As Montclair State University's first woman president, Susan A. Cole ’62 led the institution through two decades of impressive growth
This year has been unprecedented, to say the least. But even in the face of formidable challenges, the Class of 2021 forged ahead with tenacity, ingenuity, and an incredible drive to effect meaningful change. Leveraging the skills they learned at Barnard, these students hit the ground running. They launched new careers, enrolled in competitive graduate programs, and pursued international Fulbrights. The new alumnae are entering a broad range of job sectors; law, government, financial services, and tech are among the top reported fields. Teach for America, Google, HBO, Trisha Brown Dance Company, and Boston Children’s Hospital are a few of the many organizations employing Barnard grads. So far, 22% of the members of the Class of 2021 have told Beyond Barnard that they are continuing their education at the graduate level. And their pursuits are not just bound to the United States: Many are venturing abroad to pursue research, volunteer work, and scholarship opportunities, including three recent graduates who’ve been awarded Fulbright scholarships to work as English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) in countries as far afield as Taiwan and Mexico.
Integral to these students’ success was Beyond Barnard. The career advising center provided essential support — virtually and in person — to students through interview preparation, résumé building, a summer colloquium series, conversations with alumnae, and more. And the Class of 2021 took full advantage of all that Beyond Barnard has to offer, with 97% of its members using Beyond Barnard’s advising or events at least once since it opened its doors in 2018.
Here we highlight six new graduates whose interests span a broad spectrum of disciplines and professional fields. They filled us in on their time at Barnard and where they’re headed next.
Stephanie Calluori ’21: Problem-Solving Pursuits
“As a biologist, you and your team are trying to solve a mystery,” says Stephanie Calluori ’21. “It’s really a giant, intricate puzzle.” For Calluori, who majored in cell and molecular biology, solving these puzzles was an integral part of her college experience — a challenge she’s now tackling in her new role as a scientific program analyst at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) in Bethesda, Maryland.
Calluori knew she wanted to study biology from the moment she attended the Barnard Open House Program for Admitted Students. There, she had the opportunity to meet with professors and speak to a student studying gene regulation and honeybees in Professor Jonathan Snow’s bee lab. She remembers thinking: “That’s the essence of what I want to do.”
At Barnard, Calluori found herself enthralled by courses like Medical Sociology with Professor Amy Zhou, which opened the door to the world of science and public health: “It helped me to see the interconnections of biology and also the social and environmental conditions.” Calluori also minored in science, policy, and ethics.
During the summer of 2019, Calluori participated in the Summer Research Institute (SRI), where she assisted Professor Brandon Pearson, a behavioral neuroscientist and toxicologist at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, in investigating the effects of environmental factors on aging and neurological disease. The work inspired Calluori to stay on in Pearson’s lab through her senior year.
Armed with the knowledge and research skills she acquired at Barnard, Calluori now provides support to the genomics research programs funded by the NHGRI, a prong of the National Institutes of Health that advances health through genome research. In this two-year position, which started in mid-June, she analyzes scientific information and evaluates programs. Calluori looks forward to learning more about genomics outside of the traditional lab setting and exploring ways to increase equity in genomics research.
“Having a public health background that I explored at Barnard provides me with a powerful lens through which to view the world. I think it’s a really great framework to ask questions and an approach to solving our most pressing health scientific issues,” she says. “I’m very excited to bring that perspective to my position.”
Calluori credits Beyond Barnard for helping her secure the role at NHGRI, thanks to offerings like its summer colloquium series — which, she says, taught her how to strengthen her résumé — and interview prep. (She discovered the job posting on Barnard Handshake.) “Whenever I meet younger students, I always tell them, ‘Go to Beyond Barnard. It is one of the best resources that Barnard has.’”
Looking ahead to her next chapter, Calluori hopes to pursue a master’s and a Ph.D. in public health. The path, she says, might lead her to environmental health sciences or to a different field like epidemiology: “Ultimately, I’d like to take all that I’ve learned and help to inform public health and policy.” --Mary Cunningham
Isabel Hernandez Rodriguez ’21: The Right Chemistry
When Isabel Hernandez Rodriguez ’21 enrolled at Barnard, she had plans to go into medicine. But as a first-year student in a quantitative analysis course, she discovered a passion for chemistry and research. “Two classmates and I worked on a project to design a way to measure the organic compound HMF in honey,” she recalls. “We had to write a proposal, come up with methods, and write up a report, and I found that doing research independently is so much fun.”
Hernandez’s academic advisor, assistant professor Andrew Crowther, was key in assisting her with the transition from pre-med to chemistry, she says. “He helped me understand what opportunities there are in chemistry and avenues I could pursue post-graduation.”
For Hernandez, the next avenue is starting a Ph.D. program in chemistry this fall at the California Institute of Technology, where she will pursue her interests in physical and materials chemistry and possibly in clean energy. As Hernandez gets ready to embark on this journey, she feels confident that she is well prepared. “Every class I took at Barnard was very rigorous and provided me with the tools to succeed,” she says. “I am grateful that I was able to complete a chemistry department honors thesis — including doing research, writing the thesis, giving a presentation, and defending my thesis — which will make it easier when I have to do that in graduate school.”
