Spring 2009

Spring 2009

Lisa Gamsu, vice president of administration and capital planning, has already begun changing the way Barnard College operates. Her eventual goal is to change the way students and the entire campus community think and, ultimately, the way they live. Gamsu oversees a daunting array of initiatives meant to reduce a large and sprawling institution’s impact on the earth. Among other initiatives, new practices she’s helped to foster require the College to recycle items such as paper, waste plastics, and even office furniture; maintain its existing infrastructure with energy-saving upgrades; purchase ecologically friendly furniture, “green” cleaning supplies, and Energy-Star appliances. The College has installed energy-effi ient fluorescent light bulbs and motion sensors in several key areas that turn the lights off when space is unused. Thermostats in all campus buildings are set to 74 in the summer and 68 degrees in the winter.

The most notable new project in the area of sustainability is the Nexus, a 70,000-square-foot multi-use building and Barnard’s most ambitious undertaking in decades. The College is seeking a “LEED” Silver certification from the United States Green Building Council through innovations such as plumbing, lighting, and mechanical systems to increase efficiencies and a “green” roof to reduce runoff and help regulate the building’s temperature.

These changes, and others still to come, are all necessary steps toward reducing Barnard’s environmental impact. None will be sufficient to meet the College’s ambitious sustainability goals (Barnard has signed on as a partner with a New York City program that challenges its large institutions to reduce carbon emissions 30 percent by 2017) without the active participation of its students. In the end, the amount of energy that Barnard uses, and thus its impact on the planet, is a function of an aggregate of the countless mundane individual decisions—whether to take short showers, leave electronics plugged in when not in use, or use the stairs rather than the elevator. “What we [need to] keep talking about is how to make sustainability a part of everybody’s life,” says Gamsu.

Helping to fuel awareness, two new recycling centers—one outside the Altschul elevators at ground level; the second, at the Sulzberger Hall basement elevators—accept commonly recycled glass, metal, and plastic. These centers also accept batteries, lightbulbs, and computer waste that pose an even more dangerous environmental threat. They will also become information hubs with posters and literature to raise awareness within and inform the entire campus community about recycling and energy efficiencies. Throughout the campus, several drinking fountains now offer filtered water. These water stations have been outfitted with bottle fillers to encourage students to use refillable water bottles. A publicity campaign is also being designed to persuade the campus community to abandon plastic-bottled water.

The bottled-water campaign exemplifies a voluntary choice that Gamsu is determined to promote across campus. Her goal is to publicize the recent finding, by the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection, that New York City water is among the purest and best tasting in the world. The College’s catering service carries no bottled water and no College institution buys it. “Why would anybody pay $2 when you can have New York City water for free?” Gamsu asked. “I challenge anyone to taste the water at Altschul and Barnard Hall and tell me that there’s some better water out there.”

To help influence voluntary individual decisions, the College launched Barnard’s sustainability Web site in April. The Web site provides a clear and complete overview of what the College is doing to make itself more sustainable, and a set of recommendations for what students, staff, and faculty can do to join the effort. It will also serve as a medium of communication to identify ways to make the College more environmentally friendly. Student volunteers in the EcoReps program teach environmental awareness in the residence halls, and work with the administration to tailor its practices and to publicize them to the campus community. “The Web site really shows that there is commitment to sustainability coming from the top down,” affirms Gamsu.

-by Wesley Yang, illustration by Jennifer Daniels

For more information, please visit the sustainability Web site at: barnard.edu/green.

Barnard professor Xiaobo Lü, Ruby Yang, Harriet Wen Tung ’68, Yang Lan, Preside“I can still remember my great-grandmother’s feet. They were smaller than mine and I was only 5 or 6,” says Angela Zhao who will enter Barnard this fall as a first-year. Along with overwhelming excitement and the typical array of belongings, she brings experience not exactly typical of an 18-year-old, say, from New Jersey or California: Angela was born in Yintai, China. Her mother came to America to escape persecution when Angela was 7; Angela joined her in 2002, at the age of 11. During their separation, her mother would call to remind her daughter to do well in school, to learn English, so that Angela could join her in the United States, have opportunities—and help make change.

Angela had reason to want things to be different in the country of her birth. Visits to her great-grandmother’s rural home and the indelible memory of those feet, bound per the tradition, were direct links to Angela’s passion for Barnard. In her application essay to Barnard, she wrote of her mother’s oft-repeated words “You can be the next Kang Tongbi.” Says Angela, “When I first came to America, my mom told me stories about how Ms. Kang courageously fought for the equality of Chinese women, and of her championing the end of foot-binding nearly a century ago. As I began my college search, I was astonished to find that Kang Tongbi, my lifetime idol, was a graduate of Barnard College.” 

In many ways, the parallel histories of Angela Zhao and Kang Tongbi—a century apart—were at the core of The Kang Tongbi Commemorative Symposium: Women Changing China, which took place in Beijing, China, on March 19. The idea and the event itself represents Barnard President Debora Spar’s focus on extending the College’s international presence and creating an ongoing global exchange of ideas, students, female leadership, and activism.

The idea for the symposium came about organically. President Spar was planning to visit Asia to connect with alumnae in the region and to explore education exchanges. A stop in Beijing, where she joined in the opening of Columbia University’s Global Center, was bracketed with stops in Hong Kong and Seoul. Months earlier, both Angela Zhao’s application and that of Serena Hong, who is none other than the grandniece of Kang Tongbi herself, lay on a desk in Barnard’s Office of Admissions. Plans for the China trip and the emergence of Kang Tongbi in the collective consciousness of the Barnard administration converged and Women Changing China was born and made possible by the international law firm, Paul Hastings, which maintains 18 offices throughout Asia.

President Spar welcomed these four most distinguished women at the Park Hyatt Beijing, and with a crowd of more than 200 guests, these amazing women shared their stories. Yan Geling, one of China’s most acclaimed contemporary novelists and screenwriters, sat next to pioneering television host and media guru, Yang Lan, who sat next to Academy Award-winning Chinese-American filmmaker Ruby Yang. The fourth panelist, Wu Qing, is deputy to the Beijing Haidian District People’s Congress and a renowned advocate for the rights of women. She had also been, for 30 years, one of China’s most esteemed and beloved professors of English.

The achievYan Gelingements and experiences of the women have led them to some common ground, albeit by circuitous routes. Yan Geling began: “I became a school drop-out at 7 when the Cultural Revolution started. I became a soldier and a ‘dancing soldier’ at the age of 12. I was a work correspondent before I reached 20. I became a lieutenant colonel at age 23.” She went on to explain that after the Revolution, women writers had renewed interest in expressing themselves. She was a leader among them. To date, Geling has published more than 20 books, received over 30 literary and film awards, and has had her works translated into seven languages with a half-dozen more in preparation.

