A few weeks ago, I discovered a particularly intriguing blog post by Bryn Mawr’s Special Collections about a book co-written by Emily Kimbrough ’21 and Cornelia Otis Skinner ’22. Titled “Our Hearts Were Young and Gay,” it follows the authors through their post-grad European adventures. Though certainly a charming narrative with an interesting legacy, this text possess a more personal connection for me.
“Our Hearts Were Young and Gay” was one of my mother’s favorite books as a 13-year-old. Growing up in Wisconsin, my mother had no connection to Bryn Mawr, but somehow got a copy of this book and fell in love with it. Even as an adult my mother continues to collect books by Kimbrough and Skinner. I remember her frequently telling me about it during my adolescence (“It has kind of a funny name now, but don’t let that deter you!”) to try and pique my interest. Despite coming to Bryn Mawr by chance (I applied on a whim!), Kimbrough and Skinner’s stories seem to follow me. My mother is constantly reminded of subtle anecdotes in the book (like the swim test!) that she would’ve never picked up on otherwise. It’s strange to think of my mother discovering this book so many years ago to me living in the dorm featured on the book’s press photo (see below).
I’m embarrassed to say I still haven’t read the book. One of the setbacks of thesising is having very little time for much else (save for a the occasional Netflix binge), but it’s my first order of business post-Commencement. I mean, besides securing a job…
While it felt impossible at the time, I did finish my fall finals and live to blog about it! Luckily all of my essays were about topics I was genuinely invested in, but even so the tasks at hand felt daunting at times. As a first-year I couldn’t even fathom writing 40+ pages during a finals period, but I’m grateful to Athena for slowly but surely guiding me up to this point. No matter how many hours I spend in my carrel, there’s something rewarding about holding that huge stack of papers in your hands.
Everyone has their own studying style, but I think it took me until sophomore year to really fall into mine. I went to a rural public high school in Maine where strenuous studying wasn’t a regular part of my routine. Bryn Mawr has pushed me (in a good way!) to not rest on my laurels and really challenge myself in a way that feels productive and engaging. Perhaps one of the greatest things about a small liberal arts college is that no matter your academic background, there are resources in place to help you succeed and reach your potential. I’ve grown so much as a student and I attribute much of my success to Bryn Mawr.
But that’s not to say I didn’t manage to fit in some fun, too! No matter how hectic everyone’s schedules seem to get, my beloved Radnor always finds time to take our annual holiday photo.Though a relatively new tradition, I think it definitely has staying power and is a welcomed break to studying!
One of the greatest takeaways from my Bryn Mawr experience is undoubtedly the friendships and connections I’ve made with other students. Because dorms incorporate all students (there isn’t just a “senior” or “first-year” dorm) and traditions involve cross-campus inclusion, I’ve often found that some of my closest friends at Bryn Mawr aren’t even in my own class. This is especially true of members in my sister class. A sister class is created between every other year (for example, as a dark blue 2014, my sister classes have been light blue 2012 & 2016). Though it’s hard to watch friends graduate, I’m relieved to know our friendships haven’t deteriorated and that I always have someone to visit when traveling, especially in DC, New York, and Boston.
It’s also exciting to see what adventures people are up to post-graduation. One member of my “big” sister class (2012), Kady Ruth Ashcraft, was an active member of Lighted Fools, the Bi-Co improv comedy group. She even took classes at Chicago’s Second City for a semester in her junior year (a productive and unique spin on going abroad). Since graduation, Kady’s been active in New York’s comedy scene, complete with performing in an all-ladies improv group, writing for College Humor, and producing videos. She’s also a really great friend. Perhaps I’m a bit biased, but these two recent videos are very good and, as one might expect of a women’s college alum, relevant.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, one of my goals for senior year is to push myself to do things academically and socially I’ve been too shy or uncertain to previously attempt. One of Bryn Mawr’s most transformative aspects is its ability to give students the tools to become more empowered and active participants in their lives and communities. In addition to writing a thesis, my academic capstone of pushing myself in new ways, I’ve made similar efforts socially, like establishing the Radnor Film Institute.
