The Traditions Mistress

Liz Marchini is a keeper of Bryn Mawr’s many, many traditions

Lantern Night in 2014

By Chloe Vilkin         

Liz Marchini is a big fan of “mugging” first years. Just days before the rest of the student body arrived at school Marchini could be seen confidently crossing the auditorium’s stage, long nails catching the light as lead the new students through the first school tradition of receiving mugs in their class colors.

Marchini is a junior at Bryn Mawr College, a Political Science major with a concentration in Middle Eastern Studies and a minor in Global Asian Studies.

She is also a Traditions Mistress.

Traditions are a large part of the Bryn Mawr College experience, as they often are with colleges and universities, but Bryn Mawr takes more pride than most in their traditions, using them to advertise for the school’s tight-knit community.

This sense of community is exactly what drew Marchini to Bryn Mawr in the first place, and what lead to her becoming a Traditions Mistress.

Traditions Mistresses are exactly what they sound like: two students elected for the academic year to organize the four major—and some minor—traditions at Bryn Mawr College. The position seemed interesting to Marchini from the time that she applied, but she had to be sure she was ready.

“I’d kind of sit with myself and be like, do I have the resources, do I have the capabilities, do I have the capacity to do this” Marchini said. She sat comfortably in an armchair with one leg crossed over the other, her bright white sneakers nearly matched her manicure.

As a former ballerina of 11 years and a musical theater performer of several years, Marchini does not shy away from commitment, which is exactly what being a Traditions Mistress demands.

“There’s not an hour that goes by that I’m not working on traditions,” said

-Liz Marchini

Marchini, later saying she was working even while in Singapore for break. “It’s kind of like just constantly diving for loose balls.”

Despite the sometimes-hectic nature of the position, Marchini went into it with a goal: make people feel at home. Traditions are like open arms to Marchini, welcoming everyone into a community where what you look like, where you’re from, or what you can do doesn’t matter.

Marchini wanted to help maintain and even improve that sense of community for everyone by being as inclusive and transparent as possible in her role as Traditions Mistress, “because I want everyone to feel they belong on this campus.”

What Marchini called the “all-encompassing” culture of Bryn Mawr College created by traditions felt familiar to Marchini, as her high school had a similar community.

In a story on Marchini during her senior year of high school, she said the amaraderie between students was her favorite thing about being a Maroon, the mascot of Ridgewood High School in Marchini’s hometown of Ridgewood, New Jersey.

But not every part of Ridgewood’s community was so nice. “I grew up in a very privileged, upper-middle class, white town, very toxic,” said Marchini, repeating the word “upper” three times.

Marchini said she wanted to “change the pace,” and experience something different. So, Bryn Mawr College it was.

Since declaring her major in Political Science, Marchini said the most important lesson it has taught her is “I’m never going to please everyone all the time,” as she ate a crisp, green apple.

Marchini at the May Day celebration

Marchini is a self-described people pleaser, saying this lesson has been a huge learning curve for her. Another challenge has been hearing people criticize decisions she has made.

The first of the four major traditions at Bryn Mawr College is called Parade Night, when the new students are showered with confetti as they walk through Pembroke Arch towards the center of campus.

In previous years rose petals were mixed with the confetti, but they became slippery on the ground. Because of the safety hazard the Traditions Mistresses decided to remove the petals from the tradition even though they agreed they were beautiful, said Marchini.

She used this example to show what sort of decisions might be criticized by other students, criticisms like “that was such a dumb idea, I can’t believe they did that” she sometimes overhears in passing.

While she said it was hard in the beginning, Marchini seemed confident in her abilities.

Of all the traditions at the college, Marchini’s favorite is Welcome-The-First-Years Week, or WTF week.

WTF Week is the third of the four major traditions, and if a first year participates they become a “Bud” and must ask an upperclassman to be their “Rose.” The Rose creates a schedule of fun and funny tasks for the Bud, entirely optional, for the three days of WTF Week.

“I really like WTF Week, especially the end of it,” Marchini said, a smile on her face. “WTF Week is like your week; you can do it how you see fit.”

Marchini is also a tour guide for the college, saying “I always call Bryn Mawr a D.I.Y. experience, and that’s like the most D.I.Y. you can get.”

Chloe Vilkin is Bryn Mawr senior whose beat is the college’s traditions.