Yang Lan is one of the most successful and recognized personalities in China— often referred to as “China’s Oprah”—and one of the most dedicated to social causes and women’s causes. She spoke about the magnitude of change she’d witnessed since she first won national fame in 1990: “At that time, most, I think 99 percent of Chinese people, didn’t even have a passport. So they hadn’t the chance to travel around the world and see how the other people are living.”

She also went to relate a story from her recent interview with Jimmy Carter, who shared a great deal about his talks with Deng Xiaoping, including a fateful call in the middle of the night. “Deng Xiaoping asked about how much should be the quota for Chinese students in the United States. ‘Is 5,000 fair enough?’ Carter, who was very frustrated being interrupted in his sleep said, ‘Why don’t we just give them 100,000?’ That incident produced a lot of opportunities for Chinese students to see the world, including me!” Two decades later, one only needed to watch the 2008 Beijing Olympics to witness the breadth and richness of experience that define today’s China.

Long before her career launched, Yang Lan had asked her father to get her a job, but he said no, knowing that his daughter would find her own way. Now having been named “Chinese Woman of the Year” in 2001, “Top Ten Women Entrepreneurs” in 2002, Columbia University’s “Global Leadership Award” in 2008, she has also paved the way for other women.

Ruby YangRuby Yang’s parental influence was of another sort. In the ’70s, her mother worried about her daughter’s future. Yang recalled her mother saying, “You cannot go into art school. You have to get a degree in business.” Yang adds, “I could not rebel against her. I went to college for two years, to business school, and minored in art. So I finally satisfied her.” Later on, Yang graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute. “When I started doing film, my mother would always tell people, ‘She’s going to apply for MBA one of these days.’ My father was the one who supported me throughout to do art.”

Her work as an editor and director includes a range of feature and documentary works that often deal with Chinese themes. She won several awards for The Blood of Yingzhou District, including an Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject in 2006. The film dealt with the fear of provincial Chinese children who lost their parents to AIDS. Another of her award-winning films is Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl, about the trials of a young girl during the Cultural Revolution; the original novel and movie script were written by Yan Geling. These potent works and her other public service announcements for the China AIDS Media Project and the Ministry of Health have touched millions of lives, in and beyond China. She suggested to the young people in the audience that they take a year, perhaps, before looking for work “to volunteer your time and learn about other people, what other people are suffering, what other people are doing.”

Wu Qing brought the resounding wisdom of an elder stateswoman to the mix—an authority enhanced by decades as a professor and devoted civil servant as well as the experiences of a childhood spent in a Chinese compound in postwar Japan. As an adult, Wu Qing has been detained and reprimanded and
even removed from office for rallying for the rights of women and for insisting on transparency in government. Passing on this strong sense of self to young women is the primary goal of her rural school. “First we empower them. We tell them they are human beings before they are girls. We also talk about the constitution. We talk about transparency, accountability, democracy, and especially human rights.”

When Debora Spar asked each how they achieved their success, Professor Wu was emphatic in her response. “I don’t think I am successful. By successful I mean that when every single person in China can live the way that I’m living, having the right to do what they want to do … then I will be successful.”

Wu QingThis dedication to women’s responsibility to one another was a theme running throughout the panel discussion. Affirmed Wu Qing, “If you educate one woman, you educate the whole family and generations to come. Because we have heard stories about our mothers—they’re our teachers. That’s why I think there are so many things to do in China now, and it’s so exciting. There is room for us to make changes.”

She was ahead of her time, and most certainly her gender, in this outspokenness, but she came by it honestly. Her mother, Bing Xin, graduated from Wellesley in the ’20s and went on to become one of China’s most famous authors. Her father, Wu Wentsao, earned both a master’s and a PhD from Columbia University, and was regarded as the father of sociology in China.

A sense of self, a belief in the power of education, and a desire for change initially motivated all the panelists who participated in the symposium down their career paths. Students like Angela Zhao and Serena Hong, grandniece of Kang Tongbi, and the others who will come to Barnard from countries around the world will learn, grow and continue to bring powerful changes for the better to their home countries—one of the messages of President Spar’s global outreach.

-by Beth Saidel, photographs by Bill Liu

Last summer, Dr. Matthew Wallenfang, assistant professor of cell biology at Barnard, saw a critical step in his budding research scientists’ development: The 29 undergraduates moved out from behind their lab benches and started meeting other researchers. “It was really a revelation for them,” he says. “Business schools emphasize networking and talking to people—and these skills are just as important in the sciences.”

What drew these students out of the lab was the Amgen Scholars Summer Research Program, a national program held at 10 academic sites across the United States and hosted jointly in New York by Barnard College and Columbia University. Aimed primarily at students considering a career in scientific research, the Amgen Scholars program at Barnard and Columbia teaches participants that being a good researcher also means developing networking skills and learning to present scientific findings persuasively. “The program helps move them beyond the academic world and into the real world,” says Wallenfang, who co-directs the program with Dr. Alice Heicklen, a lecturer in Columbia’s biological sciences department.

The 10-week summer program—open to sophomores, juniors and non-graduating seniors—offers students the opportunity to develop their networking skills while also burnishing their laboratory credentials. (The program accepts 25 to 30 students from colleges across the United States; four to five of those spots are reserved for Barnard students.) Program participants choose their own projects, which in recent years have ranged from researching the genetics of skeletal development in chicken embryos to studying mood disorders at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

In 2008, Kristine Lacuna ’10 engaged in a research project examining the effects of caloric compensation and obesity among different strains of inbred mice—in short, whether mice with a different genetic makeup would gain weight at the same rate with a diet rich in glucose. Lacuna picked up the research where 2007 Amgen Scholar Lindsey Breinager ’08 had left off the previous year. “They were passing the torch,” says Jennifer Mansfield, an assistant professor of developmental genetics at Barnard who runs the school’s Amgen Scholars summer seminars. “Most of these projects are long-term efforts with lots and lots of people involved in them.”

Meanwhile, students are exposed to more than what’s going on in their labs. Scientists from Amgen, the California-based biotechnology company that underwrites the program, visit to discuss research in the drug-discovery field, and weekly seminars draw researchers and noted scientists such as Columbia professor Martin Chalfie, recipient of the 2008 Nobel Prize in chemistry. “It’s pretty eye-opening for students to see the huge range of research possibilities out there,” says Mansfield.

Weekly discussion groups give the students an opportunity to learn about each others’ research projects. The groups focus on science communication—how to talk and write about science, and how to present data effectively. A student must explain her research to the others in the group, a process, says Mansfield, that teaches an important lesson: how to discuss complex research so that a general audience can understand it. “We really try to focus on getting them fluent when talking about their research,” she says. “Scientists need to learn how to make their research accessible—and how to make it exciting.”

By the end of the session, Mansfield says students’ abilities to describe research in plain English has blossomed. “It’s amazing to see how much they all learn in 10 weeks,” she says.

