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 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.
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.