Big Problems: A Lecture Series

Big Problems: Making Sense of 2020

This new lecture series will provide the Barnard community with multiple lenses to view this time of massive global upheaval. It will be open to students, alumnae, parents, faculty, and staff, as well as special opportunities for discussion for the Class of 2024. 

Roxane Gay, Author and Cultural Critic

Wednesday, September 16

6:30-7:30 PM EDT

Roxane Gay is an author and cultural critic whose writing is unmatched and widely revered. Her work garners international acclaim for its reflective, no-holds-barred exploration of feminism and social criticism. With a deft eye on modern culture, she brilliantly critiques its ebb and flow with both wit and ferocity. 

Words like “courage,” “humor,” and “smart” are frequently deployed when describing Roxane. Her collection of essays, Bad Feminist, is universally considered the quintessential exploration of modern feminism. NPR named it one of the best books of the year and Salon declared the book “trailblazing.” Her powerful debut novel, An Untamed State, was long listed for the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize. In 2017, Roxane released her bestselling memoir, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, which was called “Luminous...intellectually rigorous and deeply moving” by The New York Times. She also released her collection of short stories, Difficult Women. The Los Angeles Times says of the collection, “There’s a distinct echo of Angela Carter or Helen Oyeyemi at play; dark fables and twisted morality tales sit alongside the contemporary and the realistic...” 


In 2018, she released Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, a valuable and searing anthology edited by Roxane; it has been described as “essential reading” and a “call to arms” by its readers. Roxane is currently working on a new project set to be released in 2020. 

Roxane co-hosts Hear to Slay with Tressie McMillan Cottom – a podcast with an intersectional perspective on celebrity, culture, politics, art, life, love, and more. She is also a contributing op-ed writer for The New York Times, was the co-editor of PANK, and formerly was the non-fiction editor at The Rumpus. Her writing has appeared in McSweeney’s, The Nation and many other publications. She was the first black woman to ever write for Marvel, writing a comic series in the Black Panther universe called World of Wakanda. Roxane fronts a small army of avid fans on social media and when she finds the time, she dominates the occasional Scrabble tournament.

Linda Villarosa, Author and New York Times Magazine Contributing Writer

Wednesday, October 14

6:30-7:30 PM EDT

Linda Villarosa is a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine, covering race and public health and a former executive editor at Essence Magazine. Her 2018 Times Magazine cover story on infant and maternal mortality in black mothers and babies was nominated for a National Magazine Award. Last year she contributed to the ground breaking 1619 Project. Her essay highlighted physiological myths, based on race, that have endured since slavery. Linda's April 29 cover story examined race, health disparities and covid-19 through the lens of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club of New Orleans, and her August 2 article, The Refinery Next Door, looked at environmental justice in Philadelphia. Linda teaches journalism and Black Studies at the City College of New York and is writing the book Under the Skin: Race, Inequality and the Health of a Nation, which will be published by Doubleday in 2021.

Roberta Schwartz ’91, Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer of Houston Methodist, and Chief Executive Officer of Houston Methodist Hospital

Wednesday, November 11

6:30-7:30 PM EDT

In her role as chief innovation officer, Schwartz is responsible for advancing and expanding Houston Methodist’s digital innovation platforms, including telemedicine, artificial intelligence, and big data. Prior to joining Houston Methodist, named by U.S. News & World Report as the No. 1 hospital in Texas for seven straight years, she worked at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, CSC consulting, and for the government at CMS. Schwartz has her undergraduate degree from Barnard College, her master's from Johns Hopkins, and her Ph.D. from the Utah School of Public Health. She is involved in many nonprofit organizations and has won many awards for her professional and nonprofit work.

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