Departments and Programs
Barnard Courses 101
Faculty introduce some of their classes.
Note that not all classes are offered every term.
Africana Studies at Barnard is a multidisciplinary approach to the study of the history, politics, cultures, and literatures of Africa and of the African Diaspora in the Americas, Caribbean and Europe.
The Department of Africana Studies at Barnard was founded in 1992 as the site for the multidisciplinary study of Africa and the Black Diaspora. Through our course offerings and extra-curricular programming, Africana Studies offers the Barnard community exposure to the experiences of black peoples across the globe and the analytical tools necessary for rigorous and culturally sensitive analyses of these experiences. Faculty who teach in Africana Studies have research and teaching interests in the history of Africa and African descended peoples as well as on the impact of slavery, colonialism, and race and ethnicity in the modern world.
Our curriculum focuses on major sites of the African Diaspora: Africa, the US, the Caribbean, Europe as well as Atlantic, Indian Ocean and Mediterranean crossings.
The Department of American Studies is designed to teach students how to engage in the critical and interdisciplinary study of race, gender, class, sexuality, Indigeneity, political economy, imperialism and social movements in contemporary, historical, hemispheric and transnational contexts. After an introductory course entitled “What Is American Studies?,” students take an intensive junior colloquium focusing on theories and methods of American Studies. Their individually-chosen five-course concentration covers two historical periods and culminates in a two-course senior capstone project. The American Studies major aims to teach students to recognize, question and analyze, within an international context, the formation, implementation and contestation of power in both the nation-state and in other institutions of collective life.
Anthropology examines how cultures provide frames for the ways people think, act and make sense of their society. Now, with the quickening movement of culture, ideas and people we seek to examine the forms of life that emerge from this movement and the interactions and conflicts that result. Barnard Anthropology provides students new ways to perceive and analyze the world, to understand difference and to think on a global scale while still focused on the lived experiences of everyday life. Faculty interests include: religion, the role of media in social life, globalization, conservation and the environment, science and medicine, technology, tourism and development, visual and material cultures and the linguistic shaping persons and everyday life.
The Architecture Department establishes an intellectual context for students to interpret the relation of form, space, program, materials and media to human life and thought. Through the Architecture curriculum, students participate in the ongoing shaping of knowledge about the built environment and learn to see architecture as one among many forms of cultural production. At the same time, the major stresses the necessity of learning disciplinary-specific tools, methods, terms and critiques. Thus, work in the studio, lecture or seminar asks that students treat architecture as a form of research and speculation which complement the liberal arts mission of expansive thinking.
The Art History Department teaches the history and practice of visual creativity. All people, at all times, around the world, have expressed their identities and their beliefs through visual art. From temple complexes to tea-cups, from quilts sewn with scraps to sculptures welded with tons of steel, art objects bring to us a knowledge of who we have been and how we shape our environments.
Both our history and studio courses train students to observe the world more closely and interpret what they see. In our history courses, students study how art has occurred at the intersection of personal, technical, and social forces. In our studio courses, students learn to engage those forces using media ranging from traditional drawing to digital design.
Welcome to the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures. Our courses and affiliated faculty cover world areas, histories, and cultures that extend from East Asia (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China, and Tibet), through South Asia (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan), Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Armenia, and Turkey, to the Middle East (Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria), the Gulf States (Oman, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen), and North Africa (Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco).
The primary aim of the Department is to introduce major Asian and Middle Eastern Civilizations and their works and values as a means of expanding knowledge of the varieties and unities of the human experience. The general courses are designed for all students, whatever their major interests, who wish to include knowledge of Asian and Middle Eastern life in their education.
The mission of the Department of Biological Sciences is to provide students with a broad education in biology. To this end, students are offered a range of lecture courses that span the molecular, physiological, and ecological levels of organization. Students also complete laboratory courses that help them learn how to design and test hypotheses, use cutting edge equipment, and interpret data. Finally, students learn scientific communication skills by critiquing research articles, writing laboratory reports and research papers, and participating in oral presentations and debates. The department encourages students to become involved in a research project under the guidance of a faculty member at Barnard or elsewhere in New York City.