However, one of my biggest accomplishments happened last weekend: I played my very first concert with my very first band at a sold out show! I’ve always wanted to play bass in a band, but never felt confident enough in my own skills. Over the summer I read that DIYPHL (an independent group in Philly that works to foster the DIY community) was hosting an event called First Time’s the Charm. The goal of the event was to have a showcase of all new bands featuring members who had either never played an instrument before, played in a band before, or identified as female, queer, or a person of color. I was able to group together a few friends, including a fellow Mawrtyr, and thus, Calamity Jane was born. We performed two original songs and a cover. It was completely nerve-wracking, exciting, liberating, and, well, amazing! We even got reviewed by Pitchfork’s Jenn Pelly. She writes, “And so, there was female-fronted hardcore and angelic pop-punk, tear-stained acoustic ballads and camp. My favorite sounds were the squeaky proto-punk of Calamity Jane and skinny-chord post-punk of Marge.”
I love Bryn Mawr’s commitment to forging an inclusive and safe space for all students – one that encourages and empowers its community. However, spaces like this are extremely rare outside of campus. As a senior contemplating life after college, it’s important to me to try and find similar spaces I feel comfortable in and want to engage with. DIYPHL’s event was an excellent example of this and I’m so excited to see what the future has to offer.
Calamity Jane and a sea of Mawrtyrs in the front row! Photo by Sharp Hall
Halloween and Lantern Night always seem to piggyback each other at the Mawr. My freshman year Lantern Night even fell on Halloween proper for an especially memorable evening. This year it was a double-weekend affair with plenty of on campus and TriCo gatherings. One of the more low-key festivities I partook in was a pumpkin carving party at a friend’s apartment. The vast majority of students opt to live in the dorms (I mean, who doesn’t want to live in a castle?!), but there are also opportunities for students to rent apartments independently or through the college. This specific apartment is quite literally across the street from my dorm, providing a nice on-campus/off-campus balance. Plenty of delicious snacks were served and we watched Hocus Pocus, a seasonal favorite of mine. One of the things about Bryn Mawr I cherish is finding balance between social and academic life – whether that means a concert in Philly, a night in with Netflix, or a party in a dorm. I love taking each week as it comes.
Last night marked my final Lantern Night ceremony as an undergraduate. The second of our four annual traditions, Lantern Night is perhaps our most iconic. During the event, first-years file into the pitch-black Cloisters, sing a couple songs in Greek, and receive their lanterns, their light of knowledge, if you will. My Lantern Night was on Halloween (!), but the following year I participated in the event as a “runner” – sophomores who literally sprint through aisles of first-years to distribute lanterns. This was my first time observing the procession from the roof of the Cloisters. Watching Lantern Night is not unlike a college football marching band – it’s highly synchronized and quite elaborate. While it is our oldest tradition, it’s also one of the harder ones to explain. As I always say on my Admissions tours, no matter how many times I explain it, I can never quite capture the beauty and, for lack of a better term, magic of it all. For me, Lantern Night symbolizes Bryn Mawr’s self-sustaining environment that is governed solely by women, eternally guiding each other towards a common goal of equality and inclusion.
Lantern Night 2011 – I had to run and deliver lanterns in the snow! Not ideal conditions, but still beautiful. The long exposure time of this photo is deceptive – it really is total darkness!
It’s with a heavy heart I write this post in memoriam of Professor Gridley McKim-Smith, an amazing woman, scholar and mentor. News of her passing was just relayed to the Bryn Mawr community, the weight of which I’m still processing.
Professor McKim-Smith has been an invaluable presence at Bryn Mawr since her arrival in 1982. Her passion for the arts and cultures of Latin America and Baroque Spain was inherent and never lost on her students. I had the pleasure of taking her course Material Identities in Latin America 1820-2010 in the fall of my sophomore year. Professor McKim-Smith guided us on lively field trips to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, MoMA, and El Museo del Barrio. Her lectures were dynamic, engaging, and above all, inspiring.
