May 2012 Archways

President’s Column

Dear Friends,

This issue of the Bulletin features stories of alumnae who have changed paradigms: those who have been social or political activists, or who have broken ground for women in various professions, or who have transformed their fields through research and practice. Trailblazing is in the DNA of both the College and of our students. The founding of Bryn Mawr was a bold act to educate women to the highest standards and to foster their aspirations for excellence, just as choosing to attend Bryn Mawr in the late 19th century was a declaration of independence.

I have found myself musing on our current students and recent alumnae and asking, “What trails are they blazing for their generation?” While I cannot attempt a complete answer to my question within the confines of this short letter, I can share portraits of student innovation and leadership in three arenas: science and technology, social change, and the still male-dominated worlds of politics and entrepreneurship.
Creating Knowledge
Like their predecessors, current students and recent alumnae are creating new knowledge in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields. As a high school student, Ying Pan ’13 invented a device that senses change in an amputee’s limb and adjusts the socket that attaches a prosthetic device accordingly, thus mitigating pain and impairment. Jessie Rosenberg ’04, one of Forbes magazine’s “30 under 30” “Rising Stars of Science,” does research at IBM on light technology to make computers faster. Julia Ferraioli ’07 studied computer science and robotics at Bryn Mawr and is now a “technical evangelist” who has received “Geek of the Week” recognition on In research that her mentor compared to that of an R-1 university professor, senior geology major Anna Woodson is studying changing rates in sea-level rise over the past 5,000 years and presenting her findings at professional meetings. These and dozens of other young Bryn Mawr scientists are transforming our understanding of how our world does and can work.
Agents for Change
Many members of this generation are savvy leaders for social change in the U.S. and around the world. As a high school student, Lakshmi Somasundaram ’13 led a successful fundraising effort to build and equip a science lab for a girls’ school in Tamil Nadu, India. Lakshmi, who plans to pursue a medical career, recently published an article on opportunities to change attitudes toward autism in India. Many students and young alumnae are passionate about expanding and enriching educational opportunity for children around the world, such as Deborah Ahenkorah ’10, who has created a literary prize to foster the development of children’s literatures in Africa. Our students are also imagining new ways to tackle persistent social problems. In each of the past three years, for example, a Bryn Mawr student has been awarded a Davis Foundation Projects for Peace Grant to support an innovative grassroots project.
Opportunity for Women
Many glass ceilings are cracked, but are not yet shattered. At present, for example, women hold only 17 percent of seats in the U.S. Congress. Hannah Smith ’14, who will intern with Senator Mary Landrieu this summer, aspires to change that number. She is joined by other students who have been inspired by the College’s contributions to the Women in Public Service Project. This year we also saw new student interest in entrepreneurship, as reflected in the strong response to a noncredit seminar offered this fall. Among those attending was Rama Kirloskar ’12, who after graduation will be working in the field of global health at Polaris Ventures, a venture capital fund. I look to Rama and to students pursuing interests in fields ranging from engineering to venture capital to politics to keep banging on those ceilings, and to a future Bulletin article to celebrate their achievements.


Jane McAuliffe