The Barnard College Chemistry Department offers courses for undergraduates who plan to major or minor in the physical and life sciences, as well as for students pursuing other liberal arts degrees. The department offers majors and minors in chemistry and biochemistry, both approved by the American Chemical Society.
In a three-year sequence of core courses, students gain familiarity with the basic areas of the field: inorganic, organic, physical, analytical, and biological chemistry. Extensive laboratory work prepares students for success in graduate or professional research programs. The department contains modern laboratories designed for coursework and independent projects, and students may undertake independent research projects under faculty guidance during the academic year or over the summer.
The department of Classics and Ancient Studies aims to introduce students to a knowledge of the languages and an understanding of the literature and culture of ancient Greece and Rome in a broader Mediterranean context, as well as to develop an appreciation of how Greco-Roman antiquity has been used and abused by later eras. The study of the languages enables access to a wide range of challenging and influential ancient texts, artifacts, and ideas and also makes the grammar, syntax, and vocabulary of English and other modern languages more comprehensible. The study of these texts, in turn, develops analytical and critical thinking about both the past and the present, the ability to assess many different kinds of fragmentary evidence, as well as skills in writing, close reading and oral presentation, cultural awareness, and literary sensibility. Close cooperation between Barnard and Columbia enables ancient studies students to plan and implement an integrated, cohesive interdisciplinary study of the ancient world, including language, literature, mythology, history, religion, philosophy, law, political theory, comparative literature, medieval studies, gender studies, art history and material culture. The texts and monuments of the Greco-Roman world served as the basis of Western education until the twentieth-century and retain a core position in modern humanities and social thought that is currently expanding beyond the West. Exploring, analyzing, and assessing this legacy is the central goal of the program.
Comparative literature is dedicated to the study of literature in an international and interdisciplinary context. Majors read widely across periods, genres, and national traditions. They study literature and culture from various parts of the world to develop knowledge and critical understanding of how cultures differ from as well as connect and interact with one another through the medium of artistic expression. The program offers majors the opportunity to design individual programs of study across languages, cultures, and media in keeping with their particular linguistic capabilities and intellectual goals. Courses in translation and the minor in Translation Studies allow students to develop the ability to work with and across languages and to reflect critically on the theory and history of translation and the role of translation in bridging literary traditions and connecting cultural worlds.
Barnard’s Computer Science program offers meaningful computing education and experiences to all Barnard students and partners with Columbia's Computer Science department to offer a major in Computer Science. The program aims to expand students' use and understanding of computation and data analysis across disciplines; offer students opportunities to think critically about the social implications of technology, including how to harness it for social good; promote curricular and pedagogical advances in computer science and its multidisciplinary applications; and provide new models for engaging students and enhancing diversity in computing.
A joint effort by Africana Studies, American Studies and Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies, the Consortium for Critical Interdisciplinary Studies (CCIS) is dedicated to creating a vibrant intellectual community across disciplinary boundaries and fostering the in-depth study of race and ethnicity at Barnard College. CCIS offers students and faculty the intellectual space to develop transformative frameworks for thinking through issues of ethnicity and race in both local and global contexts.
Through its undergraduate concentration and minor (ICORE/MORE), CCIS gives Barnard students the opportunity to pursue the interdisciplinary and critical study of race and ethnicity in their mutual constitution with gender, class and nation. CCIS is equally committed to fostering innovative faculty research on the transnational and intersectional contexts of social difference. Rigorously engaged in the multidimensional study of race and ethnicity, CCIS is working to catalyze intellectual, institutional and social change at Barnard and beyond.
