Photo by Asiya Khaki ’09
Jyoti Menon: What got you interested in working at Barnard?
Karen Sendler: Well, given the current spotlight in our national discourse on the experiences of women and girls, with movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp, and the momentum toward positive change, I can think of no more important place to be than at an institution dedicated to the education and advancement of women. In addition, the arrival of a new leader, President Beilock, brings with it exciting opportunities, and I wanted to be part of the team that supports the overall vision and strategy for the years ahead.
I also spent four years across the street as an undergrad with many Barnard friends, and graduated from an all-girls high school. So I appreciate the benefits of an all-women’s education.
What are you most excited about in your new role?
Barnard has a rich history of producing extraordinary graduates. To have the opportunity to work with the College’s alumnae to help them expand the powerful global network that passes on the Barnard tradition to the next generation and advances the College’s mission excites me.
What do you see as Barnard’s biggest assets?
The people, programs, and resources that allow the students to develop as individuals and achieve excellence.
What are some challenges you are looking forward to tackling?
I’m not sure I’m qualified to accurately answer that question at this point since I’m so new to the position. Having said that, something I do look forward to tackling is expanding Barnard’s global base of support to ensure that as many graduates as possible have a stake in the future of the College.
You have a strong background in regional and international programming. What is the importance of this type of engagement?
No matter where alumnae end up, they take their Barnard experiences with them. From my experience building the European alumni network for Columbia and strengthening the North American regional network for the U.K.’s Cambridge University, I saw that the farther away graduates were from their college, the more keen they were to connect with fellow alumni, regardless of their class year or area of study. They were changed by their experience of being far from home and wanted to connect with local alumni with whom they shared a common experience. Developing strong local alumni clubs and regional programming reinforces that connection and helps to create a robust global alumni network.
What’s the last book you’ve read?
A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline, a novel about Christina Olson, the inspiration for Andrew Wyeth’s famous painting Christina’s World. That painting is the first work of art I remember learning about in elementary school. It made such an impression on me that many years later I made a point of visiting the Olson House in Cushing, Maine, where the painting was done. When I heard that this book was coming out, I knew I had to read it.
Your favorite sports team?
The Philadelphia Flyers. I was a fan growing up and continue to be to this day.
You’re a New Yorker. Do you have time for hobbies?
Actually, I love crafting and needlework—knitting and quilting, in particular. Now that I’ll have a commute on the #1 train, I look forward to having dedicated time each day to work on the many knitting projects I have that are in progress. And in a nod to my husband’s Scottish heritage, I’m attempting to learn the art of curling.
What is your most frequented Upper West Side eatery?
Getting fresh rye bread and black-and-white cookies from Orwashers Bakery on the Upper East Side has been a tradition in my family since I was a child. (Though I grew up outside Philadelphia, my parents were New Yorkers and we visited often.) Now that Orwashers has an outpost on the Upper West Side, I’m thrilled that it’s even easier to stock up on my favorite treats!
Tell me about a New York City cultural institution you think should not to be missed.
As a Chelsea resident, I have neighborhood pride in my ‘local’ museum, the Whitney. To stroll down the High Line, another one of my favorite cultural institutions, go to an exhibit or lecture at the Whitney, or just sit on one of the couches in the museum that overlooks the river and enjoy the view amidst all of their wonderful art, is, to me, one of the many things that makes our city so special. •