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Inside: Editors' Letter

Peak Performances, the overall theme of this issue, readily applies to the three performing arts departments—dance, music, and theatre—at the College, profiled in a photographic essay within these pages. But, as we considered the various thematic possibilities, our final choice appeared most apt: A liberal arts education at Barnard is designed to provide the tools for a peak performance throughout the life of each student who comes here.

There has been explosive growth within the three performing arts majors in the past several years. Students who choose to concentrate in these fields come not only for the opportunities to work with talented faculty, many of whom professionally practice what they teach, but also to study in one of the world’s great performance capitals and gain access to the professional worlds of these arts. They get the chance to gain a deeper knowledge about their chosen field and relate it to other cultural and historical benchmarks. This is knowledge that will enhance creativity and innovation.

Ntozake Shange ’70, interviewed in this issue by writer Sharon D. Johnson’85, speaks to the notion that a liberal arts education contributes to excelling throughout life. As an African studies major, she had a foundation in history, literature, and art history, allowing her work to “transcend barriers” and not become “stuck” in a particular genre.

What is true for the arts is also true for other fields of study. This issue spotlights the recent National Science Foundation grant enabling the renovation and expansion of the chemistry department’s laboratories. But the grant will do more than improve the physical plant: It will enable more chemistry students to do more independent research under the mentorship of more faculty members, opening up opportunities for the students to study under optimum conditions.

Women’s studies as a major came into being during the academic year 1977-1978. Lois Elfman ’80, who often reports about diversity issues in higher education, chose to double-major in women’s studies and psychology. Recently, she has been thinking about other women’s studies majors, past and present. Her article profiles the diverse careers that these women have pursued, and how the major has evolved over the years. One of the women interviewed notably remarked that she viewed her undergraduate years at Barnard as “learning for life,” a possible “springboard” to continued study in any number of study areas, once again, implying a solid foundation from which to grow and excel.

Articles about newly designated personal librarians to help incoming students learn about library resources; a panel of women discussing the powerful lessons learned from team sports; and a look at the life of anthropologist Margaret Mead ’23 through the photographs of Ken Heyman also reflect this issue’s theme.

—The Editors