Making a Choice
One of the questions I get asked all the time is “why is college so expensive?” It is a question that has exploded now beyond the confines of academia into the realm of policy debate and popular media. It is a good question, and one that eludes simple explanation.
When my father set out for the University of Vermont in 1955, he drove to Burlington with a small carload of books and clothes, along with a full semester’s tuition bill of $750. He’d worked as a busboy the summer before, earning nearly enough—$1,400, plus a modest Catskills room and board—to cover two semesters’ worth of tuition. He ate at a diner near campus, or in the kitchen of a local woman who served Friday-night chicken to hungry undergraduates for 25 cents a meal. He worked every summer at the same upstate resort, and graduated without a cent of debt.
By the time I left for college, in 1980, tuition rates had risen precipitously. Annual fees at Georgetown were roughly $10,000, or about seven times greater than those my father had encountered a generation earlier. I was lucky, though. Having paid their way through college, my parents were determined to set aside funds for my brother’s and my education. So from our births, they carefully saved around $2,200 a year in each of our names, enough so that we, too, could graduate debt free. It wasn’t easy for my parents, but it was manageable.
FIlM EXPlORES A SCHOOl’S DESEGREGATION
Even after four decades the emotions of the participants in the film 40 Years Later: Now Can We Talk? are raw, as the first African American students to attend South Panola High School in Batesville, Mississippi, shared their memories in a documentary that premiered on the Barnard campus in September. The three women who created the piece— Professor Lee Anne Bell, the Barbara Silver Horowitz Director of Education at Barnard, educator and advocate Fern Khan, and director Markie Hancock—hope it will promote dialogues about the power of educators to create environments that foster learning for everyone.
“We didn’t have a clue about what we were getting into,” says Cheryl Johnson, from South Panola’s class of 1969, describing what awaited the black students when their parents decided to send them to a previously all-white high school.
When Johnson and her black classmates were invited to the South Panola reunion—the first invitation they had received from the school since their graduation—she started doing Web searches to find someone who could help them tell their stories. She found Bell’s Web site with information about the professor’s ongoing project to use storytelling to teach students about race, racism, and social justice. Johnson contacted Bell, telling her about the reunion and that she and her classmates, most of whom eventually moved from Mississippi, had never discussed their experiences with each other or with any of their white classmates. Recalls Bell, “I naïvely (not having ever made a film) said, ‘Seems like an historic occasion and we should film it.’”
Johnson consulted her 12 black classmates and all agreed to participate. Bell enlisted Hancock Productions; what Bell terms a ‘just-in-time’ grant
ASSISTANT PROFESSORS JOIN SCIENCE AND HUMANITIES DEPARTMENTS
Karen Lewis, assistant professor of philosophy, joins Barnard from the University of Southern California; she received her BA from Queen’s University, Canada, and her doctorate from Rutgers. Her specialty is the philosophy of language, particularly questions of meaning and communication. Outside her academic work, she enjoys cycling, cooking, and reading novels.
THE OLDEST LIVING HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR & HER WORLDVIEW
Caroline stoessinger ’58 simply couldn’t wrap her head around the idea that there had been concerts in Nazi concentration camps. “It made no sense,” said Stoessinger, who is a concert pianist. Her quest to understand the incomprehensible was the subject of an event on campus in September exploring the life of 108-year-old Londoner Alice Herz-Sommer, the Holocaust survivor profiled in Stoessinger’s 2012 book, A Century of Wisdom (Spiegel & Grau, 2012). Sponsored by Project Continuum, an alumnae group of women over 50, the program offered a mix of literature as well as music that had been performed at Theresienstadt, an SS concentration camp in what is now the Czech Republic. Stoessinger performed, as did the Shanghai String Quartet and the Metropolitan Opera bass Terry Cook.
—Illustration by Gracia Lam
GAIL BELTRONE WORKS BEHIND THE SCENES TO BENEFIT & BEAUTIFY THE CAMPUS
After working with divas at Carnegie Hall, luminaries at the 92nd Street Y, and legends at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Vice President of Campus Services Gail Beltrone was undaunted by the prospect of helping to manage President Barack Obama’s appearance at last spring’s Commencement.
