March 2015

President’s Column

Cassidy TAFT FINAL_RGBToday more than ever, we must be sure that a Bryn Mawr education prepares our graduates to thrive and lead in a globalized world. Whether scientists or social workers, portfolio managers or policy makers, our current and future students will need to understand the complex economic, political, and cultural relationships between nations and possess strong cross-cultural competencies. Over the past year, four working groups of faculty and staff have explored how we can best achieve this outcome at Bryn Mawr. How do we build most effectively upon our past commitments to international engagement in the classroom, in research, and in recruiting? What opportunities do we have to build more intentional experiences of global engagement into students’ lives? How should Bryn Mawr itself be engaged globally?

Our resources are substantial: Bryn Mawr has great traditions and strengths from which it can draw in developing a strategy for educating students for global lives. Although specific requirements have changed over the decades, the College continues to be distinguished among its peers in requiring language study of all students and offering a broad range of languages. Over half of our faculty pursue research in other countries, and this scholarship informs their teaching in fields ranging from economic development to contemporary art. We are also an extraordinarily international campus. From our earliest days and increasingly since the early 1970s, Bryn Mawr has educated women and men from around the world. In turn, many of our alumnae/i, whether born in the U.S. or other nations, have chosen to live in other nations for some or all of their lives.

Our working groups on globalization examined four topics in depth:

Global dimensions of the curriculum

Students’ international experience beyond the Bryn Mawr campus.

Our own international students’ experience of Bryn Mawr.

The place of gender and gender equity in our globalization efforts.

In expected Bryn Mawr fashion, each group did thorough research, confronted differences in perspectives, and made ambitious recommendations. I have found broadly shared principles adopted by the four groups that will be foundational to the priorities we adopt:

  1. Bryn Mawr has a distinctive opportunity to take advantage of the international diversity on its campus and the scholarly expertise of its faculty to help students build cross-cultural competencies and leadership skills that they will take to their future professions and communities.
  2. Our international alumnae/i offer us the opportunity to build an extraordinarily global Bryn Mawr network to benefit students and alumnae/i who will live, work, and study across the globe.
  3. In teaching and research, the working groups note and support a shift from a traditional international orientation—that is, one engaged with ideas or realities of particular nations (both past and present)—to a global orientation that focuses more on the interrelationships between and among nations and cultures.
  4. International study, work, or service—whether for a semester, a summer, or a shorter term—has a transformative impact within a liberal arts education. The working groups wish to encourage all students to have such an experience, and to provide ways for students to integrate these experiences more powerfully with other aspects of their Bryn Mawr educations.
  5. The College can model global engagement, and strengthen its curricular and co-curricular offerings, through sustained partnerships with a select group of institutions and organizations in other parts of the world that pursue work that will benefit our faculty and students. More broadly, collaboration, ranging from curriculum development within the Tri-College consortium to faculty research projects with international colleagues, will be the foundation of our strategy to prepare students, and ourselves, to thrive in a global context.

I am now immersed in the task, in equal parts exciting and challenging, of identifying priorities for action and funding. Bryn Mawr has neither the scale nor the resources to develop campuses around the world. I believe, however, that we have the resources and vision to offer students exceptional opportunities for global learning and engagement that will in turn distinguish them from their peers and be critical to their success.