March 2017 Articles

Anassa Kata

High Spirits

Melissa Katrincic ’97 and her husband, Lee, only loaded their gins onto store shelves in August 2015, but their Durham Distillery has already racked up a slew of honors—including North Carolina Distillery of the Year from the 2015 New York International Spirits Competition, a USA Today Readers’ Choice Award for best craft gin distillery, and a gold medal from the 2016 San Francisco Spirits Competition.

Lee works as a pharmaceutical chemist, and Melissa majored in physics at Bryn Mawr. She says her science background—the experience with meticulous planning, careful data collection, and close analysis—has helped make her a successful (and award-winning) distiller. The results include an American dry and Conniption Navy Strength Gin, along with chocolate- and coffee-flavored liqueurs.

“Distillation is science and art combined,” Katrincic says, “and I love every minute of it.”

Hoop Dreams

Four-year member of the Owls basketball team and founder/president of the education nonprofit Universal Promise, Martha Cummings ’80 works to promote academic resources in impoverished areas. When faced with the challenge of launching a netball development program in Nomathamsanqa, 
South Africa, she naturally turned 
to Bryn Mawr.

And the Owls came through: within days of receiving the request, head basketball coach Becky Tyler and her team sent uniforms, warm-up gear, and equipment. Says Cummings: “When I watched a young girl slip on that jersey and saw the smile on her face, realizing that in that moment her dream of playing a sport she loves would be realized, I nearly lost it. When they were all dressed up in their BMC unis, I taught them how to say anassa kata, as we did before every game.”


“I grew up in a home where my mother was a housewife with a passion for children,” Michelle Gyles-McDonnough ’90 told the Jamaica Sunday Gleaner. “I would come home and see some different child living with me for the next three months because … she decided to help.”

Gyles-McDonnough inherited her mother’s passion and has devoted her life to access to opportunity. Newly appointed as deputy assistant administrator and deputy regional director of the UN Development Program in Asia Pacific, she’s working with an organization that aims to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development throughout the region. Now the highest-ranking Jamaican in the UN system, she’s been with the UNDP—the UN’s global development network—since 1999, most recently serving as UN resident coordinator and UNDP resident representative for Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei.

Gyles-McDonnough’s career has had an international accent since graduation day. In 1990, she served as a law clerk for Harare Legal Projects Centre in Zimbabwe and later worked for the Organization of American States and at the Embassy of Jamaica and Permanent Mission of Jamaica to the OAS.

Find Your Story

Inside a fiction-writing class at Bryn Mawr, Zebbie Watson ’12 found her story. Now that story, “A Single Deliberate Thing,” has won two major awards for short fiction: a 2016 O. Henry Prize and a 2016 Pushcart Prize.

Watson had written poetry and taken several courses in it when she decided to try her hand at fiction in 2011. She enrolled in a class with guest professor Karen Russell, author of the Pulitzer-nominated novel Swamplandia!, and discovered that the two forms had more in common than she’d thought. “I realized that, for me, short fiction is more like a longer poem than a shorter novel,” she says.
At a semester-end critique, Russell encouraged Watson to submit one of the pieces she’d written for class, “A Single Deliberate Thing,” to literary journals.

Now pursuing a master’s in Spanish Literature at the University of Georgia, Watson says she’s still writing and submitting more short stories—but she plans to teach Spanish to high school students as her full-time gig.


“We have to start somewhere,” says Jackie 
Slaby ’15. “Let’s start with our schools.”

In November, the Growth and Structure of Cities major won election to the Battle Creek, Michigan, school board.

After earning her master’s degree in city and regional planning at the University of Pennsylvania, Slaby returned to her native Battle Creek to serve the community that raised her. The youngest candidate in the eight-person field, she sees her work on the school board through a city-planning lens and as a way to effect a larger vision for Battle Creek.

In the days leading up to the election, she laid out her positions: enact policies to ensure a safe environment for all students; hold administrators and teachers accountable through training, open communication, and community outreach; improve the curriculum, after-school programming, and opportunities to prepare students for college and career; and develop a growth plan to ensure a healthy budget.

A proponent of community involvement, Slaby has creative ideas for growing the district’s revenue streams—ideas that won’t just cut deficits but will re-envision schools as community resources where people can gather, learn new skills, and even make use of the pool and gym.