Never mind that Beltrone had only arrived on campus three months before the President’s visit was in the works. “It was fun for me,” says Beltrone, quick to credit her team and Lillian Appel, director of major events, for their contributions. “I had previously worked maybe 70 to 100 or so commencement ceremonies over the years on the venue side, so it felt pretty natural. The security involved with a president (sitting or past) is really all about being flexible and that’s what venue managers are trained to do.”
—Photograph by Juliana Sohn
L-R: Yingluck Shinawatra, Debora Spar, Atifete Jahjaga
As the first female president in the modern-day Balkans, Kosovo’s Atifete Jahjaga feels a particular responsibility to inspire women to public service. It’s especially crucial as the country enters its second decade of rebuilding efforts after the end of its brutal civil war in 1999. “Women are very good at building bridges,” Jahjaga told an audience of more than 300 people who gathered this fall in the Event Oval of The Diana Center for the Women in Public Service Project (WPSP) symposium. “In a country that has experience with conflict...women have shown tremendous will and ability to weave communities back together,” she said.
Jahjaga, who at 37 is the world’s youngest head of state, was the program’s keynote; other speakers included Thailand’s prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Finland’s former president, Tarja Halonen. WPSP is a partnership founded by the State Department and leading women’s colleges, including Barnard, with a mission to develop the next generation of female government leaders. Embedded in its motto, “50 by 2050,” is its goal: By the year 2050, half of the world’s civic leadership should be female.
To the State Department’s special representative to Muslim communities, Farah Pandith, achieving this goal means not only pushing to have women in positions of leadership, but also engaging them at all levels of policymaking. “We always hear the conversation about women around the board table, and we need to continue to have that conversation, but we never talk about the fact that there aren’t women around a policy table,” said Pandith, who spoke on a panel moderated by Barnard President Debora Spar.
Also on that panel were Marta Santos Pais, special representative, United Nations Secretary-General on violence against children, and former congresswoman Jane Harman, now the director of the Woodrow Wilson Center, the WPSP partner that is now home to the initiative
L-R: Farah Pandith, Marta Santos Pais, Jane Harman
L-R: Tarja Halonen, Olivia Low
Spar asked Harman: “What does it take to be a great leader?” The director shared about half a dozen ideas. Key among them was the need for women leaders to mentor other women leaders. “When you succeed, your most important obligation is to mentor the women who come after you. Not every woman does this and that’s why the great Madeleine Albright says there’s a cold place in hell for women who don’t help women,” she added, paraphrasing Albright.
This message was underscored by speakers throughout the evening, including Melanne Verveer, U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues, and Rangita de Silva de Alwis, WPSP’s director. With mentorship for emerging leaders crucial to the project’s mission, one student from each of the eight partner colleges was selected to speak and had the chance to choose an issue for a panelist to address.
The students’ questions focused on a range of topics, from prison reform to the role of women in economic decision-making. Barnard’s student panelist, Olivia Low ’13, asked how policy-making could more fully include women grassroots community leaders. “The HIV-positive mother turned community-health worker, the aspiring member of parliament, the director of a local NGO—these are women with the perspective, pragmatic ideas, and courage needed to effect change, and I believe they have a right to become visible and make decisions about their own lives,” said Low. “The hard question, of course, is how?”
Just how to go about reaching the “50 by 2050” goal is the question that all those involved with the Women and Public Service Project are working to solve. Yet at the root of the project is the belief that health and prosperity can only be achieved by including women at all levels of decision-making. Throughout the program, the speakers cited Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who spearheaded the creation of WPSP, as a chief source of inspiration. President Jahjaga recalled the words of Secretary Clinton: “You are more likely to succeed if you widen the circle to include a broader range of expertise, experience, and ideas. This is not just about fairness, it is about expanding the pool of talented people to help tackle our biggest problems.”
