It’s no doubt that Morningside Heights is the epicenter of the Barnard community. But with 18,000 alumnae residing outside the tristate area, including over 1,500 abroad, Barnard recognizes the importance of creating engagement opportunities for those who can’t regularly make it to campus. These include partnering with regional clubs in cities throughout the U.S., Europe, and more, to create Barnard-centric programming, online lectures, and events that can be experienced remotely, and fostering discussions of important issues for Barnard alumnae everywhere.
Leila Bassi ’94, president of the 200-member Barnard Club in London since 2009, has partnered with the College, as well as the Seven Sisters Consortium in London, to organize many events, including receptions, networking panels, and much more. “As the number of Barnard alumnae grows internationally, it is important to engage with them to make connections and build a Barnard community away from campus,” she says. “The global network of Barnard alumnae…represents an amazing mixture of diverse, dynamic women.” She adds that Barnard graduates have a keen interest in reconnecting with the College and with peers over mutual interests.
Around the world, a host of regional engagement opportunities are available for alumnae to stay connected to their alma mater. Whether it’s a book club in London, or a scholarship dinner in Washington, D.C., there is always an opportunity to show Barnard pride in a meaningful way. Likewise, events and lectures from Barnard’s on-campus programs are increasingly being made available online.
In addition, a new source of inspiration for programs and discussions could be the College’s annual Global Symposium. In March 2016, the eighth Global Symposium will be held in Paris, with a focus on some of the current events and rapidly changing policies affecting women’s experiences both in and out of the workplace. Barnard recently held events with the London and Paris clubs to introduce the symposium as an exciting affair for alumnae in the region.
“It will be an opportunity for our Paris alums—myself included—to learn about the symposium and see if they might be able to participate,” says Genevieve Ramos Acker ’61, president of the Barnard Club of Paris since 2007. She adds, “Our goal is to engage in intelligent discussions and share our insights. We have also evolved into a close-knit group and support system.”
This sense of camaraderie and shared interest in discourse is also a central ambition of the Symposia, explains Lisa Hollibaugh, Dean of International & Global Strategy at Barnard, who coordinated the 2015 Global Symposium on campus in celebration of the College’s 125th anniversary. “It was particularly special to see the number of alumnae who attended and wanted to continue the conversations long after the event had ended,” she says. “We hope the Global Symposium events will continue to generate that kind of inspiration throughout the year, and the regional clubs seem like a perfect venue for the continuing discussions.”
The plans for the 2016 Global Symposium may offer even more opportunities for continuing conversations, as the series shifts its focus slightly. “Our past Global Symposium programs have offered broad discussions of women and leadership in ways that allowed us to hear amazing and inspirational stories from women around the globe. This year, as we take the series to Europe for the first time, we want to dig deeper into current events and changing policies that are affecting the experiences of women in that region. And as always, we want to ask, how can we continue those conversations throughout the year, around the globe as well as on campus?”
Hollibaugh hopes the Global Symposium events will serve as a launch point for the exchange of ideas that regional alumnae groups hold year-round. This would allow for a unique opportunity for alumnae to connect over these important shared interests, and stay engaged with what is being discussed on campus, despite geographical boundaries. By way of regional events in the U.S. and abroad, large campus gatherings such as Reunion, online discussions surrounding the symposium, and various on-campus programming that can be experienced through the Barnard community of websites and social media, space to affect the debate may prove to be more accessible than ever. •