The Barnard College Department of Dance, located in a world dance capital, offers an interdisciplinary program that integrates the study of dance within a liberal arts setting of intellectual and creative exploration. The major builds upon studio courses, the Department's productions at Miller Theater, New York Live Arts and other venues, as well as a rich array of dance studies courses, allowing students' creative work to develop in dialogue with critical inquiry into the history, culture, theory and forms of western and non-western performance, typically enhanced by study in other disciplines. Students work with accomplished artists whose work enriches contemporary American dance; they also study with outstanding research scholars. Making, thinking about, and writing about art are an essential part of the liberal arts education. For this reason the Department of Dance offers technique courses for students of all levels of expertise, while opening its other courses to majors and non-majors alike, who may also audition for its productions. The Department partners with cultural institutions in New York City to connect students with the professional world.
The primary aim of the Barnard Economics Department is to provide students with a rigorous, broad, and critical program in theoretical and empirical economics.
The department offers two tracks in he economics major, as well as combined majors in Economics & Mathematics, Economics & Social History, and Economics-Statistics. In collaboration with the Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (IEOR) at Columbia University, it also offers a 4+1 Bachelor/Master's program in Economics and Operations Research.
The Barnard Education Program educates students to draw on interdisciplinary research and perspectives in order to critically analyze the role of education in society, and to create and sustain equitable educational practices and policies for all. The program is committed to strengthening public education and addressing issues of equity and social justice, particularly in urban schools.
The offering in English is designed to foster good writing, effective speaking, and heightened understanding of culturally significant texts. We encourage students majoring in English to develop their responsiveness to the literary imagination and their sensitivity to literary form through disciplined attention to language, to historical contexts, and to critical and scholarly methods.
Barnard College’s Environmental Science Department provides highly motivated young women with challenging and rewarding programs in Environmental Science, Environmental Biology, and Environment and Sustainability. High academic standards, multidisciplinary courses, and training in methodologies such as field work, measurements, and data analysis, ready our students with the tools needed to think critically, evaluate and solve problems, and understand and communicate science to address the needs of society. Faculty members are nationally and internationally recognized scholars and educators, active in research and curriculum development. Courses are innovative, featuring multimedia and technologically advanced resources. The urban setting, the proximity to the Hudson River, and the numerous affiliations we maintain with Columbia University through Lamont‐Doherty Earth Observatory, the Earth Institute, and the School of Public Health, as well as Black Rock Forest, the American Museum of Natural History and other institutions, allow us to offer undergraduates unparalleled opportunities for student research and educational experiences. Upon successful completion of our program, our students are well prepared to continue their academic studies as graduate students or to pursue successful careers in a wide range of fields.
The European Studies program at Barnard College enables students to combine disciplinary approaches to the study of Europe. Students ground themselves in a core discipline (history, political science, anthropology, sociology, theater, and philosophy, among others) that provides them with methodological expertise. They also take courses in the language and literature of a chosen region of Europe and complement this program with a selection of courses exploring Europe from other disciplinary perspectives. Students are encouraged to study abroad in the region of their interest.
The Film Studies Program at Barnard was formally established in 2002 for students interested in the history, theory and practice of film and filmmaking. The educational goal of the film major is to provide a solid grounding in the history and theory of film and as well as place the study of film in relation to other art forms. Students are introduced to visual storytelling, film technology, and the economic and sociopolitical context of the film industry. While the course of study is rooted in film history and theory, all majors take workshops in screenwriting and filmmaking and produce a script and a short film.
First-Year Seminars initiate students into the academic life of the College by offering intellectually engaging experiences in which students and faculty from a wide range of home departments work through challenging material, often across disciplinary lines. Each one-semester seminar is designed to develop essential skills for college work, such as the ability to read critically and analytically, to speak clearly and effectively, and to write logically and persuasively.
First-Year Writing courses work from the belief that writing is an essential tool in every discipline – one that challenges you to develop meaningful, nuanced questions and complex ideas. Working closely with your instructor and peers, you will learn to translate those complex ideas into clear, precise, and persuasive essays. You will analyze a variety of novels, myths, memoirs, and short stories, along with other historical texts and scholarly articles that enrich your literary and cultural analyses. Readings in each course are inspired by one of three rubrics: Legacy of the Mediterranean, Women & Culture, and The Americas.
Courses in the French Department have a twofold objective: to perfect fluency in the written and spoken language, and to develop an understanding and appreciation of the literature and culture of France and French-speaking countries.
