Barnard’s Global Symposia series was launched in 2009 with four main goals in mind: to provide a dynamic forum for discussion of women's issues in regions where such opportunities do not readily exist; to create a network of women leaders from around the world; to inspire young women about their own leadership potential; and to provide an opportunity for Barnard, as an American college, to learn from women in other parts of the world and bring their stirring stories back to our students.
Over the past decade, and particularly since the arrival of President Debora L. Spar in July 2008, Barnard College has enhanced its global outreach and focus, with increasing opportunities for those in the Barnard community to integrate study, research, work and volunteer experiences abroad into their time at Barnard. Today, with students, programs, partners, research collaborations and alumnae around the world, Barnard College's global footprint reaches over 65 countries.
The contrast could not have been starker. On one day in August two glossy magazines showed up in my mailbox. One, the Barnard Magazine, showed three beautiful young women, elegantly dressed and beaming, holding champagne glasses and enjoying the festivities around their fifth reunion. The other, TIME, depicted a once equally beautiful woman, looking out from her head shawl and into the camera, revealing nothing. Her nose had been cut clean off—punishment by the Taliban, the article explained, for having fled her abusive in-laws. The woman, Aisha, was 18.
Everything in Dubai is tall, it seems, and everyone is from somewhere else. The man who greeted me at the airport was from Bosnia. The cabdriver was Sri Lankan; the hotel clerk, Nigerian. (Yes, I am one of those annoying travelers who ask a lot of questions.) Like the buildings that tower over what was recently desert, the people of Dubai appear almost to have dropped from the sky, hailing from across the planet and now mixed randomly, picturesquely, in this tiny crossroads by the sea.