The Bryn Mawr Effect
When she was only eight, Getrude Makurumidze’s family—mother, father, and younger sister—died in the AIDS epidemic. Aunts and uncles took her in, and depending on circumstances, she moved from one family to the next. “But they all sacrificed to allow me to get educated,” she says.
Education has always been important to her entire family—her father had been a teacher and her mother a nurse—and their daughter excelled in school. As a high school senior, she was one of the only 32 out of 1,000 applicants worldwide selected to participate in the United States Student Achievers Program, which brought her to Bryn Mawr.
In her first year, Makurumidze met BMC alumna and leader in the field of AIDS psychiatry Dr. Mary Ann Cohen ’62. The pair bonded, and Cohen, author of the Comprehensive Textbook of AIDS Psychiatry, asked her young protégé to write a chapter on AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children for its second edition.
“Getrude is an exceptional young woman who has been able to deal with the multiple losses, displacements, and traumas of her childhood in ways that seem to define resilience,” says Cohen. “I have mentored hundreds of excellent students and trainees over the decades of my career, and Getrude is clearly the most impressive of them all.”
Makurumidze excelled at Bryn Mawr, with internships in HIV and AIDS research at Drexel’s college of medicine, integrative oncology at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, global psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a semester in Denmark at the Medical Practice and Policy track at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad.
Today, Makurumidze is at the New York State Department of Health’s AIDS Institute, where she works on a partnership program between the state and the Ministry of Health in Zimbabwe.
Next stop? Medical school.
“I hope to become a fully trained psychiatrist and infectious diseases specialist,” she says. “My ultimate goal is to go back home and develop a globally oriented practice. Diseases like AIDS are a global problem and require global collaborations and solutions.”
The Road to Morocco
For Lydia Sanchez ‘18, the road to her Boren Scholarship began with a trip to Argentina as an exchange student and a Google search.
As a Boren Scholar, Sanchez is at the Qalam wa Lawh Center for Arabic Studies in Morocco. Her studies include modern standard and Moroccan colloquial Arabic as well as Middle East and North African studies, political science, religion, women’s studies, and Amazigh studies.
As a Boren Scholar, Sanchez is preparing for a career in the foreign service, an interest that was sparked during her sophomore year in high school, when she lived in Argentina as an exchange student.
“It changed my life,” says Sanchez. “It forced me to understand a different culture, government, and way of thinking.”
Once back home in Rhode Island, she decided that the traditional high-school-to-college route wouldn’t provide the experience she was looking for. So she turned to the world’s most popular search engine.
“I Googled ‘State Department Exchange Programs,’ and by the end of the day, I announced to my parents that I wanted to go to Oman to study Arabic,” she recalls.
In the fall of 2013, she did just that through the National Security Language Initiative for Youth. She lived in Oman for eight months and received 15 hours of Arabic instruction weekly.
Today a political science major, Sanchez plans to continue her Arabic studies when she returns from Morocco by enrolling in Arabic courses at Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania, made possible through Bryn Mawr’s consortium with those schools.
Advocacy and Joy
Campus Compact, the coalition devoted to promoting the civic purposes of higher education, has noticed something that the Bryn Mawr community has known for quite a while: Paola Bernal ’17 is a tireless advocate for civic engagement.
And now her advocacy—she is co-president of Mujeres, co-founder of the Dialogue on Race, student coordinator for the ACLAMO After School Program, and student employee in the Civic Engagement Office—has earned her a 2016 Campus Compact Newman Civic Fellows award.
At the after-school program at ACLAMO, Bernal recruits and supervises fellow Bryn Mawr students who work with K-8 students providing homework help, academic enrichment, remediation, and language support. ACLAMO [Acción Comunal Latinoamericana de Montgomery County] is Montgomery County’s only bilingual community social service agency.
For Bernal, a sociology major from Houston, Posse Scholar, and Mellon Mays Fellow, the work is personal: “I see myself and my family in the members of ACLAMO,” she says. “I am passionate and continue to be involved and work through these social issues because I am a product of the issues. I have experienced these social injustices first-hand and I’ve been able to grow and acknowledge the power of raising awareness in not only educating myself, but in engaging in critical dialogue and working towards breaking down the systematic barricades of silence and oppression.”
In her letter recommending Bernal for the award, President Kim Cassidy wrote, “While her list of accomplishments is impressive, it is not what makes Paola truly stand out…. Rather, it is the joy that she brings to her work. Her face lights up when she talks about the children she tutors or when she describes the Norristown community to someone who has never been there.”