The Tri-Co in Philly

The program aspires to help students develop a broader capacity to engage diverse environments, perspectives, and people.

Dear Friends: Philadelphia has always offered great cultural, educational, and social resources to Bryn Mawr students, faculty, and staff. The College’s Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research and distinctive program in the Growth and Structure of Cities have particularly benefited from connecting to Philadelphia through teaching, scholarship, and community engagement. Increasingly, however, members of our community have been eager to create immersive and focused ways for faculty and students across the College to explore issues and dynamics embodied in the nation’s sixth largest city. 

As a result, this spring Haverford and Swarthmore are joining with Bryn Mawr to pilot the Tri-Co Philly Semester, intended to enable students to understand the city as a place of complex, interconnected systems and to practice thinking about how the many, varied elements of urban life interrelate. In the pilot phase of the program, lasting three semesters, participating students will take two urban-focused courses taught by Tri-Co faculty at the Friends Center in Center City Philadelphia. Courses will draw from several different disciplines and will embed course-based learning with urban experiences to help students explore how scholarship relates to current issues. Speakers from organizations will be invited into the classroom, and students will leave the classroom to explore neighborhoods, cultural organizations, government agencies, nonprofits, businesses, and museums. The program aspires to help students develop a broader capacity to engage diverse environments, perspectives, and people, and to foster a higher level of informed civic engagement and social responsibility.

Course offerings will change as Tri-Co faculty across different disciplines collaborate to design each semester’s program. Courses for the spring 2019 semester are being taught by faculty from Haverford and Bryn Mawr and include Philadelphia: Inventing a City; The Politics of the Creative Class in American Cities; and Narrativity and Hip-Hop. In this first semester, 19 students (seven from Bryn Mawr, six from Haverford, and six from Swarthmore) are enrolled, and student interest was very high.

We are exploring whether Tri-Co Philly can grow into a fully immersive residential experience. The three-semester pilot phase allows the colleges to test and confirm student and faculty interest, to identify a location that will meet students’ needs for services and safety, and to ensure that we build sound financial footing for a residential program. 

As Tri-Co Philly matures, we envision developing substantive, sustained, and reciprocal partnerships with community-based organizations that allow faculty and students to delve into the social, economic, political and cultural dynamics of 21st century metropolitan life in general and of Philadelphia in particular. Our presence in the city will also help participating students take greater advantage of research and internship opportunities offered by the city’s businesses, nonprofits, museums, archives, medical research centers, and government agencies.

I am as excited as our students and faculty about this initiative, and I look forward to sharing stories of the project as it evolves.




Kim Cassidy