandbox provides MIT students with seed money and expert mentoring to work on their own start-up ideas while still in school. Since launching in 2016, we’ve worked with about 800 teams and about 80 of those projects have resulted in start-ups that are funded and operating. It’s especially exciting for me to see so many female student entrepreneurs motivated to break into traditionally male-dominated fields.

How Has Bryn Mawr Helped You to Defy Expectation?

I came to the U.S., on my own, in the 1980s as a young North African and Muslim woman to study math and science at Bryn Mawr. I was thrilled to meet fellow students from all over the globe—India, Africa, Europe, and, of course, the U.S. They broadened my education by exposing me to different cultures and ways of thinking. Bryn Mawr set me up for my work at two of the best research universities in the world and, now, to lead a multi-million-dollar program in the best university in the world helping some of the most talented students bring positive impact to our society. Bryn Mawr helped get me there.

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Jinane Abounadi '87
Executive Director, MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund, Cambridge, Mass.

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