—by Abigail Beshkin
—Photos by Asiya Khaki '09
Since the fall of the Soviet Union just over two decades ago, the United States has been the world’s one and only real superpower. But is the era of American primacy coming to an end? Alexander Cooley, Barnard’s department of political science chair and the current Tow Professor of Political Science, is examining the possibilities with a new course he’s developing for next year. The course considers shifting post-western political power in regions, such as Central Asia and the Middle East, around the world.
Cooley notes that the 2008 world financial crisis and the resulting recession have exposed some of the frailties of the U.S. economic system. Meanwhile, he adds, China’s economic prominence has risen. “The financial crisis really marked China’s emergence as a [world] economic power,” says Cooley, who posits that it also signaled the emergence of a new era in global politics in which the United States, and the West in general, no longer reign supreme. In his view, the implications of that are enormous. The key question driving the course, which Cooley envisions as a limited-enrollment lecture course, is what will that new world look like—or, as he puts it, “What’s the future of a post-American liberal order?”
To answer that question, the course will explore the impact that the rise of China and other emerging world powers might have on a variety of issues, ranging from economic aid and development assistance, to the spread of democracy and human rights. Moreover, he plans to look at how the shifting global order is playing out around the world. One major focus will be resource-rich Central Asia and the five so-called central Asian “Stans”—Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan.
As Cooley, a leading authority on Central Asia, notes, the region has recently become a prime hot spot for American, Chinese, and Russian rivalries—and thus offers an ideal microcosm for studying a new political landscape. “It’s really an arena for what the post-Western world will look like,” says Cooley, who wrote about the international jockeying for regional influence in his newest book, Great Games, Local Rules: The New Great Power Contest in Central Asia, published by Oxford University Press this past June.
Cooley’s interest in Central Asia dates back to the mid-1990s and his days as a PhD student at Columbia University, where he wrote his dissertation on the impact of international aid on the Kyrgyz political system. As part of the process, he spent a year conducting field research and also taught at the American University in Kyrgyzstan (now the American University of Central Asia). Since joining Barnard in 2001, Cooley has taught classes on international organization and globalization and international politics, along with a graduate-level course at Columbia that examines the challenges to sovereignty faced by post-Communist states.
He has pursued a mix of research interests, including the politics of human rights and democracy promotion in a multi-polar world. His main focus, however, has continued to be Central Asia and the Caucasus. In the past decade, he has produced a steady stream of academic articles and op-eds covering everything from the limits of resurgent Russian power in Central Asia to U.S.-Georgia relations and the implications of U.S. military bases for democratization in the region. In addition, he has authored or co-authored several books, including Logics of Hierarchy: The Organization of Empires, States and Military Occupations; Base Politics: Democratic Change and the U.S. Military Overseas; and Contracting States: Sovereign Transfers in International Relations.
Cooley recalls that the inspiration for his latest book, Great Games, Local Rules, came while he was working on a research fellowship for the Open Society Foundations on the rise of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), founded in 2001 to promote stability in Central Asia. In his studies, he discovered that Russia and China, the group’s two most powerful members, were divided on a whole host of issues. “What started to interest me was their rivalry,” recalls Cooley, noting that in recent years China has been bankrolling major infrastructure development projects not just in Central Asia, but also around the globe. At the same time, Russia, hard hit by the financial crisis, has seen its economic power wane, along with its ability to assert its interests in neighboring states. “Russia wants to be seen as a great power,” he notes, “but while it may have the ambition, it currently lacks the means.”
As for the U.S., which has its own strategic interests in Central Asia, the professor contends that its influence in the region has also waned: Not only has the U.S. run into resistance from local political leaders opposed to the presence of American military bases, but he notes that U.S. calls for further democratization and greater respect for human rights are increasingly being shrugged off. “It’s a place where you see American soft power declining. There’s a real fatigue with U.S. human rights and democracy rhetoric,” says Cooley, especially now that the United States’ treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib in Iraq has received worldwide attention.
