A Community Day of Learning

cdl session copyAs Bryn Mawr students, we are very fortunate to have a college and administration that supports its community in the best ways it knows how. One of the ways the college has responded to recent requests for dialogues around important issues on campus has been to create Community Days of Learning (CDL) where all classes are cancelled, offices are closed, and all members of the community are encouraged to attend sessions throughout the day focused on the highlighted topic. Last year, our CDL was on race, and this year it was on issues surrounding class.

IMG_9247One of my favorite parts of these days is that students are allowed and encouraged to organize and facilitate sessions. I am honored to say that I was able to facilitate a session with two fellow members of First Goers, the student group for first- generation college students on Bryn Mawr’s campus. Our session was called “Debunking Bryn Mawr: Perceptions and Realities of the Student Body”. To plan for it, we researched different statistics that we personally felt were really important for members of the community to be aware of.

At 10:15, the start time for our session, people started filing in, and they didn’t stop! We were not sure how many people to expect and so we had prepared for 40 thinking that would be too many. To our surprise, we had about 70 members of the community in attendance! We were ecstatic to see the response and interest in our session. To begin, we handed out index cards and asked people to make guesses about the different statistics we showed them. After discussing with their neighbors why they made the estimates they did, we revealed the real numbers. Some of the statistics we revealed were:

% of students receiving need-based financial aid: 49.7% (659 students received a Need-Based grant)

% of students receiving Pell grants: 14.0% (186 students received a Pell grant)

% of students who work on campus as part of work study: 46.3% (615 students received some amount of work study aid – Federal and/or College)

% of 1st generation students: 16.4% (218 students are First Generation)

% of 1st generation students receiving a Pell grant: 42.7% (93 of the 218 First Generation Students received a Pell grant)

IMG_9249There were literal gasps from some members of the audience when they saw the true numbers, and others were surprised to see how close or far off their guesses had been. We had them divide into four groups in order to create space for a deeper discussion of the numbers and questions we had created for them. Each of us went to a group to help facilitate, but they didn’t need it! The faculty, staff, students, and community members that participated had incredibly rich discussions and were willing to share their experiences, hopes, and thoughts with their small group as well as the group as a whole.

At the end of the session, the three of us that co-facilitated talked about why it was important to us for people to be aware of the statistics. I spoke about how as a tour guide, we love to tell prospective students about how at Bryn Mawr, we are more than just a number. We are very proud of this, as we should be, but at the same time, this can let numbers that really do matter fall into the background when they should be at the forefront of people’s minds. The statistics we revealed and our participants discussed about may be two-dimensional, but they represent the lived experiences of students on our campus and impact their relationships and ways in which they navigate and experience their time at BMC. It is incredibly important for our community to be aware of the backgrounds students come from so that we can support them in the best ways we can.

It was an incredible experience to be part of such a significant and meaningful day on our campus. It was also inspiring to see so many members of the community engaged throughout the day and in different sessions about these topics and issues that impact our community. While the Community Day of Learning is only one day, these conversations need to be discussed throughout the year, and I hope the conversations started yesterday continue as we always have “mawr” to learn. Thank you to everybody who made our learning yesterday possible! I am so proud to be a member of this community.


#128 Eat a beignet at Reading Terminal Market

IMG_9233After three and a half years of trying, I am very happy to say I have FINALLY eaten beignets at Reading Terminal Market and can cross it off my bucket list. Every time we have visited, my mom has always tried to order some so that I could try them, and every time we have been met with the same response, “Sorry, we’re sold out!” And since they only make them certain days of the week, it made it even harder to get a coveted order.

Last Friday I made my into the city to take my Texas teaching exam required for me to become certified to teach in Texas after graduation. The testing center was right next to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell which meant I took the train to Jefferson station to get there. Since Reading Terminal Market is right next door to the train station, I went into the city a couple hours early to try and get my beignets, and to my surprise they were still serving them! I got my order of six small beignets and a coffee from Old City Coffee and sat down to enjoy my long anticipated treat. It was a great way to start my morning and made taking my over 200 question exam that afternoon a little sweeter! I now have two items from my additions to the bucket list left and at least 12 from the original list that I want to complete before graduation, which is now 79 (EEP) days away. Stay tuned for more posts about completing my bucket list!

Acronyms, Lunches, and Discussions oh my!

Bryn Mawr has hosted so many events this month, and we aren’t even half way done with February! After attending the Life After Bryn Mawr talk (see my last blog for more info!), I signed up to participate in LILAC’s Alumna-in-Residence programming yesterday afternoon.

