May 2016 Features

The President’s Column


Dear Friends:

Bryn Mawr’s strength in science and mathematics is distinctive—from the high level of our undergraduates’ interest and persistence in these fields, to their success pursuing careers in STEM disciplines and in earning post-graduate degrees, to the scholarly productivity of a distinguished faculty committed to both research and teaching. Over two years ago, we launched a study of Park Hall, the home of our STEM programs, to determine how well our centralized science building was meeting the needs of current students and faculty. While we have completed a variety of lab and classroom renovations in recent years, particularly in the biology wing, the College had not undertaken a major update of the complex since the chemistry wing and Collier Science Library were completed 25 years ago. The Park study examined the core strengths and deficits of the building as well as changes needed to support contemporary research and pedagogy and continued excellence.

The 2015 space study revealed that the core of Park is solid—if not beautiful—but in need of a variety of changes: better use of some existing spaces, improved teaching spaces, systems upgrades, and better support for the collaborative and increasingly interdisciplinary nature of science. We have since embarked on a highly consultative renovation planning project led by an on-campus faculty-staff team working with the Boston-based architectural firm Payette. In approaching the project, we have followed the core principles that have been the foundation of the extensive campus renewal that the College has pursued over the past 20 years: putting academic and student/ faculty needs first while making wise use of our financial resources. By choosing adaptive reuse where possible, balancing costs vs. “wow factors,” building to silver LEED standards, and adding new square footage judiciously, we have sought to be good stewards of our capital budgets and of the environment while keeping the focus on supporting faculty and student learning and teaching.    

The design process for the Park renovation has also sought to solve some of the “problems” of the building—including, at long last, making it easy to find your way around! The design creates a strong, inviting entrance to the building and a new sense of connection between Park and the rest of the campus. The building will also become much more accessible for community members with mobility issues. The planned changes will bring an architectural energy to Park in keeping with the exciting teaching and research that goes on inside its walls.

Renovations will be carried out in two phases so as to allow “renovation in place” and minimize disruption of research labs. We will break ground for Phase One in spring 2017. This initial phase includes a small addition to the building in the current courtyard. A major feature of the addition will be an atrium, made possible through the generosity of Nan Harris ’51 and Bill Harris Hfd ’47, that will transform our sense of the building. The atrium will create a core to a building that was created in four phases over 55 years and in the process open up the building and add new classrooms and new spaces for students to work collaboratively. In Phase Two, for which we are currently raising funds, we will renovate the existing physics wing, refresh four of our large lecture halls to support innovative teaching, and revitalize Collier Library. In addition, Physics, Computer Science, Ecology, and Geology will all gain new teaching labs, and the extremely successful post-baccalaureate pre-medical program will have a new home.   

The $40 million budget for the project is substantial but is far less than the science building projects of peer institutions that have approached and even topped $100 million. The alternative approach we are taking achieves two goals. From a pragmatic point of view, this renovation will be a fiscally and environmentally sound way to renew a critical facility. As important, the two-phase construction will create a dynamic integrated science building that supports and communicates the excellence of the faculty and students who work there.

We are excited to begin work, and I look forward sharing final designs for Phase I in the fall.


Kim Cassidy, President

Check out President Cassidy in the Huffington Post on Why Current College Measures Fail Today’s Students.