Inaugural Pensby Center Internship Honors the History of Diversity

Posted June 24th, 2013 at 9:32 am.

A luncheon and discussion group served as the kickoff event of the inaugural Pensby Center summer internships at the College. The two interns, Alexis De La Rosa ’15  and Lauren Footman ’14, discussed their planned research and projects, centered on uncovering the history of diversity at Bryn Mawr College.

Pensby Center Interns

Lauren Footman ’14, (left) Vanessa Christman, and Alexis De La Rosa ’15.

The internships are the result of a yearlong discussion led by Dean Michele Rasmussen, Assistant Dean and Pensby Center Director of Leadership and Community Development Vanessa Christman, and members of campus-wide focus groups convened in the wake of the decision to take the Perry House residence hall and cultural center offline.  The results of these ongoing conversations made clear that community concerns stretched far beyond Perry House.

“Over the course of the last year, it became clear that the College would benefit from research and documentation on an even broader scale, and the internship was established to explore, reveal, and contribute insights into the experiences of Bryn Mawr College students, faculty and/or staff from Africa and the African Diaspora,” said Christman.

The internship also will give the students the opportunity to work on cataloging of the papers of distinguished alumna Evelyn Rich ’54, donated to the College this summer. The interns will get the chance to meet with Rich and interview her about her experience at the College.

Footman and De La Rosa collaborate on joint projects like the Rich papers, but also have individual research projects overseen by a faculty advisor. De La Rosa will work with Assistant Professor Jennifer Harford-Vargas on a survey about the Bryn Mawr experience of Latina students and alumnae and Footman will work with Professor of Sociology Mary Osirim on a series of interviews with alumnae of color. Christman serves as mentor to both and holds weekly progress meetings with the students. The interns will chronicle the progress of their research and their work with the Rich papers on the Summer at BMC blog. To read their posts, visit: http://bmcsummer.blogs.brynmawr.edu/tag/pensby-center/

Footman says she hopes the blog posts about the students’ work and the arc Rich’s story will shed light on the similarities of the Bryn Mawr experience for current and future students and alumnae of color. “When you realize this journey has been traveled before, it seems easier to attain,” she said. Footman met with alumnae during the 2013 Reunion Weekend Affinity Gathering for Women of Color who provided photos of their time at Bryn Mawr and at Perry House to be included in the Perry House photo collection which will be digitized and added to Special Collections.

De La Rosa will utilize email and social media outlets to disseminate a survey to current students and alumnae about diversity and its role in their Bryn Mawr experience. “There’s such a student outcry to find out the history of diversity at Bryn Mawr,” she said. Her final exhibit will include photos taken by herself as well as survey participants. “I feel like Bryn Mawr is really excellent at getting conversations started and I feel like this is a way to show where some of those conversations go.”

The internship, a $3,600 stipend for an eight to ten week research assignment, is funded through several sources, including a donation from Rich as well as the Hanna Holborn Gray Fellowship. Any currently enrolled first-year, sophomore, or junior is eligible to submit a proposal and apply. For more information about the internship, students may contact the Pensby Center.

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