Those accepted to the Amgen Scholars program are promised a busy schedule, but there is some time outside the lab. Students can tour New York, and take field trips to see the Mets play or take in a Broadway show. Mansfield notes that the field trips offer a break from the 40-hours-a-week research schedule—as well as more chances for the students to come together as a group.

The Amgen Scholars program at Columbia and Barnard stresses the importance of community building. As a result, says Wallenfang, the rigorous admissions process—only 29 out of more than 800 applicants were selected for this summer’s program—favors students who are looking to grow both inside and outside the lab. After all, says Wallenfang, “There’s more to being a scientist than benchwork.”

-by Taylor Smith, photograph by Asiya Khaki

When it comes to remembering Barnard, it turns out that mother does know best.

That “mother” is Jane Wyatt Ward ’32, who played über-mom Margaret Anderson from 1954 to 1960 in the popular television situation-comedy Father Knows Best. Ward’s long and diverse career included Broadway plays and the role of Spock’s human mother, Amanda, in an episode of the Star Trek TV series and in one of the movies. Ward, who died at 96 in 2006, made a large gift to Barnard through her estate.

Ward’s generosity might seem unexpected given that she spent only two years at Barnard before leaving to pursue a career in theatre. But classmate Ethel Greenfield Booth ’32 recalls Ward’s time at Barnard, which included performances as a member of the drama society Wigs and Cues. Booth, a fellow Wigs and Cues member, says with Ward’s passion for acting, she enjoyed very much working with the society. “Some of her earliest dramatic successes were there,” she says.

Ward, a beauty who had an innate stage presence, was regularly tapped to play young, attractive women. “There was no question she’d be the ingénue, if there was an ingénue part, whereas because of my deeper voice, I often got cast as the male,” Booth, 95, says with a chuckle. “She was someone who had inborn poise. She knew how to gracefully command a scene.”Jane Wyatt Ward

Ward was born into a well-to-do New York family in 1910. Her mother was a theatre critic for the Catholic World and other publications; her father was an investment banker. She was a high school student when she met her future husband, Edgar B. Ward, a Harvard freshman, on a train. Both had been invited to spend a weekend with Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor, at their Hyde Park home.

Ward left Barnard in 1929 (a younger sister, Monica, would graduate in 1944) to join the apprentice school of the Berkshire Playhouse in Massachusetts. She made her Broadway debut in 1931, which would have been her junior year at Barnard, in A.A. Milne’s Give Me Yesterday. Eventually she moved to Hollywood, where she furthered her movie career, and where she continued to live after her marriage in 1935. Her co-stars included Cary Grant, Ethel Barrymore, Gregory Peck, and Gary Cooper. As Americans embraced television in the 1950s, Ward began to appear on the small screen.

Thanks to her long-running role in Father Knows Best, she was often recognized in public but preferred to keep a low profile as a mother, a devout Catholic, and a longtime community volunteer and activist, says her older son, Chris Ward, 71.

“People think of her as a movie star, which she was, but she wasn’t a glamour girl,” he says. “She told me several times that her ideal job would be to be to take a Shakespearean play with a big woman’s lead in it and have a long run on Broadway.”

Booth, her former classmate, settled in Los Angeles as well, and the women were unexpectedly put in touch again when Ward had a part in a play at the TV station where Booth worked as head of women’s programs. They remained in touch on and off, especially where Barnard was concerned, throughout their lives. When Barnard wanted to honor Ward in 1992, the actress called Booth to express her qualms. Booth urged her to accept, saying the award would benefit Barnard. Ward ultimately agreed and returned to New York to receive the College’s Woman of Achievement award.

Ward was a consistent donor to the school, says Audra M. Lewton of Barnard’s Office of Planned Giving. The gift from Ward’s estate was unrestricted, allowing Barnard to use it where it’s most needed, Lewton says, “which is just about the best kind of gift we can get. It was left to Barnard to decide what’s important. When people give these significant gifts without restrictions, it says they trust the institution. It’s a vote of confidence.”

-by June D. Bell, photograph courtest of Barnard Archives

Frances SadlerDear Fellow Alumnae,

This has been, and continues to be, a busy Spring semester. First, please join me in welcoming Erin Fredrick ’01 as the director of Alumnae Affairs. Many of you know Erin from her role as associate director of Reunion and Leadership Council, and most recently as interim co-director of Alumnae Affairs with Vanessa Corba ’96. By the way, Vanessa has also taken on additional responsibilities in the offices of Development and Alumnae Affairs. We are fortunate to be able to maintain the continuity of our work relationship.

Volunteers working on AABC committees have been planning interesting and informative programs. They have been forging collaborative relationships with other Barnard organizations to maximize precious resources. For example, the Professional and Leadership Development committee has been working with the Barnard Business and Professional Women on some joint programming and the Young Alumnae committee is working with the Career Development office. Groups of dedicated Barnard volunteers and staff have been deepening the quality of their alliances to make the opportunities for you to connect with the College and each other. Not only is that happening on Broadway, it’s happening in regional clubs all over the country. With the addition of Susannah Goldstein ’02 to the Alumnae Affairs staff in October, there is once again dedicated staff support for the regional clubs.

I had the pleasure of attending the Senior Dinner, the Torchbearers Reception, and the rebirth of the Barnard Club of Atlanta with fellow alumnae and current Barnard students. The aspect of these events that I find most rewarding is the comfortable multigenerational participation of Barnard women. Alumnae from every decade from the ’40s forward and students from every class from 2009–2012 engage in stimulating intellectual conversations and develop rewarding friendships. I am enjoying the company of women who would have been my mother’s peers and women who are my son’s peers; I would never have met them if we did not all belong to the Barnard community. If you would like to reconnect with old friends or make some new ones, contact Alumnae Affairs. If you would like to become a volunteer, you know the Association always benefits from a new infusion of ideas. Join a committee, attend an event, become a mentor or reach out to a friend. By strengthening the lifelong connection among Barnard alumnae, the College will continue to be an outstanding liberal arts college for future generations of young women.

Reunion is coming. I look forward to seeing you.

As ever,

Frances Sadler ’72

President of the Alumnae Associataion

P.S. Watch your e-mail inbox this summer for the announcement of exciting new features to alum.barnard.edu that will help keep us all connected to each other and to Barnard.

-Portrait by Elena Seibert

 It may seem unlikely that a college based in the concrete jungle of New York City would inspire a passion for environmentalism, but it is no surprise to alumnae Annie Leonard ’86 (pictured right) and Diane Pataki ’93 (opposite page), two of the environmental movement’s rising stars.