I am also lucky to have known her as a mentor. Professor McKim-Smith was always an invaluable resource in contemplating research topics and sources. I cherish the moments I spent in her office, sharing ideas and exchanging stories. She had encouraged me to apply for the combined AB/MA program and went out of her way to connect me with colleagues in fields I hope to pursue post-graduation. I had looked forward to taking more courses with her this spring and into next year as a graduate student.
I last saw Professor McKim-Smith on a late July afternoon in New York. I was making my way through the masses towards MoMA when I spotted her leaving the museum. She possessed an understated elegance that I had always admired. We spoke briefly about our summer adventures before comparing notes on the current New York exhibitions. She smiled and wished me luck before parting ways.
Professor McKim-Smith’s absence will be felt for many years to come. She was an immeasurable asset to the History of Art department and Bryn Mawr community at large.
This is Kimberly Wright Cassidy. She is a woman and she has brown hair. She is employed by Bryn Mawr College. She was once the Provost but she is now the Interim President. She also writes a clever blog.
I am an art historian, but I never claimed to be an artist.
As a member of the senior gift committee, I had the pleasure of hearing Kim Cassidy speak to a group of alums a couple of weekends ago. She was articulate and poised, but also had an incredible sense of humor. She also held the door to the gym open for me one evening. Suffice to say, she has received my stamp of approval. But one matter remains unconfirmed: What does one call her? I’ve devised a list of proposals for the Bryn Mawr community at large to consider. They are as follows:
Interim President Cassidy
Her Majesty the Queen
Her Royal Highness
Mistress of the Owlery
Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons
While these will suit any formal interaction, Bryn Mawr students have a knack for devising loving nicknames for our leaders. Former President Jane McAuliffe was known as “JMac,” for ease of reference. In considering Kim Cassidy, my mind went to “KCass,” but this didn’t seem right. Her personality needed something more. Thus, I propose “KSass.” Put a hashtag on it and let’s give this thing some legs. All hail #KSass!
One of my new positions on campus this year is interning with the Communications department. I had previously worked with the department as a Banter Blogger, but through this new role I’ve been able to interact as a regular team member. It’s been great getting to know my supervisors better and I even get my own office – which I lovingly refer to as my secondary carrel. I’ve contributed to social media and publicity operations through my previous internships off-campus, but it’s exciting to help share Bryn Mawr, a place I cherish, with the world.
One of my first projects was to interview my friend Angela for Bryn Mawr’s website. Angela received Dean’s funding to spend this past summer volunteering for a public health non-profit in Ghana. We met up for an Indian dinner in Erdman to discuss her travels and experiences. Angela and I were in the same Customs group, meaning we lived on the same hall freshman year, and have continued to live in the same dorm together for all four years. In addition to her great sense of humor and endless capacity for fun, she’s an amazing scholar, friend, and advocate. I’m so lucky to have been able to know her during my time at Bryn Mawr. I can’t wait to see what she does next! You can read my article about Angela here.
Angela and I with other members of our customs group at last year’s Radnor Holiday Party
While senior year is often marked by the love/hate relationship with one’s thesis, I’ve been making every effort to find outlets for non-academic fun. This fall I’ve created the Radnor Film Institute, a bi-weekly screening in my dorm’s common room. Our inaugural event featured Wet Hot American Summerand last week we had an Amy Heckerling double feature with Loser and Clueless. During my first year there was a senior film studies major in the dorm who was writing her thesis on 90s teen films. She would often have impromptu screenings of classics like Drive Me Crazy and 10 Things I Hate About You. It was an informal tradition I really cherished and am so excited to bring back this year.
It’s a fun time to decompress after classes and reconnect with my fellow residents. Many of us have made a point to live together for all four years. We’re all very different in our backgrounds and interests, but I love having this community of sisters that have been with me since my first week at Bryn Mawr.
Our mission statement echos this sentiment - The Radnor Film Institute is non-profit organization devoted to fostering community and collective organizing. Films will be screened on a bi-weekly basis on the Radnor premises and are open to all residents. The series is curated by preeminent scholars in their field.