November 2012 Archways

President’s Column

Dear Friends,

In September, the College published The Plan for Bryn Mawr,  a strategic vision focused on three forward-looking priorities that are firmly grounded in our historical strengths. These priorities—and the foundational investments in faculty, facilities, and technology that will support them—have emerged from a two-year planning process, one that engaged all parts of the Bryn Mawr community: faculty, students, staff, and alumnae/i.

The Plan’s third priority is titled “Women for the World,” a phrase that captures Bryn Mawr’s distinctive commitment to combining its founding mission with a global role for the College. Among the many possibilities for focusing our resources and enhancing our competitive position, why is “Women for the World” one of our top three?

“Women for the World” rests upon two core commitments. I believe that Bryn Mawr must build an international learning community, rooted in our history as a close-knit residential community, that will prepare students to pursue lives and careers worldwide and that will allow faculty and students to contribute to and benefit from the globalized world of higher learning. To create such a community requires institutional investment on several fronts:

  • It requires an academic program that attracts students from across the globe and that also sends them out to virtually every continent. Bryn Mawr has long known the value of enrolling talented young women from around the world, and we are renewing our efforts to do so. We are also creating a wider range of options that encourage students to secure international experiences through short-term study trips that are integrated with courses, internships, service projects, and research opportunities.
  • It requires faculty who share research and teaching interests with colleagues on this continent as well as in East Asia, West Africa, the Middle East, and many other places. For example, faculty in the history of art department have recently forged a relationship with colleagues at Koç University in Istanbul. Such faculty and departmental connections benefit students by supporting collaborative curriculum development, shared class sessions made possible through online or videoconference tools, and research projects that draw student and faculty colleagues together across far distances.
  • It requires developing a limited number of robust partnerships with colleges and universities across the globe. With ourpartner institutions in places like Delhi, Tokyo, Seoul, Jeddah, and Singapore, we are planting seeds for the future. Beginning with student and faculty exchanges, we are building toward joint ventures such as our 2012 summer school in Tianjin, China. We are starting to talk about teaching exchanges and joint program possibilities that can be both actual and virtual.

“Women for the World” also signifies our belief that liberal arts colleges can globally engage in mission-related conversations and projects. By understanding ourselves as active agents in a broader world, defining our institutional values, and connecting engagement to a key aspect of our mission, colleges like ours can model the kind of international awareness and citizenship we ask of our students. At Bryn Mawr, issues of women’s advancement and empowerment have animated our college since its founding in 1885. Our core mission—to expand access and opportunity for women—should be explicitly understood as a global and globally collaborative project. The importance and relevance of this project is abundantly clear in the recent case of Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by Taliban militants because she spoke out on behalf of girls’ education. Bryn Mawr can use its institutional orientation and its convening power to generate insight and action on major issues affecting girls and women worldwide and can model new approaches to making gender equity a critical lens through which we examine initiatives to achieve social justice.

“Women for the World” thus captures Bryn Mawr’s distinctive approach to the internationalization process that is reshaping all of higher education. The phrase also captures my own aspirations for both students and alumnae: that no matter what their professions, Bryn Mawr women will raise their voices to support women’s equality and women’s advancement across the globe.


Jane McAuliffe


Leave a Comment