Both women are dedicated to protecting the environment and reversing the trend of global climate change, but with very different approaches. Leonard, an activist whose aim is to educate the public about our unsustainable consumer culture, natural resource depletion, and vast waste-management problem, was named one of Time magazine’s “Heroes of the Environment” in 2008 for her mesmerizing viral Web film, The Story of Stuff. In 2008, Pataki was the recipient of the prestigious James B. Macelwane Medal, which recognizes significant contributions to the geophysical sciences made by an outstanding young scientist. Pataki’s studies of human ecosystems, particularly regarding water, energy, and carbon-cycle dynamics in urban systems have drawn attention to the importance of including urban ecosystems in the efforts to understand global change. Measurement of the impact of urban plants on greenhouse-gas emissions will help to produce greener, more environmentally efficient cities.

For both women, the desire to save the planet began at Barnard.

Annie Leonard“It was a walk from 100th Street to 116th Street that really started me on my career path,” says Leonard. Strolling past shoulder-high piles of curbside garbage along Broadway was a shock to the Seattle native, who was unused to seeing so much waste out in the open. Leonard arrived at Barnard with the goal of becoming a public-lands activist. More specifically, she wanted to be Secretary of the Interior. But if the garbage on the street did not instantly alter her career focus, a class trip to the Freshkills landfill on New York’s Staten Island did. Leonard stood atop the pile of garbage, then the world’s largest landfill and well on the way to becoming one of the highest points on the Eastern Seaboard. “There were couches and books and shoes and food as far as you could see in every direction,” Leonard says. “I’d never seen anything like it. It was like a bolt of lightning struck me.”

The jolt inspired Leonard to start an open conversation about garbage. “Right around the time I was finishing up at Barnard, there was a rush to build incinerators in the U.S.,” Leonard says. “I did my thesis on why we shouldn’t build them in New York City.” Not only do incinerators emit toxic pollution, but the cost to build such incinerators was so great, that their very existence would encourage more and more waste production just to keep them fed. Leonard reasoned the opposite was also true: If incinerators could not be built, there would be motivation to reduce waste creation. “What we hadn’t expected were sleazy guys loading up the waste and shipping it to other countries,” she says. After graduating from Barnard with a degree in environmental science and a political-science minor, Leonard spent time at Cornell University, studying waste issues in city and regional planning. She left Cornell to join Greenpeace International and spent 10 years traveling the globe, including three years based in South Asia, taking a hands-on approach to uncovering the dirty secrets of waste management. She was so hands-on, in fact, that she is still known for sifting through garbage in each new city she visits.

In search of a different organizational model, Leonard joined Ralph Nader’s nonprofit group, Essential Information, which offered her a base in Washington, D.C., to continue her work internationally. She was based in D.C. for five years, until 1999, when she gave birth to her daughter and moved briefly to Chicago. Still affiliated with Nader’s group, she began to help found what became the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, known also as the Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance or GAIA (from the ancient Greek word for earth goddess). She later moved to Berkeley (GAIA’s U.S. base) to be closer to friends. GAIA is an international network of activists, scientists and others from over 82 countries who are collaborating to find sustainable waste solutions. In an effort to “turn up the volume on the conversation,” Leonard began speaking to various organizations about exploitation, consumption, and waste issues. The speech was such a hit, she took to the Internet in search of a wider audience and, with the help of Free Range Studios, who produced the film, she created The Story of Stuff (storyofstuff.com). The 20-minute film offers an engaging and fact-filled look at our consumer culture of acquiring stuff, a vicious cycle that includes extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal. In less capable hands, the subject matter could easily seem too overwhelming or preachy for the average viewer. But Leonard’s engaging style of storytelling provides a human counterbalance to the serious and terrifying reality of unsustainability. “We thought that if it got 50,000 visits, it would be a success,” Leonard says. The film debuted on the Web in December 2007, and its Web site has since been visited more than 5.5 million times in 232 countries and territories. Leonard is currently working on a book version to be published by Simon & Schuster in 2010.

Walls of garbage lining the street were nothing new to New York City kid Diane Pataki, but the opportunity to get an up-close-and-personal look at natural ecosystems was a novelty. She came to Barnard from nearby Queens ready to study English, then switched to an environmental science major after taking a first-year course with Dr. Peter Bower. “I definitely didn’t become interested in plants and natural ecosystems until I went to Barnard and took classes in biology and botany,” Pataki says. At a campus career fair, she signed up as a volunteer for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and ended up working with the organization as a part-time paid intern for two years while still in school. “I learned a lot about environmental organizations as well as the role of science in protecting the environment,” she says.

With her interests leaning more toward the scientific side of environmental defense, Pataki left the EDF and New York to attend graduate school at Duke University. While reluctant to leave the city, she had little choice. “Columbia has a great graduate program in ecology now, but at that time there weren’t that many options to study ecology at the graduate level in New York,” she says. After earning a master’s degree in 1995 and a PhD in 1998, Pataki headed west to study the effects of high atmospheric carbon dioxide on plants at the Desert Research Institute in Las Vegas. She then moved to the University of Utah, to join the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, a consortium of scientists studying global change. In 2004, Pataki landed in her current position as associate professor of earth-systems science, ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Irvine.

Diane PatakiPataki’s professional focus is on plants and their effect on the atmosphere; specifically, how urban plants affect the local environment in cities. “As a society, we heavily modify and manage landscapes in cities, but we don’t have very good data on how our choices of landscape plants, urban forests, and landscape management affect temperature, local climate, and greenhouse-gas emissions,” Pataki says. Take the example of city lawns. While they can provide cooling to mitigate the “heat island” effect (built-up cities actually become hotter than nearby rural areas), the fertilizing and watering required to maintain such lawns causes pollution, greenhouse emissions, and water waste. Pataki and her research team at UC-Irvine are currently measuring how plants and soils impact greenhouse gases in the Los Angeles area, in an effort to determine how much gas comes from local industry and combustion processes vs. people’s backyards.

In an area where very little scientific study has been done, Pataki is something of a pioneer, and her goal is to link natural sciences to real-world urban planning. “Decision-making by urban residents and policy-makers plays a really important role in what species get planted, how they’re managed, and how they ultimately function,” Pataki says. “I’m trying to work with social scientists and economists to better understand how people make choices about urban landscapes based on values, cultural factors, and economics as well as environmental considerations.”

Pataki continues, “There is a real pressure to find solutions; we do have to work quickly. The longer we wait the more serious the problem is going to be.” She is anxious to share the work. “Science and technology are definitely going to be a critical part of the solutions,” Pataki says. “I encourage Barnard students that are interested in environmental problems to see if science or engineering might be a good fit for them. There’s more of a need for environmental scientists than ever before.”

Pataki and Leonard are both generally optimistic about our ability to turn things around, primarily because we are nearing a point where we will have no other choice. Still, Leonard talks of what she calls “the individualization of the problem”: the idea that change can come if we all carry reusable shopping bags or turn the water off when brushing our teeth. Yes, we should be doing those things, says Leonard, but they will not have the necessary impact. “The changes that we really need are more cultural and political. Implementing all those individual choices is kind of like getting better at swimming upstream. We can improve our stroke but… we need to change the current.”

