Departments and Programs
Barnard Courses 101
Faculty introduce some of their classes.
Note that not all classes are offered every term.
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.