LILAC_logoLILAC stands for Leadership, Innovation, and Liberal Arts Center, and it is an incredible resource for students on campus. Most students may have heard about LILAC in relation to their summer internship funding program through which students can apply for and if selected, earn a stipend to complete an unpaid internship during the summer. This is just one of many ways they serve as resources to students helping us bridge our passions, work interests, and academic interests with communities outside of Bryn Mawr. The Alumna-in-Residence program allows current students to speak with alumnae/i in small groups throughout different programming during the day about their profession, path after Bryn Mawr, and advice for students interested in expanding their surroundings, whether that be through an internship, volunteering, job, and anything in between.IMG_9204

Yesterday we had the privilege of spending time with Mahnoor Ahmed ’03, who is working in Higher Education as the Associate Director of Student Diversity & Development at Towson University. The first session I attended was a lunch and discussion in the Wyndham Alumnae House restaurant here on campus. There were about ten students present and we were able to hear about Ms. Ahmed’s journey from her time at Bryn Mawr to her present position. I also attended a later session with her and two other students, which provided a more personalized space to ask questions. Her discussion with us was full of advice and truly invaluable information about how to navigate your time in undergraduate school, through to the “real” world, and beyond. Her words were especially meaningful to me, as she discussed her decision to pursue a field that made her happy, and how to move confidently in the direction of our passions, even if it is not the expected path.

I really enjoyed the event and look forward to future Alumna-in-Residence programming. To summarize my experience, some of the most meaningful things I took from her conversations with us were:

Invest in yourself. If you don’t do this, you can’t invest in others. This means that we must advocate for ourselves in order to ever be in a position where we can advocate for others. This involves the second tip she gave of us which was,

Find a mentor. Ms. Ahmed encouraged us to find mentors who will hold us accountable and be invested in our growth. I’ve always had a very cookie-cutter idea of what a mentor is, but she explained that there is no right or wrong kind. Further, she discussed the importance of building networks to help us navigate our professions, interests, and lives.

Make the most out of your Liberal Arts education. As Ms. Ahmed discussed, dreams change. We should not be afraid of this however because our liberal arts education has given us a tool box to use to move around and adjust to new surroundings.

Whenever you are able, do what serves you and makes you happy, as this is a radical act of self love. This one especially hit home for me. I chose to go into education, to work towards becoming a teacher. Hearing her talk about how important it is to do things we love and give us life helped further validate my decision, and made me feel even more confident about following my love for teaching. Similarly,

Success is relative. Right now, we are in an environment where everything revolves around numbers. Our GPA, our graduate testing scores, our class rank. Success is not one thing over another, it’s the result of trying our hardest and being happy with our choices. Because of this, we cannot and should not compare our success to others, as they are not on the same path, and our passions will not always overlap.

Exist in other spaces. Being a rigorous and academically demanding institution, it is easy to become so consumed in Bryn Mawr life that it is impossible to be involved outside of it. Ms. Ahmed eloquently spoke about how if you exist in other spaces, you give yourself the ability to grow. This piece of advice will always be relevant, whether we are inside the Bryn Mawr bubble or beyond it.

Life 101: How to Adult

e1c7719a6542745a518956187aabc610At the beginning of last semester, this meme was floating around the internet. It perfectly captured how I was feeling about recently turning 21 and preparing to enter the “real” world. During my internship last summer, one of my students came up to me and asked permission to do something. My first instinct was to tell them to ask “an adult” until I realized that I *was* the adult in the room, and I had the authority to give them an answer. The idea of becoming a better, “adultier adult” is especially relevant right now as I am starting to think about postgraduate life, expenses, and worries. Luckily for me, and every mawrter, Bryn Mawr has created programming geared towards helping students become prepared and confident adultier adults.

IMG_9187Last night I attended the second talk, “Life After Bryn Mawr: Can You Pay My Bill?” with a handful of other seniors. Alums from different class years and staff from supporting departments and programs on campus were on hand to provide insight into postgraduate life, with this talk thinking specifically about finances and budgeting. Our first activity was to fill out a sample budget sheet with blank spaces for things like rent, cell phone, entertainment, charity, and insurance just to name a few necessities and luxuries that made the list. Looking at all of the rows and columns needing an estimate, it was pretty easy to get overwhelmed with all of the expenses associated with living outside of Bryn Mawr’s castle-like walls. The alums and staff however were there to calm our worries and give insight into how to make it all more manageable.


Milk and cookies make everything better!

We spent the rest of the time listening to the panel members talk about their experiences after college with money, finances, and budgeting, and we had an opportunity to ask questions. Throughout the discussion, words and terms swirled around us, some of which we weren’t familiar with. Everybody present was more than willing to explain and share their personal experiences with us which was very comforting and made the idea of finances post-college less intimidating. And, in true Bryn Mawr fashion, we were able to fill our tummies as we filled our minds with this truly invaluable information.

The two main ideas I came away from the discussion with were:

Figure out what is important to you. The alums made it clear that when coming up with our budgets, we should base it on what is important to us, and not necessarily on what is expected. What is important to one person may not be as important to somebody else, and that’s okay.

Being “independent” does not mean being alone. Just because we move into the real world does not mean that we can no longer ask for help, guidance, or support.

I’ve noticed during my time here that so much of what we talk about is getting through Bryn Mawr, but there isn’t as much conversation about what happens after we leave. I am so grateful for this series of talks about life after college and look forward to future events. It’s one thing to google these things, or read about them in books/online, but hearing from alumnae/i who have experienced what life is like at Bryn Mawr and then navigated the “real world”, makes hearing and understanding the information that much easier and more familiar. Thank you to everybody involved in this series! I am already feeling more confident knowing how much support there is for us, not only while we are on campus, but when we leave as well.