Mistresses of Tradition

Meet the two Bryn Mawr students who organize all of the college’s traditions
By Kelsey Rall

On any other brisk Sunday evening, Bryn Mawr students would have been napping in their rooms, finishing last-minute assignments in the library, or hanging out in the Campus Center. On this particular night, however, Mawrters as well as alumni and guests crowded into the darkening Cloisters of the M. Carey Thomas building to watch the time-honored Bryn Mawr tradition of Lantern Night. At the head of this huge event were two dedicated students: Pam Gassman and Dijia Chen.

The 2014-15 Traditions Mistresses, Gassman, 20, and Chen, also 20, were in charge of organizing and running this decades-old tradition, as well as three of the Bryn Mawr’s other traditional events, which are Parade Night, Hell Week, and May Day. According to Gassman, they were responsible for planning the four major traditions at Bryn Mawr, having weekly meetings, reserving rooms, sending tradition-related emails, and attending SGA [Self Governance Association] as members of the representative council, as well as performing “physical labor—songbooks [for traditions with organized singing] are heavy.”

Lantern Night at Bryn Mawr

Lantern Night at Bryn Mawr

Lantern Night, the second of Bryn Mawr’s four major traditions, required a ton of organization from the two Traditions Mistresses. During this event, first-year students received lanterns in their class color, which was meant to represent that “the light of knowledge…being passed from one class to the other” according to the traditions page on Bryn Mawr’s website. The event was one of Gassman’s favorites because she “likes cult-y things.”

In an interview prior to the event, Gassman, a slight brunette with piercing blue eyes, spoke with confidence and unwavering eye contact. Her quieter partner, Chen, often stared at her fidgeting hands while she talked, which was infrequent. While Gassman often began speaking with self-assuredness, she would pause to reassess her words midsentence. Chen, on the other hand, chose her words carefully and sparingly.

Traditions Mistress, an elected role, was voted on by the student body in the spring. Classically, the role is held by two juniors. Of the job, Chen said, “I think you really have to want to do it to be able to do it.” Gassman agreed and added, “There’s so much coordination, and I think Dijia and I are both mellow…and we can take a step back and see things from different perspectives, which really helps.” Continue reading