Award-winning journalist, author makes visit to Stephens College

Midnight Breakfast

Midnight Breakfast, a Stephens tradition, was held during finals week.

Lisa Birnbach, an award-winning journalist and author, visited the Stephens campus last month as part of a story about women’s colleges that she’s writing for Vanity Fair.

Birnbach is the author of “The Official Preppy Handbook,” published in 1980, and her follow-up book, “True Prep: It’s a Whole New Old World.” She has also written two college guides and regularly contributes to publications including The New York Times and Rolling Stone.

During her two-day visit, Birnbach spent time with President Dianne Lynch, along with the Admissions office, to talk about the College’s recent growth. She also met with multiple groups of students, including students majoring in theatre, dance, fashion and equestrian studies.

While at Stephens, Birnbach witnessed two traditions, attending a Vespers service and going to Midnight Breakfast, a late-night celebration that kicks off finals week with breakfast food and a dance party.

Birnbach plans to visit a total of eight colleges for the story and is talking to students about why they opted to attend a women’s college. Here, most students told Birnbach they chose Stephens for its academic programs and have since come to appreciate the single-sex environment.

The article is expected to be published in the March issue of Vanity Fair.


Stephens alumna gives advice to December graduating class


Leslie Foster ’79 urged December graduates to embrace friends with diverse interests, to take care of themselves and to look to people who are different to serve as unexpected teachers.

Foster, the keynote speaker at the Commencement ceremony on Dec. 11, is president of The Gathering Place in Denver, the city’s only drop-in center for women, children and transgender individuals who are experiencing poverty or homelessness. She has worked with the organization since 1990.

It’s a calling she was able to nurture at Stephens. In the 1970s, she participated in a College program called People Projects, which allowed students to volunteer in the community. Through the program, Foster began volunteering at the Missouri Women’s Penitentiary and met a woman she reunited with at The Gathering Place 20 years later.

The woman, Foster said, “may be my very first non-traditional teacher, and I am grateful beyond measure to the Stephens community that provided me the opportunity to meet her, as well as the environment where I could develop the grace to value her.”

For her life of service to others, Foster has been honored with numerous awards. In 2010, she was named Community Leader of the Year by Community Shares of Colorado, and in 2008, she received the Swanee Hunt Individual Leadership Award. She has also received the “Woman of the Year” award from the Colorado Business and Professional Women, and the “Foremother of the Year” award from the Colorado Women’s Agenda.

She also serves on the Mayor’s Commission to Address Homelessness and was the chair of the Committee on Youth and Families.

Foster said she has spent much of her career implementing and recalling lessons learned at Stephens, where she was able to graduate in three years.

“Stephens was safe, a refuge and the place where I most grew into myself,” she said. “I left with untested confidence and a desire to impact the world.”


Belle takes top design honors at Fashion Group International event


Britta Belle ’16 took top honors in the design category at The Fashion Group International of St. Louis Inc.’s scholarship program this year.

She and two other winners were honored at FGI’s Spring 2015 Trend Report and Scholarship Presentation held in St. Louis last month.

Belle submitted a portfolio that included designs from her collection, Aftermath, inspired by images of Prypyat, Ukraine, the city abandoned following a radiation leak in 1986. She created the militant designs as part of a project for the Council of Fashion Designers of America. The FGI competition allows submissions that have been previously used elsewhere.

“The CFDA collection was a lot of hard work,” she said. “I put my heart and soul into it.”

The FGI award came with a $1,000 scholarship and the opportunity to share her work at the reception.

Belle is pursuing a self-initiated major that combines fashion with creative writing. She is now working on her senior collection, Desiderium, which means “longing for something lost.” The collection includes dresses and separates inspired by the moon and oceans and combines silks and knits.

Rather than unveiling her collection at the April student-designer fashion show, she will display her designs in the Davis Art Gallery and is planning to combine it with a public poetry reading next semester.

Belle said she owes her success to Stephens.

“This school has meant so much to me,” she said. “I’m continually impressed by the capacity of the instructors to care and constantly strive to make us really give our best. I’ve learned so much from them.”

Advanced photography students exhibit works in restaurant



Stephens students in Advanced Digital Photography exhibited their works in a Columbia restaurant last month.

Students were challenged to study a subject, capture it in images and print them on large canvases for exhibition. The works were displayed on the dining room walls at Broadway Brewery, a popular downtown eatery.

Chase Thompson, assistant professor of digital filmmaking, teaches the class and invited fellow faculty and staff to celebrate the exhibit at an opening reception where one of the photographs sold.

Other images taken during the class were displayed along the hallway outside of Charters Lecture Hall this past semester.

Broadway actor Lisa Brescia to join School of Performing Arts


Broadway actor Lisa Brescia will join the School of Performing Arts this semester as a visiting guest artist for acting.

She will direct “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in February while teaching four acting classes throughout the semester.

Brescia has an incredible resume of credits, including playing Donna Sheridan in “Mamma Mia!,” Cleo in “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and Amneris in “Aida” on Broadway. Regional theatre credits include Victoria in “Victor/Victoria,” the Witch in “Into the Woods,” Elphaba in “Wicked” and Hermione in “A Winter’s Tale.”

Brescia is also head teacher and founder of The Actor’s Playgroup in New York. She has an M.F.A. in Classical Acting from the Academy for Classical Acting, George Washington University.

new year

We hope you had a wonderful 2015 and wish you all the best in the coming year.



Save the date! Celebrate Stephens Reunion Weekend 2016 is April 14-16. We hope that you plan to join us to relive the magic of Stephens College.


The Class and Chapter Notes deadline is approaching quickly for the Spring/Summer 2016 Beyond Stephens magazine. We want to hear about new happenings in your life, whether it’s a career move, a new bundle of joy in your family, a special anniversary or recognition of your work. Please also share events and news from your local alumnae club. Share your note here. The deadline for submissions is Jan. 15.

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