-Melissa Phipps, photographs by Zen Sekizawa and Dorothy Hong

The Barnard College Internship Program, administered through the Career Development Office, assists students in gaining exposure to the world of work through its many opportunities in a variety of career fields. An internship provides career-related learning and gives students the chance to participate in projects and practical work assignments, develop skills, gain experience, make connections, and become exposed to an industry. This important and often invaluable step toward defining professional goals and preparing for life after college, can also provide an understanding of different work cultures and allow students to connect with mentors and possibly obtain offers of full-time employment after graduation. On the following pages, Barnard highlights five seniors whose internships helped them focus their career pursuits, and, for several, confirm the work they want to pursue.

Theo Balcomb


On my application to Barnard, I was asked to describe a daily routine that might seem ordinary to others but held special meaning for me. I explained my close attachment to National Public Radio newscaster Carl Kasell’s affirming, never-wavering voice on the morning news headlines. At Barnard, I chose to pursue internships in the media so that I could aspire to be that informed voice.

Theo BalcombAfter many communications-related internships in politics, nonprofit organizations, and television found through the Office of Career Development’s eRecruiting, an online database—I made my way back to public radio. I spent a summer in my home state, copyediting stories and recording my own at the Maine Public Broadcasting Network. Back at Barnard, I promptly sent my resume off to WNYC. Three weeks later, I rose early, hopped into my car service (how posh!), and entered the exciting world of The Takeaway, a new national morning news program from WNYC and Public Radio International.

While the mornings are filled with the usual coffee pouring and breakfast ordering, I do have the chance to write news headlines and speak with the in-studio guests. Simply being in the control room—watching the work of the producers and the hosts—is informative. The constant interplay among the staffers is fascinating and beautiful to watch. As a child, I listened to public radio on my way to Saturday morning dance classes. I’ve continued both the dancing and the radio listening, and at my internship I begin to see some correlation between the two. Both are small performances within themselves, designed to elicit strong emotions from the audience, and products of vibrant, creative minds. My experience at The Takeaway gave me the technique, preparation, and enthusiasm to take on any possible performances in the media world, and it will serve me well for the internship I have this summer at NPR’s All Things Considered.

Allison Farer

NARAL Pro-Choice

Allison FarerReading about the communications internship with NARAL (National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League) Pro-Choice New York/National Institute for Reproductive Health on Barnard’s eRecruiting database, I knew that the position would be the ideal opportunity for me to combine my interest in writing and editing with my passion for women’s issues. Pursuing a degree in American studies with a gender and sexuality concentration helped me to develop an academic knowledge of the politics and history of women in the United States; this internship would shed light on the practical application of my studies.

I made use of the writing and editing skills that I developed as a fellow in Barnard’s writing program and a copy staffer for the Columbia Daily Spectator. The internship also furthered my understanding of the successful operation of a nonprofit organization. It helped me to expand my organizational, project management, communication, and online skills as well. The online work that I did—maintaining social-networking sites, conducting Internet research, and writing blog-posts—kept me in the forefront of the communications field and taught me how to use the Internet as a tool for social and political change.

I completed a wide variety of assignments during my internship, but I most enjoyed working on the National Institute’s “How Much Time” campaign—an issue advocacy campaign highlighting the dangers of criminalizing abortion. From researching candidates’ positions on Roe v. Wade and the criminalization of abortion to editing materials and providing feedback, I played a hands-on role in each stage of the project’s development. Through this work, I believe I made a unique and tangible contribution to an historic presidential election last year.

Erica Seldin

Penguin Group

Erica SeldinAs a comparative literature major, it seemed logical to pursue an internship in the publishing industry. I have always had a deep love for books—the variety of stories they tell, the way they look, the way they smell—and I can’t imagine a better way to spend an afternoon than browsing the shelves at a local bookstore. I was certain that a career in publishing would align perfectly with my academic and personal interests. I worked in the marketing department at Dutton, a Penguin imprint that publishes adult fiction and nonfiction. I never worked in marketing before, and I quickly realized that I had much to learn about the industry. Daily responsibilities included researching Web sites, blogs, magazines, and television shows and writing outreach letters to these sources requesting that they promote our books. I also prepared the PowerPoint presentation for the 2009 sales conference. The most exciting part of the internship? I had the chance to meet authors in person, and I participated in marketing and publicity meetings with a variety of interesting personalities, including author and humorist John Hodgman and fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi. The internship provided excellent insights into the book publishing industry, but in the end the experience did not leave me eager to pursue a career in the field. I learned that I enjoy working in a smaller, more interactive environment where I can have a greater impact. Nevertheless, I did gain many marketing skills that I am certain will carry over into my professional career, whatever it turns out to be. In the future, however, my love for books will remain purely avocational.

Thao Le

Pension Partners, LLC

Thao LeI have been interning for Pension Partners, LLC, since February 2008. I discovered this finance internship through my Columbia sorority sister in Kappa Phi Lambda. Finance has always been an interest of mine, so I feel very fortunate to have found the position. Before this internship, I had very minimal knowledge of the financial field and was intimidated by its ambiguity. But, this internship exposed me to its various aspects. It absolutely lived up to my expectations because I was able to work one-on-one with the portfolio manager. I learned about the various stocks, mutual funds, updating client account keys as well as being able to mark and analyze stock charts. My research and Excel spreadsheet skills were greatly improved; I used them constantly at work. I had different to-do agendas separated according to daily, weekly, and monthly tasks, enabling me to work efficiently. I enjoyed going to work and knowing that I would always have someone at the office to guide and assist me: My boss is always open and willing to help answer any questions to better my understanding. The internship has definitely increased my interest in pursuing finance as a future career. I look forward to increasing my knowledge—hopefully being able to open my own firm.

Avigail S. Oren

Queens Library Healthlink Project

Avigail OrenI did not come to college knowing what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I loved Latin-American literature and physical fitness. I pursued a degree in the former and got a job in the Barnard weight room to indulge the latter. My junior year, I completed two internships in journalism and corporate communications. Although I gained incredible professional experience, I knew I would eventually want to apply my interpersonal and writing skills to my passion for health and wellness. Confused about how to combine Spanish, health, and communications, I took a mentor’s advice and decided to look into public health internship opportunities. I found my current internship, the Queens Library Healthlink Project, through the career development office. The Queens Library Healthlink Project is a five-year community-based participatory research study funded by the National Cancer Institute. The American Cancer Society, Queens Cancer Society, Queens Borough Public Library, and Albert Einstein College of Medicine run the study as partners. The goal is to identify new ways to address cancer disparities and improve cancer outcomes for underserved communities. The collaborative research recognizes that community members can provide unique insight and offer potential solutions to the complex health issues they experience.

