Bryn Mawr President Jane McAuliffe’s 2011-12 Academic Year Welcome Letter

Posted September 1st, 2011 at 1:24 pm.

26 August 2011

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Welcome to a new academic year at Bryn Mawr. I hope you each enjoyed a relaxing and restorative summer. Classes begin Monday, 29 August with the official opening of the 2011-2012 year occurring at Convocation in Goodhart Hall at 4:30 pm. I invite each of you to participate in this tradition and then to join the community for a picnic. We are hopeful that the weather will allow us to continue with these plans, but please consult the College’s web site for the most current information regarding Convocation and the picnic.

At Reunion in June we concluded a year-long observance of Bryn Mawr’s 125th anniversary, a wonderful celebration of this institution’s rich history, vitality, and hope for the future. I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to each of you for the long hours, additional commitment, and contagious enthusiasm that made this anniversary such a splendid occasion.

This year, our 126th, we will continue to put our collective energy to work for Bryn Mawr. It has been a busy summer on campus, and I want to bring you up to date on a variety of projects begun last year, as well as new opportunities we will pursue throughout 2011-2012.

Academic Opportunities and Initiatives

Last month we welcomed Rachel Heiser to the Dean’s Office as the new academic support and learning resources specialist. In this capacity Rachel will work closely with the advising deans and other academic support services on campus, such as the new Quantitative Learning Center, the Writing Center, and Access Services. She will direct the Peer Mentoring Service and Peer Tutoring and also work one-on-one with students who want to enhance their study skills and learning strategies.

You may recall that in March 2011 we launched the Finance Certificate Program. More than 30 students participated in a week-long course offered during spring break. I was delighted by the student response to this initial program and am pleased to announce that we will offer an Entrepreneurial Certificate Program during fall break and are working on a third program on management consulting to be offered during winter break.

Throughout the 2010-2011 year the Committee on Academic Priorities (CAP) led the development of a faculty Working Model for Balancing Innovation, Institutional Goals, and Sustainability. CAP delivered a document in May that outlines the proposed model and provides the framework for continued deliberation. I believe current and prospective students will appreciate the proposal’s suggestion for re-imagining pathways to the major and preparation for life after Bryn Mawr. To recognize and balance the multiple roles faculty play as scholars, teachers, and mentors, the model suggests a realignment of faculty workload to encourage further faculty engagement with students. I look forward to faculty conversations this year which will explore the ways in which this can be accomplished.

Professor of Sociology Mary Osirim assumed a new role as Dean of Graduate Studies this summer, succeeding Professor of Physics Liz McCormack who returns to her scholarship and teaching after a year’s sabbatical. Mary looks forward to working with our current graduate programs and to promoting greater collaboration between our graduate and undergraduate programs. She will also lead the exploration of new possibilities in graduate education at Bryn Mawr, such as AB/MA programs that are sensitive to career opportunities.

Preeminent gender theorist, Judith Butler, will be in residence in November as recipient of the 2011 Mary Flexner Lectureship. Dr. Butler is the Maxine Elliott professor in the rhetoric and comparative literature departments at the University of California, Berkeley and has contributed greatly to the fields of feminism, queer theory, political philosophy, and ethics during her career. While in residence Dr. Butler will deliver three public lectures, teach several seminars, and host coffee hours with students.

Planning for the Future

The summer months have provided time to consider the findings and recommendations of several groups charged with strategic thinking. In April two Board of Trustees task forces, The Task Force on the Competitive Position of the College and The Task Force on Alumnae Engagement, issued their final reports. To learn more about their work, please consult a forthcoming article in the 1 September issues of the Weekly Insider and the Campus Weekly.

The Cabinet spent the summer studying these reports, as well as the recent work of CAP and the Thinking Forward Group, to identify potential themes and objectives for the future direction of the College and our forthcoming capital campaign. This fall I will invite the entire Bryn Mawr community to discuss these ideas through a series of participatory workshops.

