"If there is one generalization to be made about Bryn Mawr graduates, it is, of course, that their only common characteristic resides in their individualism and independence of mind and judgment."

—Hanna Holborn Gray ’50, Chair Emeritus of the Bryn Mawr College Board of Trustees


even at BMC and afterwards, nobody is exactly like oneself...

Bryn Mawr alumnae continue to share an iconoclastic approach to learning and a culture of integrity, according to a survey of the classes of 1974, 1979, 1984, 1989 and 1994. Last year, Bryn Mawr participated in a survey sponsored by the Consortium on Financing Higher Education (COFHE), which questioned alumnae/i of 29 leading private colleges and universities about their undergraduate experiences and lives after graduation. What stood out for Bryn Mawr’s alumnae was the importance of getting to know people from countries outside of the United States, from other religions and from different backgrounds at Bryn Mawr. This is increasingly important for younger classes. Ninety percent of the Bryn Mawr respondents were satisfied with their Bryn Mawr education; they value it most for its rigor and encouragement of freedom of thought. They also value most highly gaining the ability to synthesize and integrate ideas and information; writing effectively; acquiring broad knowledge in the arts and sciences; and gaining in-depth knowledge of a field. In terms of current achievements, the items of most importance, on a scale of 1-5 and averaged for all classes, were raising a family (4.0), helping others in difficulty (3.9), obtaining recognition from colleagues (3.5), keeping up with the arts (3.5) and helping to promote racial understanding (3.4).

The COFHE survey results echo feedback from alumnae/i about their values and about the Bulletin gathered as part of the Alumnae Association’s strategic planning process. The Bulletin is one of the few remaining independent alumnae/i magazines and possibly the only one that relies on volunteer alumnae/i authors. One of our primary goals, determined by the expressed needs of alumnae/i themselves, is to keep them connected to the College and to one another by recognizing their experiences and points of view. To this end, the editors and members of the editorial committee work with authors in a mentoring capacity to cultivate individual voices. At the same time we encourage them to avoid poor writing, unconsidered thinking and harangues. Styles vary from personal essays and narratives to analysis and third person reporting. Over the course of four issues, we try to balance coverage of life issues, professional concerns and achievements of alumnae/i with Alumnae Association events and news of the College, primarily issues being discussed on campus, policy changes, public lectures and curricular or academic topics of interest to a general readership. Thus any one alumna/us will rarely, if ever, find only material that reflects her or his own interests and opinions and probably a great deal that does not.

We make decisions about articles to be printed based on their quality, general interest or novelty, timeliness, and appropriateness for the audience; decisions also are affected by the publishing schedule and the mix of topics in a particular edition. We are always mindful of a long list of groups of alumnae/i who continually press us to address their concerns; these include eight decades of graduating classes; professionals in various fields; academicians in their many subject areas; alumnae/i of the graduate schools; working mothers and mothers at home; single women; alumnae/i living in various regions of the United States as well as in other countries; Asian-American, African-American, Latina, Native American, and mixed race alumnae/i; lesbian and bisexual alumnae/i. We want articles in the Bulletin to recognize these and other groups and at the same time help build bridges of understanding among them.

One of the more keenly felt disagreements among alumnae/i about the Bulletin is whether it should focus on personal stories or professional achievements. Last year, an independent group of Bryn Mawr volunteers surveyed a statistical sample of 1,000 alumnae about the Association’s programs. In response to three separate questions, 64.2% agreed that the Bulletin should focus on current life concerns and issues of alumnae/i; 55.9% agreed that it should focus on their professional achievements; and 26.1% agreed that it should focus on events and issues occurring at the College. (Of alumnae graduating between 1991-2000, 72.4% agreed that the focus should be on life issues and 85.4% on professional achievements.) Asked to describe how the Bulletin makes them feel, a small but vocal number objected to personal accounts as "mushy and tawdry," "subjective and frequently skewed," "a soap opera of all the woes of women." A somewhat larger number objected that accounts of professional achievements are "self-promotional" and "gloating" or make them feel "intimidated" and "inadequate" (although often "proud" and "impressed" at the same time). But 70.9% of all respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that "Bryn Mawr’s uniqueness is not reflected in the articles published in the Alumnae Bulletin!" Can it be that we agree to differ from one another?

We will continue to consider the changing needs of alumnae/i as well as those of the Association and of the College. We want to hear more from our readers, whether they agree or disagree, about the articles that we have printed as well as about ideas for future alumnae/i authors and topics. —The Editor