Still, while it’s clear to Cooley that the old global order is on the way out, he notes that there’s still great uncertainty about what will replace it. He is hopeful that the course he’s planning will give students some early insights into a new power structure. China is certain to be a dominant player. Cooley says that, among other things, the class will look at how China is already serving as a counterbalance to American power in Central Asia and around the world. As two prime examples, he points to Ecuador’s 2008 decision to default on its debt and Angola’s move to break off loan negotiations with the International Monetary Fund. Both countries, he believes, were emboldened by the fact that they could turn to China for outside financing assistance, instead of just relying on the West. “China’s emergence gives countries [who previously had far less power] a lot more political space,” he says.
—by Susan Hansen
—Illustration by Ellen Weinstein
VEENA SUD '89
Like many Barnard undergraduates, Veena Sud used her time at college to explore new worlds, but hers were a far cry from the ones most students pursue. During her freshman year, she visited Chinatown with a police officer from the vice squad for a crash course on the sex industry. “I’ve always been fascinated by law and order, and dark, gritty worlds,” she says. That fascination—bolstered by the research she has done on criminals and the police since the age of 16—laid the groundwork for a successful career writing and producing such TV shows as Cold Case and The Killing.
After Barnard, Sud spent several years working as a journalist at Pacifica Radio and at the media-watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. She also married and had a son. In her spare time, she made experimental films like Stretchmark, a semi-autobiographical piece about being a single mother.
At 28, she enrolled at New York University’s film school, where she studied with Spike Lee, who allowed Sud and his other students to view rough cuts of the movie on which he was working. After graduation, she spent a year directing MTV’s The Real World, then made her way to Los Angeles. She landed a job on the short-lived show Push, Nevada before meeting the creator of the CBS police drama Cold Case, who hired her as a writer. Three years later, she became the show’s executive producer. “I got to learn everything at hyper speed,” she says.
In 2010, Sud adapted a moody Danish police drama called Forbrydelsen for American viewers. The Killing was conceived as “an anti-genre cop show with slow-burn storytelling,” Sud says. Eschewing the one-episode resolution of many such shows, each episode of The Killing, set in Seattle, captured one day in the investigation of the murder of teenager Rosie Larsen. But the storytelling focused not just on the police work, but also on the lives of the detectives and the victim’s family. As always, Sud delved into research, meeting with families who had lost children. “It was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had,” she says. “And it became even more important to me to tell their story accurately and authentically.”
Sud also consulted with detectives in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, and took the show’s writers on a visit to the morgue. Her youthful forays into police precincts “emboldened me to ask questions and go places,” she says. “It’s been a useful tool all my life as a writer. I realized what people have to say is much more interesting than what I could make up.” Yet translating that research into a fictional world is “a fine balancing act. You’re a creator of a made-up world and a documentarian. When you inhabit the space in between, you hit your sweet spot,” she says.
As executive producer and head writer for The Killing, Sud worked on everything from creating the budget to studying the color of the leaves outside the windows of the fictional police department. To make the home of the victim’s family look appropriately lived in, Sud would trail crumbs around the kitchen and make sure there were piles of papers scattered on counters. “Visuals are an important part of my storytelling,” she says. “That level of detail seems like it’s not that important, but it is important if you’re trying to suspend disbelief.”
The Killing earned high ratings and critical acclaim. In The New York Times, Ginia Bellafante wrote, “With its lyrical pacing, restrained performances, and a palette so visually cool that it feels as though you are watching from inside a Sub-Zero, The Killing is at once a procedural and a rich exploration of the perils of obsession.” But the show ran into trouble at the end of its first season when the killer was not revealed. Viewers took to the Internet to protest, complaining that they felt cheated. Sud was shocked by the backlash, having always intended to reveal the killer’s identity at the end of the second season. AMC cancelled The Killing in July after its second season concluded, leaving Sud disappointed. “The show has so much more to say,” she says.
After a well-deserved vacation, Sud is back at her writing desk. She is at work on the screenplay for a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1941 thriller Suspicion for Paramount Pictures. It will be her first feature-film script. With nominations for both an Emmy for outstanding writing and a Writers Guild of America award for her work on The Killing, Sud is poised for a promising career. “The world has so many great stories to be told,” Sud says.
—by Jennifer Altmann