Director of Research and Strategic Partnerships
with Agnes Irwin's Center for the Advancement of Girls
Bridgette Will joined CAG this summer as its new Director of Research and Strategic Partnerships. She comes to AIS after serving as social studies department chair at the Academy of Our Lady of Peace in San Diego, another NCGS school, where she taught AP Government and AP Psychology, and frequently developed relationships with partner organizations to supplement her students’ classroom experiences. In addition to overseeing research initiatives such as the recent Cornell University study in the Lower School, Bridgette also develops and oversees partnerships with colleges, universities, corporations, and nonprofits to expand opportunities for students and faculty. She teaches Global Health and the Girl Child, a cross-disciplinary upper school class focused on girls’ health worldwide, in addition to her administrative work.
What interested you about this position?
It was work that I was already doing as both a classroom teacher and department chair — exploring the latest research and best practices in girls’ education and how to implement that in classrooms. Recognizing that 21st-century education has shifted to be more student-centered, I saw myself as more of a facilitator of experiences than an ultimate source for their learning, and have always been passionate about finding students resources that did not exist within our school community. An opportunity to do that not just for my own department, but an entire school community, really appealed to me.
What are you working on currently?
I oversaw the Cornell study, and I am proud of that especially because it fit so nicely into our other leadership initiatives. I have also helped to facilitate the placement of the three student teachers we have from Bryn Mawr College. Currently, I am overseeing the development of partnerships with Villanova’s College of Engineering and its Gender and Women’s Studies program, Villanova Widger School of Law’s CSE Institute, Philadelphia High School for Girls, the Wistar Institute, and Moore College of Art and Design.
I am also leading a research initiative focused on the impact of girls’ participation in athletics as it relates to the development of leadership skills. I recently compiled a literature review and completed the second phase of this project, which included focus groups with AIS team captains.
In addition, I’m working on a partnership audit in support of our Strategic Plan. Phase 1 included meeting with key personnel and getting a sense of where our strengths lie in existing partnerships and where our community has areas of need that could be supplemented through partnerships.
What is the role of a research and strategic partnerships director?
A research and strategic partnerships director can find opportunities that students and faculty might lack, but do not have the time to pursue on their own. Research shows that community-based partnerships are especially valuable to young women — both to enhance exposure to professionals who may serve as mentors, and to learn about what possibilities exist for women, especially in fields in which women are traditionally underrepresented.
What is your day to day like?
My day-to-day varies because I also teach Global Health and the Girl Child. I am often working on a research initiative that will inform the development of new or existing programming, instructional strategy or curricular policies. Often I am meeting with prospective partners and brainstorming ways in which we can collaborate.
What about CAG’s mission speaks to you?
The part of CAG’s mission that speaks most to me is “creating the most advantageous environment for girls to thrive.” I find this so critical because often young women are not set up to be successful. It is important to me to help create the ideal conditions so each of our girls can reach their full potential. I want to understand what is best for girls and I approach all research initiatives and prospective partnerships with the question in my mind “is this best for her?” Again, I think every child deserves to have an adult who is asking that on her behalf.
What about this work excites you?
I love being intentional about how to best educate girls, and I’m proud that everything we do is rooted in research about what’s best for our students. Too often, education is based on what is best for the policy-makers or adults involved. Agnes Irwin is truly student-centered and seeks to find what is best for girls, even if it is inconvenient for us. I think most of us wish we had adults who were advocating for us when we were students, and I strive to be the adult that I needed when I was growing up.