The following email was sent by Dean of the Undergraduate College Michele Rasmussen on Jan. 23:
I am pleased to share with you some exciting news about the Office of Intercultural Affairs (OIA). As many of you know, last summer I named Vanessa Christman acting director of the OIA following the departure of Chris MacDonald-Dennis from the college. Since then, Vanessa and I have co-led a series of conversations with various OIA stakeholders, including current students, faculty, staff, alumnae and the Diversity Leadership Group. The purpose of these discussions was to gauge opinions on how the OIA can best serve the campus community. Another topic we explored in these conversations was how integral the Office of Intercultural Affairs and Multicultural Center titles were to the identity and services of the office. Additionally, we benchmarked similar offices at peer institutions to see how they manage and provide diversity and leadership development programs and resources.
As a result of all this summer and fall fact-finding, I decided to restructure the OIA’s staffing model and to re-name the office and its physical space, “The Pensby Center.” This is the original name of the current Multicultural Center building and “Pensby” (meaning “village or settlement by a hill”) is derived from Old Welsh, in keeping with the rest of the buildings on Cambrian Row.
Chris’s former position, Assistant Dean and Director of Intercultural Affairs, has been reconfigured with a new title, Assistant Dean and Director of Leadership and Community Development. This position has been offered to Vanessa based on the excellent job she has done serving as acting director of OIA, and I am delighted to let you know that she has enthusiastically accepted this promotion. What had been Vanessa’s old position, assistant director of the OIA, has been transitioned into a new position, Director of Diversity, Social Justice and Inclusion. We have just launched a national search for someone to fill this position and hope that s/he will be able to start by the early summer.
While the core mission, programs and resources of the Pensby Center will not change from those of the OIA/MCC, we intend for this new name and staff structure to more accurately reflect and respond to the changing needs of the Bryn Mawr community. A common theme in the discussions we had last summer and fall was that the concept of diversity is much broader and complex at Bryn Mawr than perhaps ever before in our 126 year history; thus, a major challenge for the Pensby Center moving forward will be to ensure that this diversity is both recognized and embraced so that all community members feel a strong sense of belonging and worth here without having to diminish — or worse — ignore a critical part of their identity.
I hope you will join me in congratulating Vanessa — she will be a great asset to us as we move forward with the Pensby Center!