In my inaugural address on October 4, 2008, I used the Classical divisions of the trivium and the quadrivium to frame my thoughts about how to build upon Bryn Mawr’s legacy as we take the College forward. In those remarks, the trivium comprised the commitments that define us as a women’s college in the liberal arts tradition: excellence, access, and agency. The quadrivium, by contrast, charted objectives suggested by today’s world and our higher educational context: (1) to strengthen the educational experience for every Bryn Mawr student; (2) to enhance community on this campus and beyond; (3) to deepen Bi-Co and Tri-Co connections; and (4) to assume a leadership role in the globalization of higher education.
How quickly the past five years have flown! As I conclude my service as president of this remarkable institution, I am proud to report on the College’s strong foundation, on our progress in achieving key goals, and on our prospects for the future.
- The College is in good academic health. Our faculty hires for the past five years have been top choices of their respective search committees and have been drawn from the top graduate programs. The Undergraduate College hosts innovative new programs such as the 360°s and the Blended Learning Initiative. Our two graduate schools are attracting strong applicants who secure excellent positions upon completion.
- The Bi-College and Tri-College collaboration has made major strides, including the Tri-College Environmental Studies Program and the Tri-College Digital Humanities Initiative. This fall, Bryn Mawr and Haverford will launch SEADS (Seamless Administrative Services) to facilitate cross-registration and advising.
- Undergraduate applications have steadily increased, and the College is more selective than it has been in more than 30 years. Curricular and co-curricular innovations of recent years have had a positive impact on both enrollment and student satisfaction. With the launch of the Center for Leadership, Innovation, and the Liberal Arts in summer 2013, our work to enhance the student experience will continue unabated.
- Bryn Mawr is on sound financial footing, and we are now focused on funding core elements of our future: academic innovation, enriched student life programming, and support for faculty and students.
- The campus looks terrific, and 15 years of investment in renewal and renovation is reaping current reputational benefits. In the coming years, we will continue our renewal efforts in Haffner and Thomas Halls and launch significant upgrades to Park Science and Canaday.
- Bryn Mawr’s visibility has grown nationally and internationally.Positive attention includes national fellowships awarded to our students and faculty; our leadership in the Women in Public Service Project; new international outreach; and major public events and conferences.
The Plan for Bryn Mawr, the strategic vision affirmed by the Board of Trustees in June 2012, echoes my inaugural’s trivium and quadrivium while incorporating additional aspirations. The Plan’s first two priorities specify how we will strengthen our students’ educational experience by forging clearer and more robust connections between curricular and co-curricular work and the professional paths that these open for our graduates and by intensifying our leadership in science education. Its third priority, “Women for the World,” weaves together our commitment to institutional agency, our focus on internationalization, and our emerging sense of the College as a globally networked community. Bryn Mawr stands in a good place to meet the future, and Interim President-elect Kim Cassidy will provide strong leadership into that future. Recently, I introduced an essay on higher education with these words:
“A wonderfully evocative photograph of Bryn Mawr College that dates from its earliest days presents a graceful, bell-towered building standing alone at the center of a cleared field. Viewing the photo today, we automatically populate that empty field with all that has been added, the beloved campus created by the vision and vigor of those who preceded us. We cherish this campus because its boundaries embrace our living community, one with deep roots in the past and a strong thrust toward the future.”
I love this image, partly because I climbed the Taylor Bell Tower on my first day at Bryn Mawr but mostly because it speaks to what propels us forward: the deep belief that we are stewards of an extraordinary dream, an educational experiment in excellence that has transformed so many lives and promises to do the same for so many more to come.