The German Program offers a variety of courses, from the elementary to the advanced level, to guide students in becoming versatile writers, competent interpreters, and confident speakers of the language. The Program also introduces students to the literatures, histories, and cultures of Germanophone countries or communities in a European and global context.
History encompasses the whole of human experience, helping us understand ourselves in the context of our times and traditions through the study of times and traditions other than our own. History means not only the record of the past but also the discipline of investigating and interpreting the past. The study of history develops habits of critical thinking and effective writing, as well as it cultivates the careful analysis of various types of quantitative and qualitative evidence. It should be of value not only to undergraduates who intend to pursue advanced degrees in the field, but also to students interested in exploring the diversity and complexity of the human past, even as they hone their analytical and expository skills.
With the proliferation of human rights institutions over the past half century and the centrality of human rights in current debate topics, human rights standards have become crucial touchstones of contemporary ethics and politics. The program in human rights seeks to provide the basic insights and skills needed for young women to become cogent, life-long advocates for human rights.
This interdisciplinary program is designed to be pursued alongside a major in one of the departments with a disciplinary or area studies focus. These include, but are not limited to Africana Studies, American Studies, Anthropology, Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures, Comparative Literature, English, French, German, History, Italian, Political Science, Psychology, Religion, Slavic, Sociology, Spanish, and Women's Studies.
A major in Italian offers the advantages of closely supervised work for a small number of students. Through the senior tutorial, students pursue research in a chosen area of Italian culture under the guidance of a specialist.
The Barnard College Program in Jewish Studies is a dual-major program that enables undergraduates to acquire a thorough knowledge of the most important aspects of Jewish culture, civilization, and history in an interdisciplinary setting. The purpose of the program is to help the student identify resources for constructing rigorously detailed and methodological majors.
The program begins from the assumption that a meaningful major can be most profitably framed in one of the existing departments—such as, but not limited to, American Studies, Ancient Studies, Anthropology, Art History, Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures, Classics, Comparative Literature, English, History, Music, Religion, Sociology, and Women’s Studies. The program director works with the student to ensure that the subject matter of that major contains enough interest in Jewish subjects and is rigorous enough in methodology.
Mathematics is wonderful training for the mind, a great training if you are thinking of being a lawyer for example, and it has an increasing range of applications, from the study of the genome and climate change to financial mathematics and medical statistics. Mathematics has always been the language of physics, and, with the advent of computer modeling, is an essential component of almost all science. An undergraduate degree in mathematics opens the door to many professions and to graduate study in a wide variety of disciplines.
The Medieval and Renaissance program at Barnard College is designed to enable students to acquire both a broad knowledge of the European Middle Ages and/or Renaissance and a richer and more detailed understanding in one area of concentration chosen by the student. Students can elect to concentrate in one of the following disciplines: art history, history, literature, philosophy, romance languages and cultures, music, or religion.
The Barnard Music Program provides the vocal program for the university, which includes the Barnard-Columbia Chorus and Chamber Choir, solo studio voice lessons and two levels of limited-enrollment vocal classes, Technique in Singing, and the Vocal Repertoire Class. In addition, the program provides a music history course, Introduction to Music, which is a year-long survey of Western European art music, from sixth-century Gregorian Chant to the work of living composers. The course fulfills the Fine and Performing Arts requirement of the General Education Requirements and also serves as a pre-requisite for the music major. Students may complete a senior project in music repertoire by presenting an hour-long recital, or may write a fifty-page thesis project in music research. The successful student will gain professional level performance skills though studio lessons and the theory and ear training sequence, and gain a comprehensive knowledge of music history from the courses in historical musicology and ethnomusicology provided by the Music Department at Columbia University.
The Neuroscience and Behavior (NSB) major at Barnard College provides a strong background in the biological underpinnings of behavior and cognition. Students electing this major are offered introductory and advanced courses in neuroscience and behavior, as well as the possibility of taking courses in cognate disciplines including psychology, biology, chemistry, and physics. Students learn to think analytically and how to conduct research through experience in laboratory courses as well as working in faculty laboratories, both during the academic year and summer. Majors must choose one of two areas of concentration. The behavior concentration places greater emphasis on behavioral and systems neuroscience, while the cellular concentration places greater emphasis on cellular and molecular neuroscience.
