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2024 Commencement Speakers: Cecilia Conrad & Lorelei Vargas '94

April 1, 2024

Bryn Mawr's Commencement ceremonies for 2024 will be held on Friday, May 17, and Saturday May 18. Graduate degrees will be awarded on Friday, May 17, at 5 p.m., and undergraduate degrees will be awarded Saturday, May 18, at 2 p.m.

Addressing the undergraduate Class of 2024 will be Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change, a nonprofit that helps donors find and fund bold solutions to the world’s biggest problemsLorelei Atalie Vargas '94 is Chief Community Impact Officer of Trinity Church Wall Street and will give the commencement speech to the graduate degree recipients.

"Both of our speakers have played key roles in organizations dedicated to helping others and remind us that true success lies in the difference we make in the lives of those around us," says Bryn Mawr President Kim Cassidy. "I'm delighted to welcome Cecilia and Lorelei as we celebrate both the accomplishments and the promise of our graduates."


Cecilia Conrad is CEO of Lever for Change, a nonprofit that helps donors find and fund bold solutions to the world’s biggest problems. In its first five years, it has facilitated over $2 billion in grants for social change. Conrad is also senior advisor at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation where she led the MacArthur Fellows program from 2013-2022. Under her leadership, the Fellows program produced the most diverse classes in its history and expanded its public profile through innovative programming like the Toward Common Cause art exhibition. Conrad also steered the creation of MacArthur’s 100&Change, an athematic, open call competition that periodically makes a single $100 million grant to a project that promises measurable progress in solving a critical social problem. The first grant was awarded in 2017 to Sesame Workshop in collaboration with the International Rescue Committee for an early child intervention in the Syrian refugee region. Among the accomplishments of this project is a new Arabic-language children’s television program, Ahlan Simsim, now in its fifth year of broadcast.

Before joining the foundation in 2013, Conrad was vice president for academic affairs and the Stedman Sumner Professor of Economics at Pomona College. She serves on the boards of the African Center for Economic Transformation, Bryn Mawr College, IES Abroad, the National Academy of Social Insurance, The Hypothesis Fund, the Poetry Foundation, and TIAA (Board of Governors).  She received her B.A. degree from Wellesley College and her Ph.D. in economics from Stanford University. 


Lorelei Atalie Vargas '94 has three decades of experience in the non-profit and government sectors with a strong focus on creating community-level opportunities and helping to strengthen the lives of children and families. Lorelei’s career has involved work in critical areas of child and family well-being, including physical health, substance abuse, mental health, education, childcare, and food insecurity. 

Vargas currently serves as chief community impact officer of Trinity Church Wall Street, where she has developed and leads a place-based initiative to focus holistically on addressing the wellbeing of communities in lower Manhattan. The approach combines targeted investments with on-the-ground support to address both immediate needs, and root causes. Prior to her current appointment, Vargas served as deputy commissioner for child and family wellbeing with the City of New York’s Administration for Children’s Services where she advocated for, designed, developed, and administered the country’s first child welfare division dedicated to using a two-generation approach to strengthen programs, leverage existing resources, and building on the assets that are inherent in families.

Prior to that appointment, Vargas served as New York City’s deputy commissioner of early care and education, leading the country’s largest publicly funded subsidized childcare system, serving the needs of close to 110,000 children with a budget of over $1 billion annually.  In this role, Lorelei successfully led reforms, including expanding access to care, implementing a trauma-informed care model across the system, and developing two-generation programs.

Before entering city government, Vargas spent over a decade at a New York-based nonprofit where she led the organization’s work to implement a trauma-informed organizational culture model in over 300 child-serving organizations worldwide; managed and grew the mental health division from three clinics to seven, including multiple school-based clinics; and oversaw the expansion of the childcare program to better serve the community.

Vargas earned her bachelor’s degree from Bryn Mawr College, where she currently serves as a member of the board of trustees. She also holds two master’s degrees, one in public policy and one in education administration and policy, both from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow.

For more information on the 2024 Commencement Ceremonies, visit this page.