Student introduces multiple personalities of Bryn Mawr’s McBrides
By biconews On 1 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

By Kim Peters

Welcome to the first installment of the new column about the Katherine E. McBride Scholars Degree Program at Bryn Mawr. Hopefully, this column will increase awareness of the program and stimulate conversation between McBrides and the faculty, staff, and traditionally-aged students on both the Bryn Mawr and Haverford campuses.

Having said that, however, figuring out how to introduce the McBrides to the bi-college community is difficult, as the 56 women enrolled in the program defy easy characterization. Incoming students must be at least 23 years old, yet there is no age limit for admission. Subsequently, current McBrides range in age from their early 20s up to and including women in their 60s.

Diversity in age, by itself, makes for an interesting and varied population. The age difference between McBrides and traditionally-aged college students translates into a wealth of personal and professional experience: and although it might seem logical to begin with some general information about the program, a look at the breadth of their life experience provides the best introduction to McBrides.

Many of the women in the program attend college part-time and take more than the usual four years to complete their degrees, due to the often-complex mix of family, work, and relationship commitments that they juggle with the academic rigors at Bryn Mawr. McBrides are daughters and sisters, aunts, mothers who are sometimes single parents, wives, partners and grandmothers.

One current junior, for instance, has seven children, ten grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Before retiring, Barb Graziani was an information technology manager for a multinational corporation, where she worked her way after receiving a GED and taking technical and business courses at Temple University. As a McBride she majors in Sociology with a Spanish minor and a concentration in Feminist and Gender studies. Utilizing her Bryn Mawr education, Barb volunteers as a teacher at the Community Women’s Education Project, a pursuit that she finds especially satisfying, because the women in the program are studying to pass their GED and to get a better paying job.

Among the seniors in the program, JoAnne Hermanson is pursuing her degree in English at the same time that both her son and daughter attend college. Krissy Brennan, who will graduate this spring, is a Biology major with plans to attend medical school. Before enrolling at Bryn Mawr, she owned a combination coffee shop and cafe located near the University of Pennsylvania.

Prior to her current incarnation as an English major, Suzanne Warren had initiated the Feminist Film/Video Series in Philadelphia with a mere $1000 grant. She then administered the program for six years.

Suzanne is also a Marshall Fellow. During the summer before their senior year, Marshall Fellows pursue an original research project. Research continues into the next academic year and may he the basis of the senior thesis. Only nine students are chosen each year, and this year two of those students were McBrides.

The other Marshall Fellow is Colette Joyce, who majored in art as a traditionally-aged [sic] student. After she made the decision to leave college, Colette worked as a free-lance designer, and she began a 14-year career in the restaurant business. Her experience in a management capacity at a number of local eateries inspired subsequent work as a self-employed restaurant consultant. When her first child was born, she created her own part-time catering business in order to have enough time to spend with her new baby. Now a Sociology major, Colette cares for her two daughters, eight and eleven years old, while writing her thesis on biomedical issues and on attitudes towards assisted suicide. Her plans for the future include a doctorate in Medical Sociology.

Some McBrides, such as Kate Otto, work in jobs that relate to their field of study. Kate works as a stockbroker while majoring in economics. In the spirit of all Haverford and Bryn Mawr students, she has a wide variety of interests and indulges her passion for physics by taking classes in the subject just for fun. As a Sociology major, Stephanie Thaw feels that her academic pursuits are applicable to her position as the full-time executive director of a program that she started, called Reboot Philadelphia. The program provides computer training for low-income persons so that they are more marketable in today’s computer-driven economy.

For many McBrides, however, their academic interests represent a radical departure from present and past careers. A senior English major with a concentration in Creative Writing, Lisa McKay works as a phlebotomist at Paoli Hospital and longs for time after graduation to devote to her writing.

Also an English major, Cynthia Carrington includes a career as a naval officer amongst her past accomplishments. She went to quartermaster [navigation] school after enlisting, only to find out later that there were fewer than 100 quartermasters in the entire Navy. She was stationed in Iceland, Puerto Rico, Greece, Italy and Washington D.C. . Before leaving Puerto Rico, received further schooling in security, which led to a complicated and dangerous assignment in Crete. Later, while in Italy, Cynthia became involved in women’s issues in the Navy and testified before the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services. DACOWITS resulted in significant changes for military women assigned to isolated duty stations.

Two McBrides who entered the program this fall relocated in order to attend Bryn Mawr. Beth Fedornak left behind an 18-year-old career in Florida, nine years spent as an account executive in the mortgage business, in order to obtain an art history degree. Shirleen Hancock is a theatre crafts artisan who returns to Colorado when school is not in session to work for the Denver Theater Company. Her skills include leather-working, jewelry-making, metal-smithing and millenary. She also builds walkabout characters, which are most simply explained as “puppets with people inside of them.” Planning on a major in Spanish with a concentration in Gaelic, Shirleen hopes to teach both languages after she completes her education.

This, of course, is not a full or complete account of all of the women in the McBnde program, nor does it adequately speak to the full range of responsibilities that older students balance with their academic careers. But then, by way of introduction, perhaps the only thing that can be said about every woman in the program is that along with an interesting story, a McBride comes to Bryn Mawr with her eyes on the future, hungry for education and eager to learn.

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