Philosophy is an effort to see how things – not just objects and persons, but also ideas, concepts, principles, and values – hang together. Philosophical questions explore the foundations and limits of human thought and experience. What is there? What can we know? What is good? How should we live? What is a person? What is reason? How do words have meaning? The philosophy major introduces students to central concepts, key figures, and classic texts so they may broaden and deepen their own understanding as they learn how others have approached foundational questions in the past. An education in philosophy also teaches students to think and write with clarity and precision – intellectual resources essential to future study and rewarding professional lives.
The Physical Education Department subscribes fully to the College’s commitment to help women realize their full potential. Through regular participation in guided physical movement, the student gains enhanced physical fitness, improved self-esteem, and stress management techniques. Physical Education and the extra-curricular programs address the body-mind connection as the student learns skills that will influence the quality of her life currently in academic achievement and in all future endeavors.
In cooperation with the faculty of Columbia University, Barnard offers a thorough pre-professional curriculum in both physics and astronomy. The faculty represents a wide range of expertise, with special strength and distinction in theoretical gravitational and condensed matter physics, and observational astrophysics.
Separate majors in physics and astronomy are offered. A major in astrophysics is also possible. Furthermore, there are many special interdisciplinary majors, such as biophysics, chemical physics,engineering physics, mathematical physics, and astrochemistry. There is a physics minor as well. Students should consult members of the department early on in their undergraduate careers in order to plan the most effective course of study.
Political science explores questions about power: what it is, where it comes from, who exercises it, and how it is legitimized and challenged. We work to understand how political institutions and processes developed in history, how they operate today, and how they might change in the future--here in the United States, in other countries around the world, and internationally in the global system. Key topics include democracy and authoritarianism, good governance and corruption, inequality and protest, conflict and cooperation, and war and peace.
The Department of Psychology offers a rigorous exposition of the study of the mind in action. In classroom courses, in instructional laboratories, and in research conducted with the faculty, students explore intellectual perspectives and empirical methods expressed across the discipline of psychology. The department also links our students to many forums in the College and University for discussion and refinement of scientific work.
As the twenty-first century unfolds, religion plays a central role in virtually every aspect of human society around the globe. The Religion department's curriculum offers students the opportunity to explore the histories, texts, and practices of many of the world's religious communities and to consider both the profound ways in which religion has worked historically and how it continues to inform and affect the cultural, political, and ethical debates of the current moment. In addition, our classes invite students to reflect on the vexing theoretical questions that are generated by the category "religion" itself, an abstract category that has its own complicated history. The academic study of religion is self-consciously interdisciplinary, drawing upon the methods and insights of literary studies, historiography, social analysis, and cultural comparison. Moreover, the study of religion reminds us that religious identities demand sustained critical analysis, intersecting complexly as they do with race, class, gender, and ethnicity, among other categories of affiliation and identification. In its teaching, research projects, and public programming, the Religion department promotes engaged intellectual inquiry into the rich diversity of religious institutions, rituals, ideas, and communities both past and present.
As part of the College's mission to prepare scientists, policy-makers, and an educated citizenry for the moral challenges presented by future scientific advances, Barnard offers a unique collection of courses focusing on issues at the frequently volatile intersection point where science, public policy, and societal concerns collide. These courses are interdisciplinary in nature, team-taught by Barnard faculty from a variety of departments, and held in seminar format with limited enrollments, typically juniors and seniors. Recent topics concern ecological vs. financial imperatives in developing Third-World biodiversity, manipulation of the human genome, privacy issues and ethical dilemmas arising from genetic testing, misguided eugenics programs and race science, the Manhattan Project, as well as the Cold War build-up of nuclear arsenals in the United States and former Soviet Union.
