The center, launched last year with a series of campus events and the award of Katharine Hepburn Medals to actresses Lauren Bacall and Blythe Danner, honors four-time-Oscar-winning actress Katharine Hepburn and her mother, an early feminist activist. Both were Bryn Mawr College alumnae who defied conventions. Inspired by the work of its namesakes, the Center focuses on three broad areas of interest: film and theater, civic engagement and women’s health.
Rescorla says that she is eager to build upon the foundation established by the Hepburn Center’s outgoing director of planning and development, Professor of Chemistry Michelle Francl. Francl shepherded the Center through its creation and launch, from 2005 to 2007.
A key goal, Rescorla says, is fostering collaboration between the Hepburn Center and the College’s interdisciplinary Centers for 21st-Century Inquiry (Rescorla has served as a co-director of one of these centers).
“Each of the centers has some overlap in interest with the mission of the Hepburn Center,” Rescorla explains. “The Centers for 21st Century Inquiry are now well-established and have developed constituencies on campus. The Hepburn Center’s glamorous launch ceremony and its association with the Hepburn name have attracted a lot of attention from the outside world. Partnerships between the Hepburn Center and the other centers could combine those strengths to create more robust programming.”
“Co-sponsorship of events and programs can also help us avoid duplication of effort,” Rescorla said. “There’s so much going on at Bryn Mawr — sometimes it seems as if there are five great events happening at once, and just a handful of people at each one. Investigating the synergies between the Hepburn Center and its more-established fellow centers could help us draw a critical mass of people who are all interested in the same issue.”
During Francl’s tenure, the Hepburn Center established three core programming elements: the Hepburn Fellows Program, which brings to campus extraordinary individuals who bridge academics and practice in nontraditional ways; summer internships that enable Bryn Mawr students to partner with individuals who have demonstrated leadership in film and theater, civic engagement or women’s health, the center’s three focus areas; and the Hepburn Medal, which recognizes women who have attained distinction in any of these three areas.
Rescorla will oversee the Center’s core programs and develop new initiatives to advance its mission.
“Balancing the three programming areas is a challenge,” Rescorla says. “At this early stage, the fellows program is the most fully developed one. I look forward to meeting this year’s fellows and seeing them work with students, and one of the first tasks on my list is to reconstitute the center’s steering committee to begin selecting next year’s fellows.”
But much of her ambition for the Center, she says, “focuses on developing and expanding the internship program. That may involve some fundraising to create new internships, and it may also involve coordinating existing internships, some of which are in areas relevant to the Center’s mission and could be brought under the Hepburn Center umbrella. I think this would help make them more visible to students, which would encourage more students to apply for them. We want as many students as possible to have access to these opportunities.”
Because the Center awarded two Hepburn Medals last year and the College will be concentrating its attention on next year’s planned presidential succession, no medal will be awarded this academic year, Rescorla says. But the steering committee will devote considerable effort to nominating a medalist for the following year.
“We are considering the idea of creating a Philadelphia-based advisory committee to help us with this,” Rescorla says. “This is the most public of the Center’s functions, and we are looking for ways to draw the surrounding community more fully into the process.”
The 2007-08 Hepburn Calendar
Rescorla is now welcoming the three 2007-08 Hepburn Fellows to campus as they spend time with students and faculty members. This year’s Hepburn Fellows are Judy Wicks, owner and founder of Philadelphia’s White Dog Café and a national leader in the local living-economies movement; Cynthia Eyakuze-DiDomenico, acting director of Family Care International’s Francophone Africa Program, which ensures access to information and services regarding sexual and reproductive health; and Susan Wood, who resigned as director of the Office of Women’s Health at the Food and Drug Administration in response to the decision to delay approval of Plan B emergency contraception.
Two 2006-07 Hepburn Fellows will continue to be involved with the Hepburn Center this year. Karen Stephenson, president of NetForm and a corporate anthropologist specializing in social networking, will serve as the first Hepburn Research Associate. She will collaborate with Professor of Mathematics Victor Donnay and the NSF-sponsored Math-Science Partnership of Greater Philadelphia to investigate the patterns of leadership in local school districts.
Jane Eisner, vice president of the National Constitution Center and author of Taking Back the Vote: Getting American Youth Involved in Our Democracy, will chair the Conference on Community Engagement and Learning at Bryn Mawr College on November 9, 2007. Liz Hollander ’61 will be the keynote speaker at this event, which will bring together representatives of colleges, high schools and community organizations to consider the connection between institutional mission and service learning.