Author: Elizabeth Kimmelman Schwartz, C’04
No, your eyes aren’t failing you and I didn’t suddenly develop poor grammar, I remember working for Penn because it is now something that is part of my past. Way back on November 18, 2011, I left Penn to work at Bryn Mawr College, a small all-women’s liberal arts college, where I am running their reunion programs. This new job was a great opportunity for me to grow and move on to a new stage of my career, and I’m very happy in my new position. However, leaving a place and starting over is never easy, especially leaving a school where you spent over 6 years of your life between being a student and an employee.
So, loyal Frankly Penn followers, I can no longer write from the perspective of a former Penn student who is now an employee. I can, however, still talk about my memories, and I can look at Penn as compared to another, very different school, which is what I will do here.
I know that Penn alums have healthy egos and a fair amount of pride in their school. And, let’s face it, it’s warranted. Penn is an awesome school – Ivy League, top 10 in the rankings, etc. So, yeah, Penn’s great, but it’s not – gasp – perfect. And, in my couple months at a smaller school, I’ve seen some really wonderful things that I think Penn alums can take to heart.
First, the alums I’ve met here are some of the most dedicated, passionate alumni I have ever seen. Their small classes mean that Mawrters (aka a Bryn Mawr alum) know everyone and that almost every Bryn Mawr student and alumna/e truly feels like part of the college community.
Second, Bryn Mawr has a lot of very important, longstanding traditions that every graduate, from what we would call the “Old Guard” to current students, take very seriously. For instance, they have this really beautiful night called “Step Sing” where the students all sit around a set of important steps and sing songs to each other. I know this description sounds strange to some of you – could you ever picture all 9500 Penn students sitting around and singing? But it’s really cool, I promise. We do an alumnae Step Sing on Friday night of Reunion Weekend, where all of the classes celebrating reunions sit around the same set of stairs and sing to each other, from the 65th all the way down to the 5th reunion.
Finally, the classes are all connected to each other, thanks in part to traditions like the one above that have endured for years and years. For example, this year, the 50th reunion class is giving a book written by one of their classmates to all of the graduating seniors as a gift. Bryn Mawr is a really special place, one that I’m now proud to be a part of.
Don’t worry, I couldn’t spend a paragraph gushing about Bryn Mawr without making mention some of the things that I think Bryn Mawr could learn from Penn. Penn alumni do have a lot of Quaker spirit and pride. While Bryn Mawr isn’t going to field a football team anytime soon, I think we could get behind our student-athletes, or incorporate athletic events into more alumni activities. On a related note, you can’t walk around Penn, or even Philadelphia, without seeing some red and blue Penn clothes. I’d love to see some more Bryn Mawr gear being sported around this campus and beyond. Second, I like that Penn alums get a little bit competitive with each other about things, like setting attendance and giving records. I’d love to infuse some of that competitive spirit into Bryn Mawr when it comes to reunions and fundraising. And, finally, obviously, Bryn Mawr needs to start an alumni blog!
So, while leaving Penn was difficult and I still miss so many of the great people I got to work with, I am happy about this new job and about learning more about a small school culture. Furthermore, I am VERY excited about being able to experience Penn events solely as an alumna and not have to work them. For my 10th reunion, I’ll be able to walk in the parade instead of being one of those crazy people running around telling people when it’s their turn to walk. I can shmooze with classmates, drink in hand, and not have to worry about leaving in time to staff my next event. I can’t wait!
Until then, here’s a picture of the tradition I mentioned, the Step Sing: