Linda ends her term as Chair of the Bryn Mawr Fund, and Erica takes it on.
I was raised in North Dakota where most people, including me, shared conservative Christian values. At the time, I perceived that women weren’t encouraged to pursue leadership roles there.
My world enlarged and my perspectives changed at Bryn Mawr. I met people with vastly different life experiences and interests —my first-year roommate was a Muslim student from Pakistan, I learned about apartheid from students and professors who were involved in the movement against it, and I met people from across the gender and sexuality spectrum. In the classroom, we read widely, thought deeply, debated all perspectives, and refined our arguments.
Women were the leading voices, even when men were in the room. And I became a leader: co-president of Pem West, student representative to the Board of Trustees, and president of the Self -Government Association. As head of the SGA, I met weekly with President McPherson and Dean Myers, attended trustees meetings, and led community-wide forums on the issues of the day, including racial and homophobic tensions.
It was an amazing experience that encouraged me to grow. I want to preserve and expand those opportunities for future generations. Even today I’m not sure they exist for women at other colleges as fully as at Bryn Mawr.
But Bryn Mawr isn’t perfect. Many of the challenges we dealt with in the 80’s remain. And that is another reason I stay involved—I believe in Bryn Mawr and want it to be the best it can be. As students, we were encouraged to be curious and reflective, to ask questions, and to critically examine evidence so that we can make positive change in the world.
For me, that starts at Bryn Mawr.
I am committed to Bryn Mawr because I found my voice there. That has a lot to do with how we were educated. The level of participation required by each student in the classroom meant that my perspective mattered.
It also stems from our traditions and customs. I arrived at Bryn Mawr already in love with the place, thanks to strikingly well written Admissions brochures and an outstanding campus tour. But the traditions and customs of that first semester are where I got my deep sense of belonging in the community. By the time Parade Night rolled around, I knew I made the right decision. I called my Mom and said, “No worries. I’m where I’m supposed to be.”
As I became more involved, I realized how much work it takes to build a community. Those traditions and customs don’t just happen, they require organization, planning, time, people, and money.
Then, I joined the Senior Gift Committee. Learning to ask for money, especially from students who, by and large, don’t have any, was a real growth opportunity. I had to understand why I was asking, explain its importance, and be able to answer questions about how it would be used. I learned a broader definition of philanthropy and its importance in creating community.
Bryn Mawr can’t do the work of a great liberal arts institution alone. It takes money to build community, provide scholarships and financial aid, hire topnotch faculty, and offer extraordinary learning opportunities both in- and outside the classroom.
A great institution doesn’t just happen. The people who love and believe in it must give their time and money if they want to see it flourish.
Volunteering for Bryn Mawr is a rewarding way to stay connected with classmates while helping to support the next generation of students. Contact Alumnae/i Relations and Development at email@example.com or (610) 526-7396 for a variety of ways to be involved. The commitment can be as big or limited as you’d like.