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Bryn Mawr Celebrates the Class of 2024 at Weekend Commencement Ceremonies

May 21, 2024

More than 300 undergraduates and 100 graduate students received Bryn Mawr degrees last weekend as family, friends, and loved ones cheered them on. On Friday, May 17, the graduate students heard from Lorelei Atalie Vargas '94, chief community impact officer of Trinity Church Wall Street, and Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change, who gave the Commencement address to the undergraduate class on Saturday, May 18. Both Vargas and Conrad serve on Bryn Mawr's board of trustees.

Both speakers drew from personal and professional experience to give advice to the graduates.

Vargas talked about the things in her life "that don't show up on a LinkedIn profile," like the challenges of raising children, caring for aging parents, and fighting workplace inequality, and how these experiences have led her to believe in the need to practice compassion while navigating the world.

Trustee Lorelei Atalie Vargas '94

"Show up with compassion in your professional life and in your personal life," she told the graduates. "Give people grace."

She then went on to tell the story of a woman who came to her office building one day when she served as deputy commissioner overseeing the subsidized childcare system in NYC. The woman was throwing chairs, shouting, and inconsolable due to the fact that — after doing everything right to earn a degree and get a job paying just enough to start to get her head above water — her childcare subsidy had been revoked, essentially negating the financial benefit of all she'd accomplished.

Vargas worked with her colleagues to get the woman's benefits reauthorized.

"I let them know it was the right thing to do, the compassionate thing to do," she said. "In the years that followed, I worked closely with our city council leaders, city hall, and others to use city tax levy dollars to extend the runway for families who rely on subsidized childcare. That is compassion in action. You will now have the extraordinary privilege of practicing compassion. Whether you’re working in a lab, as a college professor, a social worker in a community or school, or a policymaker. Your compassionate acts will matter."

Conrad drew from her own experience in giving her advice but turned to the life of her father for her last piece of wisdom: "don't waste your bandwith on hate."

Trustee Cecilia Conrad

Conrad's father, Emmett Conrad, was the first African American to win a city-wide election in Dallas, Texas, when he won a runoff for the Dallas School Board in 1967, she told the graduates. On the day he was sworn in, and for years afterward, a woman from the community would sit in full Ku Klux Klan regalia at the school board meetings.

"From that seat, she glared at my dad nearly every school board meeting for the next six to seven years. I never heard him speak a negative word against her ... He recognized that hating her took up valuable bandwidth that could better be directed at creating a free-breakfast program, ending a mandate that pregnant teens drop out of high school, creating a bilingual education program, and desegregating sports and extracurricular activities like speech and debate."

The weekend's ceremonies were the last to be led by Bryn Mawr President Kim Cassidy, who will step down in June after more than 10 years in the role.

President Kim Cassidy

"In a sense you and I are graduating together," Cassidy told the undergraduate class. "I have always been moved by graduation. Part of that comes from my love of our students and my pride for what you accomplish, but I realize that when we enter this tent, there is something else that goes beyond celebration, something that I am particularly aware of today. In this space and in this moment, we are surrounded by so many people who love us and have supported us on this journey. We simply couldn’t have done it without them. And we are all here together—one last time. And so, I hope that your heart, like mine, is filled with gratitude for those who are gathered here, and that you will carry their support and care with you to whatever is next. No matter what lies ahead for you, keep these relationships with you to sustain you and to bring you joy. Thank you and congratulations."

In addition to the awarding of diplomas, a number of faculty and students were recognized at the Commencement ceremonies and at the undergraduate awards ceremony on Thursday, May 18.

Anassa kata Class of 2024!