My principal responsibility is to spend two days a week in Queens conducting surveys with randomly selected adults. I speak to individuals about their perception of the health-care system, assess the frequency with which they visit a physician and receive cancer screenings, and evaluate their awareness of health information and services in their neighborhoods, especially those services related to cancer and cancer screening. While some people answer quickly and move along, my most rewarding interviews are with subjects who tell me about their experiences and ask about how they can contribute to improving the quality of life in their neighborhoods. I am excited to have found a field that combines communication, health, and often, the Spanish-speaking community. I hope to always work in a capacity that incorporates all of these elements.

-Photographs by Martien Mulder

Within the 120-year life span of Barnard College, the history of the teams called the Barnard Bears fills only an eight-year period from 1975 to 1983. Therefore, the story of the Barnard’s intercollegiate athletics program may be unknown to most of our alumnae. But for those of us who were there, what a wonderful time it was.

At its peak, before the Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium created a program for all Morningside Heights undergraduate women to share, Barnard Intercollegiate Athletics consisted of eight varsity sports: archery, basketball, cross country, fencing, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, and volleyball. The program was short on funding, even shorter on facilities, but incredibly long in determination, passion, and feminism. Its accomplishments and well-organized infrastructure made it the natural springboard from which to begin Columbia’s women’s program after Columbia College decided to go coeducational. Now the consortium is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and the athletes who wore Barnard Bear uniforms are reflecting on their role in the consortium’s success. “We built such a great foundation for what was to come,” says former Barnard tennis team captain Valerie Schwarz Mason ’80.

The birth of the Barnard program mirrored what occurred on college campuses across the country in the early 1970s. After the turbulent antiwar ’60s gave way to the “Women’s Lib” era ’70s, college women sought opportunities to participate in sports at a more competitive level than physical-education classes and intramural sports. The Educational Amendments of 1972 that included Title IX gave women a spectacular weapon to instigate change. The law mandated that spending on all educational programming in any institution receiving any federal funding must be made proportionally equal to the male-female ratio of the student body. For instance, if 35 percent of a school’s students were female, roughly 35 percent of its funding for athletics should be spent on its women’s teams. The assorted measures of compliance have been debated and contested over the years, but there is no question that Title IX has had a dramatic impact on women’s and girls’ opportunities in sports.

At Barnard, students lobbied for an intercollegiate program, and the administration responded by funding its first three teams in the 1975-76 academic year in basketball, volleyball, and swimming/diving. The choice of these sports evolved out of what were the most advanced, popular physical education classes then, at a time when taking four physical education classes was required of all Barnard students. Two more sports were added the next year, and the remaining three the year after that.

“The total budget the first year was $10,000,” recalls Marian Rosenwasser, athletic director from 1975 to 1977 and tennis coach until 1981. “Basketball and volleyball players [shared] the same uniforms because their seasons didn’t overlap, and we had one set of warm-ups for all three sports.”

To fill out their teams’ rosters, the coaches, who also taught phys-ed classes, would recruit the more gifted women from their classes or scroll through the extracurricular-interests cards of incoming first-years. The vast majority of athletes were not recruited to attend Barnard via written correspondence and phone calls while they were in high school (as most other universities were already doing by the mid ’70s); many of them had never even played their sport before arriving here.

Running practices was no small feat in most sports because Barnard had no usable facilities beyond its gym. The tennis team arrived each day at Riverside Park at 6:30 a.m. to stake out as many public courts as possible; the track team often dodged broken glass and, occasionally, flashers, while also training in Riverside Park. Rosenwasser did broker a mutually beneficial arrangement with Columbia that allowed Barnard to rent time at Columbia’s facilities in exchange for allowing Columbia’s undergraduate women in its engineering and nursing schools to join Barnard teams. Had Columbia not made these arrangements, the school would have been vulnerable to incurring a Title IX violation. For Barnard, most of its teams would not have been possible to field without Columbia’s facilities.

“For the size school we had, and especially because of our limited facilities, we did offer a lot of programs,” says Margie Greenberg Tversky, who followed Rosenwasser as athletic director from 1978 to 1983 and then directed the consortium program at Columbia until 1990. “But we really stretched to do it.”

Despite challenges, the program began to experience success. In its track and field team’s first season, distance runner Merle Myerson ’78 placed fourth in the 5,000-meter race at the Ivy Championships. In later seasons, Mary Beth Evans ’81 and Ylonka Wills ’84 also placed in state, Ivy, and national track and cross-country events. The fencing team was almost immediately competitive on a national level, and Elka Kristo-Nagy ’81 was the first of three All-Americans Barnard fencing produced (joining her were Tracey Burton ’83 and Lisa Piazza ’85). Volleyball had two first-team All-Ivy selections in 1980 in Zenta Batarags Hayes ’81 and Alla Jodidio Kirsch ’81. The archery team sharpened Nancy Ketcham Lagomarsino ’80 and Petra Hubbard ’82, two novices from a beginners’ archery class, into state champions who later qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials. Then there was Tina Steck ’80, who was in a class by herself.

Steck was an experienced diver from Summit, New Jersey, who chose to attend Barnard both for academic reasons and because her personal coach was Jim Stillson, the Columbia men’s diving coach. With countless Ivy, regional, and national victories in her four-year competitive career, she was Barnard’s first All-Ivy and All-American, and still holds the record for most threemeter-board points scored at the Ivy Championship.

Steck’s memories of the Barnard swimming/diving team range from wacky to warm-hearted. She jokes about noted folk singer and ’81 alumna Suzanne Vega’s stint on the swim team (“she used to play her guitar at team parties”), but also recalls appreciatively that despite the program’s modest funding, she was always sent to every major diving competition in the country, “I had a lot of support both from my teammates and from Marian and Margie.” She sums up her athletic experience as “the best of both worlds. All the women on the team were walk-ons [not recruited athletes], but they swam just because they loved swimming, and that impressed me. One of the highlights of my experience was that I could really see the growth in the swimming program from my first year to my senior year.”

The impact Steck had on the program rippled through all the teams and increased the athletes’ self-respect as well as the regard in which the young program was held off-campus. “Being at school at the same time as Tina Steck was very inspiring to me because she was our first true star athlete,” says Myerson. “It made me want to push myself to improve. She opened up a big door; she was living proof that we could all do it.”

The Barnard program reaped the benefits of a dedicated, creative coaching and administrative staff who viewed their jobs as “a labor of love,” according to Rosenwasser. This commitment was inspired by the leadership of both Rosenwasser and her successor Tversky, who were pragmatic problem-solvers and forward thinkers. One of Tversky’s ideas was the annual Celebration of Women in Sports, a day of events starting with a luncheon featuring a speaker on a current topic in women’s sports, a sports careers panel in the afternoon, and an evening reception honoring the successes of that year’s Barnard athletes. “It was something atypical of an athletics program,” Tversky admits, “an attempt to give our students life skills, ways they could continue their love of sports after college ....” To those who remember Rosenwasser and Tversky, it is not surprising to hear that both women still are in touch with many of the athletes they knew at Barnard.

