As I write this letter, it is the countdown to the 2022 Commencement at Radio City Music Hall. Students are in their final weeks of classes and getting ready for life after Barnard: Many will start jobs and internships, and some will go on to graduate school, Fulbrights, and other adventures — and then there will be some who are still figuring out what comes next. I remember being one of those recent graduates who didn’t have an exact plan after graduation. At the time, I was trying to piece together how to put all those creative writing classes I took to good use. That summer, I interviewed for a job as a photo editor for a major fashion magazine. I knew this role didn’t really involve writing, but I thought, “Close enough.” My interviewer realized that I lacked the requisite qualifications for the position, but she did see that my skill set was a match for a former colleague of hers who was hiring for a new creative agency that was getting off the ground. A month later, I was that company’s first employee. I learned then what so many professionals know: Career paths are rarely straight or predictable, but those twists and turns can offer plenty of possibilities.
This experience I had is not uncommon. It is one that I frequently hear about from alumnae — regardless of what they studied, which profession they chose, or when they graduated — and one I so enjoy covering in the Magazine. In our Spring issue, we speak with several alumnae who’ve changed course in their careers, sometimes once, twice, or even several times. But what these stories are really about is pursuing new interests, taking big risks, and turning roadblocks into opportunity.
In our feature “Farm to Centerpiece,” we spotlight three alums who have built thriving businesses in the flower industry, from farming to floral design. How they all got there involved some serendipity, a bit of good timing, and most of all, an openness that allowed them to veer in an unexpected yet fertile new direction. When Molly Culver ’03 graduated from Barnard with a degree in English, she didn’t necessarily see organic farming and floral design in her future. But her time living abroad in Santiago, Chile, exposed her to farmers markets and to direct-to-consumer food production. She brought this experience home with her and eventually went on to work as a CSA coordinator in the South Bronx, building relationships between local communities and farms. Nearly a decade later, at the height of the pandemic, she created a CSA-inspired flower subscription service in New York City, providing New Yorkers with fresh flowers from local farms. This venture has managed to help farmers and bring beauty into people’s homes when they needed it most.
Pivoting at any stage of one’s career can feel, well, scary. But the common denominator for all these alums who’ve taken that leap is Barnard. The ability to think critically and expansively, to be resourceful and unafraid — that’s what students hone over their four years at the College. The members of the Class of 2022 may not know their destination yet or, even if they do, how they’ll get there. That’s okay. But I think it is safe to say that they all have an exciting road ahead.