Departments and Programs
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.
Cognitive Science is the cross-disciplinary study of how the mind works, with a focus on perception, reasoning, memory, attention, language, decision-making, motor control, and problem solving. Cognitive scientists often compare minds to computers. In particular, they describe mental processes as computational operations on internal representations. For instance, perception is seen as a representation of the external world that results from sensory stimulation; learning is analyzed as the addition of new representations through interactions with the environment; reasoning is treated as the addition of new representations through operations on existing representations.
Cognitive Science is an interdisciplinary field: it draws on tools and ideas from psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, economics, computer science, and philosophy, with affiliated faculty in each of these disciplines. Psychologists study the computational operations that we use to solve specific tasks; neuroscientists study the implementation of those operations in the brain; linguists study the representations involved in communication; economists study the representations involved in decisions involving uncertainty and reward; computer scientists consider how the processes involved in human cognition fit into a more general theory of computations and a larger space of tasks; and philosophers ask fundamental questions about the nature of representation and computation.
Cognitive Science majors will gain fluency in computational methods; a capacity for rigorous and careful thought; a broad understanding of the affiliated disciplines; and a deep understanding of cognition.
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.