The consortium itself was born in March 1983 after six months of negotiations between the administrations of both schools following an announcement by Columbia that it would go coed and one by Barnard that it would continue to thrive as the same institution it had been for almost 100 years. For Columbia, the consortium was a leap into the unfamiliar world of women’s sports.

For Barnard, it was a bittersweet trade of its program’s name in order to provide the best possible competitive experience for all future athletes who walked onto its campus. The consortium made sense and had to happen, Mason says. “Ultimately, we were two institutions who really needed each other.”

As designed, coaches on the consortium teams pitch prospective athletes equally on attending Barnard and Columbia by giving a clear description of their differences and respective merits, which Tversky describes as “potentially a powerful recruiting tool to offer two schools to which to apply.” The College’s representatives and those from Columbia still meet regularly with coaches to discuss the best ways in which to approach student athletes.

Some current top athletes articulate their reasons why they chose Barnard over other possibilities. Alexandra Murata, a junior and a nationally ranked rower, says “The Nine Ways of Knowing [Barnard’s core curriculum] was better suited to my broad academic interests …by attending Barnard I have [also] been able to enjoy all of the undergraduate Columbia experiences, most significantly, the Women’s Varsity Rowing program.”

“A small, competitive, supportive environment” brought star basketball player Judie Lomax ’11 to the campus. “I wanted to be taught and mentored by people who I could relate to and were in love with their fields,” she says. “I loved the Nine Ways of Knowing as opposed to the strict core requirements at other institutions. I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of a small community within a large university within one of the greatest cities in the world. I love the intimacy and general care people have for each other and for Barnard.”

Myerson is now a cardiologist at nearby St. Luke’s–Roosevelt Hospital. She credits her Barnard track experience with giving her the courage and discipline to go back to school to earn both a doctorate and an MD more than 10 years after she graduated with a degree in urban studies. “Being an athlete was a dream come true and felt like a privilege to me. It provides such valuable lessons for young women.”

Mason hopes that even as the consortium is honored this spring, the Barnard program that helped give it life will gain some measure of recognition. “I think it’s important to place the progress of the consortium in a historical context,” she says. “To me, 25 years is not that long ago, lots of the issues from our day still haven’t changed. Resentment toward women’s sports still exists on college campuses across the country—challenges to Title IX, people complaining about having to funnel money into women’s sports away from football and other money-producing men’s sports. But the Barnard athletic community was really special, it added another dimension to ‘the Barnard education’ and its mission of creating great women.”

-by Mary Witherell '83, photographs courtesy of Barnard Archives

Susan Herman ’68 attended a public elementary school in the suburbs of Long Island in the late 1950s. In those years, the school library—a place Herman visited often—divided its books by gender. A girls’ section was filled with fairy tales, biographies of first ladies, and stories of American Red Cross founder Clara Barton. The boys’ section contained somewhat more adventurous fare—stories of war heroes and patriots risking their lives, America’s fight for independence, and books about the presidents.

“I decided I would read a book about Johnny Tremain,” Herman recounts, explaining that a version of the story, set in Boston just before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, was the school play one year. Herman was told she couldn’t take the book out because it was in the boys’ section; she would need a note from her mother giving her permission. “I went home, and told my mom this,” she continues, “and my mother couldn’t believe it, she was outraged.” Herman’s mother wrote a note expressing how wrong she thought this was, and of course, gave permission for her daughter to read the book.

The experience, as Herman describes it, was her first with a civil libertarian (her mom) standing up to authorities who claimed to know what was best for the young girl. “That was a real eye-opener,” Herman says. “To see my mother’s outrage suggested to me that I could aspire to be more than Dolly Madison.”

Herman set out to do just that. She started at Goucher College in the fall of 1964, transferring to Barnard after two years. Coming of age in the late ’60s and graduating New York University law school in 1974, there was no doubt in Herman’s mind that what she wanted to do was to change the world. Today Susan Herman, a constitutional law professor and scholar, is president of the American Civil Liberties Union, elected this past October after 20 years of service on the ACLU’s board.

The challenges she and the organization confront arise from just how quickly the world she set out to change is changing on its own—whether from technology, global threats, an economy in severe recession, or our own government’s challenges to constitutional rights and civil liberties. Barnard Magazine talked to Herman about how different the world is today, and what this means for the future of civil liberties and for today’s young, idealistic lawyers.

What does the Obama administration mean for the ACLU?

Ever since 9/11, we’ve had to play defense. In the last eight years, the government’s war on terror—the massive surveillance efforts, the detentions—was a tremendous distraction; our primary focus was responding to what the federal government was doing. Now we hope we can get back to an “America we can all be proud of,” as our slogan says. There’s a lot of work to be done with respect to the federal government and at the state and local level, where most of the ACLU’s work has always been.

In his first days, President Barack Obama did things that were quite welcome, and that, on principle, we welcome: as examples, renouncing the Bush administration’s interrogation techniques; saying he would close the Guantánamo facility. But, that’s just the start. There is a tremendous amount of work to do to restore our values. People talk a lot about economic recovery these days. We also need a lot of justice recovery.

But, we can hope that the federal government will be more of an ally. We’re having an entirely different conversation now about what we can expect from the federal government, which historically has been a force for the promotion of civil rights. That was true during the 1960s.

Does this mean a shift in the ACLU’s priorities, and, if so, what is that shift?

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” and we’ve got lots of work to do. We are challenged as most every other organization is, and we’re just trying to keep the budget balanced. Our work is non-partisan—it’s not Republican or Democrat. More people came to understand some of the ACLU’s underlying principles in the years after 9/11; more people developed an appreciation for our underlying mission. After 9/11, many of the most pressing issues were really national problems, coming out of Washington.

 Today, we are committing more of our resources to our affiliates; we are going to focus more on what is happening in the states. Those issues are all over the place—a terrible immigrant-bashing problem, racial profiling, the school-to-prison pipeline. Our affiliates were active in the Iowa litigation that resulted in same-sex couples being allowed to marry. We were among those who lobbied successfully in New Mexico for the abolition of the death penalty.

How carefully should we be watching the actions and the statements of the Obama administration right now?

The Obama administration has been hesitant to separate itself from some of the Bush policies in a way that we find very alarming. In the beginning of February, the administration argued the “state secrets privilege” to deny victims of extraordinary rendition and torture their day in court, continuing the position the Bush administration had taken. That was extremely disappointing to us. He is moving slowly in some of these areas, and he’s not ruling out options that civil libertarians find alarming. I can understand why they’d want to take it one step at a time, and so that’s why we’re not ready the hang out the “mission accomplished” banner. What the ACLU is doing now is keeping the pressure on, keeping the public informed and the public discussions ongoing.

