Career Bryn Mawr prof named interim president

Posted: April 27, 2013

A psychologist who has spent her professional career at Bryn Mawr College has been appointed interim president following last month's surprising resignation of Jane McAuliffe.

Kimberly Wright Cassidy, 49, joined the faculty of the elite women's college in 1993 and was appointed provost in 2007. She has worked on initiatives including the creation of courses, majors, and digital programs.

"I feel my responsibility is to keep that forward momentum going," she said. "We're not in a pause mode. We are going to push forward on a number of different fronts."

Cassidy, who was born in Elverson, Chester County, lives in Merion with her husband and two sons. She studied psychology as an undergraduate at Swarthmore College and earned a master's and doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania.

One project that she's excited about, she said, is Bryn Mawr's new 360-degree program, in which students enroll for a semester in several courses in different disciplines but related to the same topic. At the end they come together for a nontraditional project that might involve travel or community engagement.

Cassidy also helped create the international studies major and environmental studies minor, subjects that reflect students' interests, and blended courses that combine classroom and online learning.

Board of trustees chair Arlene Joy Gibson praised Cassidy's "sparkling intelligence, warm sense of humor, and natural spirit of collaboration."

When the board started to think about a replacement for McAuliffe, who will leave June 30, members talked to all the constituencies on campus and came to the same conclusion, Gibson said: "There was no question whom we were going to appoint as interim. There's a lot of excitement here."

She said the board had no timeline for appointing a permanent leader.

The college, founded in 1885, has about 1,300 undergraduate students and 400 students in coed graduate programs. Tuition, room and board, and fees are about $57,000 a year.

McAuliffe, an internationally-known Islamic studies scholar, was the college's eighth president. Her five-year tenure was the shortest in the college's history. No reason was given for her departure.

Like many liberal arts school, Bryn Mawr is working to convince students that they will be well prepared for careers when they graduate.

"We know that, but we need to make sure that 17- and 18-year-olds and their parents understand that," Cassidy said, noting that the school has had a record number of applicants in recent years. "We feel good about where we are."

Cassidy said she plans to continue teaching an educational psychology course and has 37 students preregistered for next semester.

"She's a very popular teacher," Gibson said.


Contact Kathy Boccella at kboccella@phillynews.com, 856-779-3812 or follow @kathyboccella on Twitter.

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