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Joan Stevens

As a graduate student at Bryn Mawr College, I was struck by the experience of being at an all-women’s college – knowing that what I said in the classroom mattered and that I was recognized as a “thinker.”

I didn’t realize that attending an all-women’s college would be so different – in a good way – from attending a coeducational one. The experience at Bryn Mawr left a lasting impression on me and the message that “woman can achieve” was carried over to my role at Moore, first as a professor from 1977 to now, and then as Dean of Students from 1990 to 2011.

At Bryn Mawr, I saw that I was valued as an intellectual. It was a transforma­tive experience and I continue to pass this on to students. When they’re at the top of their class… I’ll drive them harder. If they’re struggling, I’ll help them see them­selves in a better light.

Today, as Associate Professor of Liberal Arts, I work with art students to help them understand that they can be “thinkers” as much as “makers.”

You have to have an atmosphere where the students feel comfortable talking and feel valued for their opinions. Everyone has a chance to be heard and be in charge of the information that’s imparted to the class. It’s really about getting them to understand that their voice matters and those that are initially reluctant to speak are more articulate and capable than they might initially think they are.

As Dean of Students, it is part of my job to help students realize their leadership potential, whether it is serving on Student Government or applying for a competitive fellowship. I was responsible for creating the Emerging Leaders in the Arts (ELA), the Business Scholars in the Arts (BSA) and Culture in the Classroom programs. I was also instrumental in getting student leaders to sit as non-voting members of the Board of Managers, and as members of nearly every College committee.

Today, women still take a back seat and let men lead, but that’s not a choice at Moore. Every student who has a leadership position at Moore is a woman. There is no man to take the front seat. It’s good for women. It gives them the edge they need to compete in the future.

Being at an all-women’s college is all about empowering women and helping them realize their own potential.

I love to talk about ideas with students and support them to think on their own. It gives me a high. That’s why I teach. I’m sure I could do this with men, but it gives me great pleasure to pass on the gift I got as a student at Bryn Mawr – which is to support women in believing in and develop­ing their intellectual abilities.