Bryn Mawr Welcomes Unprecedented Number of International Students in Class of 2014

Posted August 26th, 2010 at 4:22 pm.

move-in day
Cloudy skies occasionally threatened, but did not rain on the 369 members of Bryn Mawr’s class of 2014 as they arrived on campus, wrangled their belongings into dorm rooms, met new classmates and advisers, and parted from their families on Wednesday, Aug. 25. The College also welcomed five transfer students and five Katharine McBride Scholars.

The incoming class is the largest in the College’s history and its most thoroughly international: 25.6 percent of the class is composed of international students, breaking last year’s record of about 20 percent. Other notable statistics:

  • First-generation college students make up more than 20 percent of the class
  • Women of color from the United States compose 33 percent of the class
  • Members of the class come from 36 states and the District of Columbia
  • The 98 international students in the class come from 32 countries

A high temperature of 73 degrees Fahrenheit provided unseasonably pleasant conditions for the exertion of moving in. But the relative cool apparently didn’t make a dent in traffic to the impromptu Philadelphia-style “water ice” stand that has become a tradition on the first day of Customs Week, Bryn Mawr’s student-organized take on freshman orientation. Admissions officers generally dish out the traditional fruit-flavored ices, but President Jane McAuliffe donned an apron and took a turn with the scoop this year.

Seniors Katie Croyle and Hannah Payne, the co-heads of the student committee that plans the five days of programming designed to introduce the incoming class to life at Bryn Mawr, opened an assembly for new students and their families in Goodhart Hall’s McPherson Auditorium. Customs People—the pairs of sophomores who serves as guides for “customs groups” of about 10 people each—lined the walls and perched in the windows of the grand auditorium along with hall advisers and community diversity assistants, while the new students were seated on the stage and their families in the audience.

Croyle and Payne led the returning students in a rousing “Anassa kata”—the College cheer—for the incoming students, and more than a few of the newcomers and their families looked understandably bewildered when the crowd began shouting in ancient Greek.

Giving a brief explanation of Customs Week, the Customs Heads pointed to the role of student leaders in organizing the welcome activities as an illustration of Bryn Mawr’s system of student self-governance, the oldest in the country.

Croyle and Payne turned the podium over to McAuliffe, who described the annual welcome of new students as “something I look forward to all summer long.”

After citing a few statistics about the incoming class, McAuliffe noted a number of factors that had contributed to her good mood-the prospect of opening the newly renovated Schwartz Gymnasium, a number of recent mentions of the College in major national media outlets, and the upcoming “Heritage and Hope” conference, which will bring distinguished experts from around the world to Bryn Mawr to discuss women’s education in a global context.  The conference, McAuliffe noted, is part of the celebration of the College’s 125th anniversary, and registration is open to the public.

Next, the president issued a warm welcome to students and their families, saying, “You embark on this adventure together.”

“There is not an adult in this audience who does not envy you,” she continued, advising the students to adopt a spirit of openness that leads to discovery, a prime goal of a liberal-arts education.

“The habits of mind and heart that you cultivate here will free you intellectually and spiritually,” McAuliffe said. “They will connect you with the globe you inhabit and with the deepest part of yourself.”

Chief Enrollment and Communications Officer Jenny Rickard followed with a lighthearted presentation of her own statistics, including a comparison between the incoming class and, in honor of the College’s 125th anniversary, its first class, which matriculated in 1885 and graduated in 1889.

“The most popular majors among the Class of 2014 are our celebrated—world famous, really—’undecided,’ followed by psychology, English, international studies, and biology.” Among the Class of 1889? Greek, chemistry, and biology.

The most common name among the Class of 2014 is Katherine (including variant spellings). For the Class of 1889, it was Emily.

“And those Emilys included Emily Greene Balch, who won the Nobel Peace Prize. So, no pressure, Katherines of 2014.”

Rickard noted that the Class of 2014 has a couple of honorary members-Dean of the College Michele Rasmussen and Dean of Admissions Laurie Koehler, who both started work at Bryn Mawr this summer.

Rickard then presented Interim Dean of Admissions Chuck Rickard, who led the Admissions Office-and recruited the new class-during the 2009-10 academic year, replacing Jenny Rickard in that role while the College conducted a search for a permanent dean. “We’re not related, but I can now say that Rickard is the most common name among Bryn Mawr Deans of Admission.”

The interim dean briefly praised Bryn Mawr as a “community of dedicated scholars and caring staff who  are committed to students’ success.” He then hailed the entering class as a group of “academically elite students whose academic quality and diversity are outstanding.”

The final speaker at the gathering was Rasmussen, the new dean, who acknowledged how difficult it can be for parents and families to say goodbye to their daughters. It feels odd, she says, to return home and see that empty bedroom.

On the other hand, she quipped, “Now you’ll finally have space for that home gym.”

“While cell phones and 3G networks make it theoretically possible to continue in your role as a life coach  and consultant, you may find that your services are needed less and less as the days go by.”

That’s a good thing, Rasmussen assured the crowd. “Your daughter’s autonomy and self-sufficiency are the desired goal of your excellent parenting.”

The students would have plenty of support, she said, promising that the Dean’s Office and other members of the staff would do everything possible to help students achieve their goals and make the transition to adulthood.

The assembled first-year students seemed up to the challenge.

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