When did you first become involved with the ACLU?

While a law student, I worked for a professor who was involved with the ACLU, both doing general research for him and working on a case. The case was a challenge to an ordinance in Belle Terre, Long Island, that restricted who could live in the village to “families”—defined as people related by blood, marriage, or adoption. Our clients were six Stony Brook University graduate students prohibited from sharing a house. We lost the case in the U.S. Supreme Court, but I still think the ordinance is outrageous. How can the government tell us with whom we can live?

I was attracted to the ACLU because the organization, unlike single-issue organizations, works on so many of the issues I find important—and finds the common threads among those issues.

What did you think about the potential to remain involved with the organization at that time?

I didn’t. I was a law student, playing a secondary role. But I think that students and other young people could consider ways to become active in leadership roles. We have had board members who were students—even a high school student at one point. Many students and people who came of age during the Bush years discovered that they care about what our government does, which is why they worked hard to elect Obama. They wanted to change what our country was doing in some way. The next logical step for those people is to join the ACLU and help us to keep the pressure on the president and Congress to actually give us the kind of change they promised.

How is today’s working world different than the one you encountered after graduating

 In 1974, it was still relatively the beginning of the civil rights era, the revolution in public interest, and legal-services organizations. In some ways there was more opportunity because of this. Since then, pro bono organizations have faced greater economic difficulties—they never had enough money to hire as many people as they could use or as many who wanted to work for them. Lawyers developed more partnerships: a law firm would send someone to a legal-services organization, or to work with the ACLU. People worked together on bar association committees or reports. Today, there are more public-private hybrids, but it’s important that the law firms ask young lawyers to do some sort of public interest work. There are opportunities to volunteer and to help fill the needs of the many organizations out there. These groups will be challenged to be nimble, as will the private law firms—the economy is challenging everybody to be nimble.

How do you manage the demands of teaching and leading the 80-member board of the ACLU?

Let me quote another Barnard alumna, Judith Kaye ’58. She used to say that her job always had two parts: She was chief judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, and she was chief judge of the State of New York. Each of those jobs, she said, took 80 percent of her time. So I say, I have two jobs, teaching and the ACLU, and each of my jobs is taking 80 percent of my time.

-by Dmitra Kessenides, illustration by Neil Webb

Deborah SparIn 1995, First Lady Hillary Clinton electrified women around the world when she stood before delegates from 180 countries at the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing, and, after reciting a devastating litany of abuses suffered by women across the globe, proclaimed, “If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.”

This spring, almost 15 years after that historic speech, she returned to Beijing, this time during her first overseas visit as United States Secretary of State. Though the world had changed drastically since 1995, as had her role in it, Secretary Clinton took time out of her whirlwind visit to reassert her commitment to promoting equality for women by listening to and learning from 22 women leaders who spoke of progress made on gender equality and continuing obstacles for women in China. The group consensus was that progress had been made, but there was still much work to be done—in China, the United States, and the rest of the world. “In no society, certainly including my own, are women treated equally yet,” said Clinton.

Barnard can, and should, play a role in addressing this gap, both in this country and around the world, bringing what we know about women’s education to the women who need it most, and exposing our own students to the complex realities of the global economy. In my inaugural address, I pledged to expand Barnard’s presence outside the U.S., allowing the College to play a more active role in a world increasingly dominated by the international exchange of capital, technology, people, and ideas. In this spirit, I traveled this spring to Korea, Hong Kong, and China to visit with alumnae, parents, and friends of the College, as well as with fellow educators and potential student-exchange partners. The visits were all fruitful, eye-opening, and inspiring. The highlight of my trip to Asia, though, was the opportunity to listen to and learn from—much as Secretary Clinton did—a group of Chinese women leaders who are truly changing China and the world. You will read more about this event in the pages of this magazine, but I also wanted to share my thoughts on the symposium, which I recorded for The Huffington Post; an excerpt is below. I know that I speak for many of us here in Morningside Heights who look forward to hearing from Secretary Clinton herself when she delivers the keynote address at Barnard’s commencement ceremonies on May 18. There is still much work to be done.

March 30, 2009 — Earlier this month, Barnard College decided to hold a symposium celebrating women who, like Chinese feminist, anti-foot-binding reformer and first Asian Barnard graduate Kang Tongbi at the turn of the century, are currently working to change China. In a packed ballroom of the Park Hyatt Hotel in Beijing, we gathered a most remarkable group: Yang Lan, a television anchor and media entrepreneur; Yan Geling, an acclaimed novelist and screenwriter; Ruby Yang, an Academy Award-winning filmmaker; and Wu Qing, a long-serving member of the Beijing Haidian District People’s Congress and renowned women’s rights advocate.

Each of the women offered a powerful view of women’s activism from the perspective of modern China. Implicitly, the Chinese women also pointed to what might be conceived as an East-West divide of feminism. In China, Mao’s dictum that “women hold up half the sky” has meant that Chinese women have labored for decades alongside men—in fields and cramped factories, to be sure, but also in laboratories, banks, and universities. Wu Yi, China’s chief trade negotiator, is female; so is Chen Lei, who was 33 years old when appointed chief engineer of China’s iconic National Aquatics Center, or “Water Cube.” What China lacks is not women leaders but an examination of women’s leadership. In the U.S., thought about women’s rights preceded by a wide margin the actual granting of these rights. Women fought for suffrage and for reproductive freedoms and for equal opportunity and pay long before they got any of it. Arguably, they still haven’t. In China, by comparison, intellectual scrutiny of feminism was stalled by the cascade of events that has befallen China since the time of Kang Tongbi—war and revolution, famine and rapid-fire growth, an education system still rooted in classical teachings, and a political system that does not prioritize any kind of rights. Ironically, therefore, Chinese women may have achieved certain levels of power and equality without an accompanying discussion—so common in the West—of what their power means and how it may differ from men’s.

Without question, both China and the U.S.—along with nearly every country in the world—still have a great way to go before achieving true equality for women. Yet there is also undeniable change underway; a palpable electricity that hums around Chinese women like Wu Qing and Yang Lan, around Chile’s Michelle Bachelet, Liberia’s Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, and our own Hillary Clinton. From my perch at Barnard College, a liberal arts college devoted to the education of women, I see an extraordinary generation of young women grappling with new ideas about feminism and new views of women’s power and leadership. Unlike their mothers and grandmothers, this generation is accustomed to a world defined by choice: the choice of reproduction, the choice of gender identity, the choice of educational options and careers. In shaping their own lives and roles, these young women will look to all kinds of role models, reaching as they should across time and place and culture. And Kang Tongbi, along with her formidable heirs in modern China, may not be a bad place to start.

-Photograph by Margaret Lambert