The Barnard-Columbia Slavic Department offers instruction in six Slavic languages and literature (Russian, Bulgarian, Czech, Polish, Serbian/ Croatian/ Bosnian, and Ukrainian), with particularly extensive offerings in Russian. The department prides itself on giving students a strong foundation in language study, which serves as invaluable preparation for future graduate work in literature, history, economics, or political science, as well as for careers in government, business, journalism, or international law.
The department offers four major tracks in various aspects of Russian or other Slavic cultures, and a minor in Russian for those wishing to combine the study of Russian with a specialization in a different department.
Sociology explores social life in all its fascinating variety, and the relationships among and between social groups. We illuminate the intricate processes through which human beings express their social being: cooperation, conflict, power, exchange, morality, symbolism, solidarity, domination, dependency, affection, identity, deviance, social control and violence. We also study the forms these and other processes take: face-to-face interaction, social networks, small groups, subcultures, families, gender divisions, intraracial and interracial dynamics, religion, popular and high culture, social class, structures of race and ethnicity and sexuality, bureaucracy, social movements, professions, the state, even the larger world of relations among states. Our students learn to identify these social processes and forms in any topic they study.
The Department of Spanish and Latin American Cultures at Barnard College boasts a long tradition of excellence in undergraduate education for women. Throughout its history, it has afforded students a solid preparation in both Spanish language and the literatures and cultures of Spain, Spanish America, and the Spanish-speaking United States.
As recommended by the Modern Language Association, our department aims to provide students with both translingual and transcultural competence. Its keystone is an integrated curriculum that seeks linguistic and intellectual continuity from the initial levels through the most advanced courses. Although there is a gradual shift in weight given to language and cultural content as students advance in the program, throughout the three stages of our course curriculum—the Language, Bridge, and Upper levels—emphasis is placed as much on early development of analytical skills in cultural and literary studies as on continued language acquisition through the time of graduation.
The Statistics major is an appropriate background for graduate work, including doctoral studies in statistics, social science, public health, genetics, health policy, epidemiology, marketing, opinion polling, economics, finance and banking, government, drug development, and insurance. Statistics is the art and science of study design and data analysis. Probability theory is the mathematical foundation for the study of statistical methods and for the modeling of random phenomena.
The purpose of the university is inquiry: situated at the intersection of the arts and humanities, in a world theatrical capital, the Barnard and Columbia undergraduate theatre program engages the disciplines of drama, theatre, and performance studies as a distinctive mode of intellectual and artistic inquiry. Majors take foundational coursework in the literary, cultural, and embodied traditions of western and nonwestern performance as well as in the practices of acting, directing, design, and playwriting. All majors then specialize in a specific area and undertake advanced thesis work, leading either to a formal essay of original research, or to an artistic project (in acting, design, directing, dramaturgy, playwriting, or solo performance) that combines the practices of research and artistic creation. While Barnard and Columbia students fulfill the overall graduation requirements of their respective institutions, major requirements for the Barnard Major in Theatre/Columbia Major in Drama and Theatre Arts are identical, and the majority of required coursework is offered through the Barnard College Department of Theatre. Barnard and Columbia students receive their degrees from their respective colleges of Columbia University.
The Barnard–Columbia Urban Studies program enables students to explore and understand the urban experience in all of its richness and complexity. It recognizes the city as an amalgam of diverse peoples and their social, political, economic, and cultural interactions within a distinctive built environment. Students study the evolution and variety of urban forms and governance structures, which create opportunities for, as well as constrain, the exercise of human agency, individual and collective. They explore the place of the city in different historical and comparative contexts, as well as in the human imagination.
Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies is an interdisciplinary department for students who wish to explore gender and its relation to other axes of power: race, class, ethnicity, and sexuality. We use these concepts to analyze human experience in its bodily, political, economic and cultural dimensions. Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies covers a complex variety of theoretical and empirical scholarship both within traditional disciplines and in interdisciplinary frames in the humanities, in the social sciences and in the natural sciences as well as combinations of the three. The Department is committed to critical perspectives and bodies of knowledge that contribute to possibilities for transformation and change.