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Ecological Intelligence at Bryn Mawr (Revision)

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In the Mission on the Bryn Mawr College website, one of the statements says, “the College has maintained its character as  “a small residential community which fosters close working relationships between faculty and students.” An example of this out of the classroom is the Community Day of Learning. While scrolling through the archive of articles on the Bryn Mawr website, I found a post about this year’s Community Day of Learning in the winter. The blog post mentioned this was the second time this event is being held, last year’s being the inaugural one. Community Day of Learning was a day where essentially the whole campus participated in a variety of activities based around the theme of “Race and Ethnicity at Bryn Mawr and Beyond.” In her blog post before the event, President Kim Cassidy wrote the event allowed for “the rich conversations that occur when you have intergenerational interactions” between the faculty, staff, and students.

From reading the college website’s blog post, I gathered that these interactions fit the definition of ecological intelligence. The way I defined it, ecological intelligence means taking action, practicing what one preaches. As I have seen in the past few months, Bryn Mawr students are always having conversations with each other about “death to the patriarchy,” social constructs, politics, and race. Being aware and fighting for social justice seems to be a natural attribute of students here. However, having conversations with each other, where we only learn from each other, young people, in the confines of our dorm rooms and dining hall tables, doesn’t grow our ecological intelligence. That’s why the “intergenerational interactions” during the Community Days are powerful. I know that members of our young generation think that the older folks are a bit outdated (as we saw in the Gender and Sexuality project presentation!) and that middle-aged people to Baby Boomers believe we are a bit too loose, a bit too radical. Still, those beliefs do not invalidate our ability to share experiences and gain new perspectives. One student Rachel Ofili said, “‘I love that we’re having this day and doing this. The session I went to was all about hearing people’s stories and getting to know them as individuals. Every day we see people on campus and make assumptions, but we really have no idea who they are or what they’re about.”

Meaningful conversations between faculty, staff and students break the academic and self-centered mold of intelligence. As traditional intelligence is competitive in nature, that goes together with power structures. Professors, with their impressive curriculum vitaes, are the “most” experienced and knowledgeable who pass their learnings on to students. But where do staff members fit in? They are adults but not teachers, quiet but friendly. In learning from each other, there is a circle of intelligence AND power, not a triangle with sharp, attainable point at the top, where one could cut themselves. During my first semester, I haven’t really seen professors and the people who maintain our buildings, grounds, and food interact but in February, it will be fascinating to witness that and be part of their conversations.

Conversation is still the step that President Cassidy mentioned when she noted that a single day would not fix racism. Ecological intelligence is even more than conversation, which is action. I think a next step to take after these Community Days, especially the upcoming one about socioeconomic status and class, would be TimeBanks and Dream Circles. Grace and Hannah explored these in their six-week projects and expressed their interest in reviving them again at Bryn Mawr after an unsuccessful attempt a few years ago. Grace particularly was interested in a social justice time bank. Jessica Vinson, the Associate Director of Experimental Education who Grace interviewed, said the original goal was “break down barriers between staff and students.” The opinions and experiences expressed during the Community Day conversations could impact these time bank projects. Otherwise, one day of conversation would become lost in the thoughts of homework, club meetings, and social gatherings the next day. But what if the conversations lead to the Dream Circles, which were achieved through the TimeBank projects? This would open up more gates of action between the students, staff, and faculty AND continue to decrease the perceived power structures outside of the classroom. Grace mentioned that one of her dreams is “to start and run this TimeBank at Bryn Mawr before I graduate.” The last line in the College’s mission statement says, “encourage students to be responsible citizens who provide service to and leadership." In order to do that and fulfill both Grace’s and our own dreams, we, the students, staff, and faculty, need to reach out to her and each other.


Works Cited: 


 Cassidy, Kimberly. “Building an Inclusive Community: A Shared Responsibility.” Web blog post. Dispatches From Taylor Hall. Wordpress. 12 Mar. 2015. Web. 17 Dec. 2015

Campus Comes Together for Community Day of Learning.” Website. News. Bryn Mawr College. 20 Mar. 2015. Web. 17 Dec. 2015

GraceNL. “Time Banking at Bryn Mawr: A Dream.” Web blog post. Changing our Story 2015. Serendip, 17 Dec. 2015. Web. 17 Dec. 2015.