Departments and Programs


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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.