I am delighted that Arlene Gibson has begun her tenure as chair of the Board of Trustees, following the invaluable leadership of Sally Zeckhauser ’64. Arlene is a member of the class of ’65 and has served on the Board since 1999. Her forty-year career in K-12 education included positions as head of Kent Place School (New Jersey) and The Spence School (NYC), both leading independent schools for girls.

To complement the work of the planning groups above, the Board of Trustees will launch a task force on Digital Bryn Mawr. Over the past two decades, technology has moved from a marginal to a central role in the academic and administrative operations of the College. Our infrastructure of hardware, systems, and personnel has grown, like the computer age itself, both responsively and opportunistically. This year we will step back and take a comprehensive look at where we find ourselves and consider how we can continue to make the right choices to create the ideal technological configuration of a liberal arts college. Members of the task force will represent trustees, faculty, administrators, and alumnae/i.

Fostering Community and Enhancing Campus Life

This fall, through the Class Dismissed? Initiative, our community embarks on a year-long exploration of socioeconomic class as it is experienced on the Bryn Mawr campus. This effort follows upon earlier work led by the Diversity Leadership Group through the Campus Climate Assessment. For the past few weeks, the incoming class of 2015 has been participating in One Class, One Book by reading collectively Class Matters, a series of 2005 New York Times articles and essays that address the ways in which socioeconomic class affects the lives of people living and working in the United States. It is our hope that faculty, staff, alumnae/i, and parents will also read the book and join one of the many related programs and events planned for the year.

Sunday, 11 September, marks the tenth anniversary of our national tragedy and that evening we will gather as one community to remember the events of and the many lives lost and changed by September 11, 2001. I invite you to attend the candlelight service in Thomas Great Hall at 7:00 pm and a screening of the documentary film, Rebirth, in Goodhart Hall that will follow the service.

To extend the geographic boundaries of the Bryn Mawr experience and promote a balance between “work” and “play,” Dean Rasmussen and her colleagues are piloting a program that provides undergraduates with free SEPTA train passes for use on the Center City-Paoli/Thorndale line (R5) and the Norristown High Speed Line (R100). This initiative is already receiving praise from students eager to explore Philadelphia’s neighborhoods, restaurants, and cultural attractions.

Also new this fall, be on the lookout for a mobile cart that will feature novel snacks prepared by our Dining Services team. The cart will sell items not available in any other campus eatery and will rotate frequently. The folks who bring us the Princeton Review’s “Best Food” are excited to help create a new hub of social activity on campus.

New and Renewed Facilities

As ever, we are mindful to maintain and care for our physical plant and the facilities in which we live our Bryn Mawr lives. This summer we made significant progress on the exterior envelope of Thomas Hall, repairing the roof, masonry walls, windows, and front steps. This work continues this fall and will be followed by staged repairs to the doors and windows, as well as interior refurbishment. Also this summer we rebuilt four window bays in Pembroke West and completely renovated the laundry and bathrooms. Pembroke West joins East in this restoration and ADA compliance and is ready to be enjoyed for many years to come.

The dining hall in Erdman was renovated and reconfigured to improve access and ease congestion at meal times. In October students and faculty will find a new, modern GeoChem Lab in Park Science with a shared laboratory suite that will provide a collaborative research environment for geology and the environmental sciences. Construction at Guild has begun and continues in the first semester to prepare a new home for the undergraduate dean’s office, residential life, student activities, and international programs.

Finally, I am very happy to announce a long-anticipated improvement to our campus, a new, NCAA regulation size, synthetic turf playing field. This field replaces our lower, under-sized grass field and provides a state-of-the-art facility to support our soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey teams, as well as our intramural and summer camp programs. Together, the new field and renovated Schwartz Fitness and Athletic Center promise to attract students, faculty, and staff to the north end of campus. I hope you will cheer on the field hockey team when it christens the field on Friday, 2 September in its opening game against Hood College.

I look forward to seeing you at Monday’s Convocation and to our year ahead together.

Sincerely yours,

Jane McAuliffe


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