She’s especially excited about Caltech’s focus on interdisciplinary research. “I’m looking forward to continuing to learn how to do research independently and starting to design my own research projects,” she says. “I’m very interested in continuing in research, whether I end up in academia or industry.”
Hernandez, who peer-tutored students in chemistry at Barnard, is happy that she’ll continue working with students while in graduate school. “Teaching and helping in the lab were a lot of fun and a good way to pass the baton from my Barnard professors.”
Hernandez cites her professors — particularly Crowther, Meena Rao, director of Barnard’s organic chemistry labs, and assistant professor of chemistry Christina Vizcarra, who earned her Ph.D. from Caltech — as invaluable to her learning and determining her future endeavors. She also took full advantage of the resources in chemistry across Broadway with Columbia professor Latha Venkataraman, in whose applied physics and chemistry department lab Hernandez researched during her Barnard tenure.
“Over the past four years, my parents and friends from high school have commented on how much more confident I have become. I’m so grateful for all the support I have had from the Barnard community.”
--Michele Lynn ’82
Sofia Perez ’21: A Creative Spin
Going from majoring in art history to working in digital marketing might not look like an obvious leap — it wasn’t initially obvious to Sofia Perez ’21, who graduated with a degree in art history and a minor in English and then segued into a junior account manager role at Pinterest.
But with unexpected internship developments, the help of Beyond Barnard, and encouragement from the Barnard alumnae network, Perez cultivated her digital skills and discovered her knack for working with brands to realize their advertising goals. Her career trajectory even influenced her senior thesis, which explored makeup transformations throughout art history and connected them to TikTok and other online spaces.
“In art history, a lot of the time, we’re given a piece with no context, and we have to put all these clues together, or think about the piece from different perspectives,” says Perez. “That’s helped me think creatively and aesthetically about how an image can translate to different people, which I think is important for marketing.”
The nonlinear path that led Perez to Pinterest started at Cosmopolitan magazine, where she interned with the beauty and skincare team after her sophomore year. “What I didn’t expect from that internship,” says Perez, “was that I developed a lot of digital skills, because Cosmo is transitioning from not being so print-based, and I think that was really critical in my career.”
From Cosmo, Perez went on to marketing internships at the social media app kickit, the Decker/Royal public relations agency, and the digital magazine Coveteur. “I feel like with every internship, I developed little pieces of skills along the way,” says Perez. “It really helped me in the job that I’ve landed.”
Integral throughout the journey was Beyond Barnard. “There was a period of time when I was in there [the Beyond Barnard office] maybe three times a week,” Perez says, recalling meeting with peer career advisors to review her cover letters and résumés. “Afterwards, I noticed I got a lot more interviews; I got a lot more emails from positions that I was applying to. I’m really lucky that I was able to have that resource.”
The Barnard alumnae network was also a bonus. Perez’s intern manager at Cosmo was Ama Kwarteng ’17, and her co-intern in the department was another current student. “It was really nice to have that community,” Perez says, adding that she’s looking forward to connecting with the Barnard graduates working at Pinterest.
Having just started her job in June, Perez doesn’t know what the next steps of her career will look like. “I definitely see myself staying [at Pinterest], developing my sales and marketing skills, moving up maybe into a more creative role,” Perez says.
One thing’s for sure, though: “I’m really excited.” --Veronica Suchodolski ’19
Kelsey Bialo ’21: A Love of Language
Kelsey Bialo ’21 is fascinated by languages. After studying Mandarin in high school and at Barnard and spending the summer of 2019 with the Columbia in Beijing study abroad program, Bialo realized that it wasn’t just the Chinese language that enchanted her. “I am interested in how languages work and language pedagogy,” she says.
Bialo combined her disparate academic interests into a major in linguistics and minors in both education studies and East Asian studies, ideal preparation for her next step: a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Taiwan. She’ll spend the coming school year working in an elementary school in Taiwan, where she will offer guidance on vocabulary and conversation practice in the classroom and serve as a cultural ambassador for the United States.
“I am most looking forward to working with the students,” she says. “I expect that the students will be my biggest gateway into Taiwanese culture because children have such an amazing perspective on the world and a unique way of processing things. I’m also excited about working with teachers who have a whole different education, teaching knowledge, and pedagogy.”
The Fulbright is a perfect fit for Bialo. “I want to live outside the United States for a while, and this opportunity combines a region of the world that interests me, my teaching interest, and my language interest,” she says. “It took a lot of work to make myself into the type of candidate these competitive fellowships are looking for. Beyond Barnard was an incredible resource to me in that process.”
Barnard prepared her for her future endeavors “in every way humanly possible,” she says. “I learned the importance of thinking through a topic from the perspectives of others, which is so valuable to prepare you for post-college and for living in another country and another culture.”
While linguistics isn’t a formal program at Barnard, administrators approved Bialo’s petition and facilitated her ability to pursue her interest. In her senior thesis, Bialo explored how the Taiwanese government’s policies and social attitudes toward the Taiwanese languages Hokkien and Hakka have affected their use, which, she says, “carry different implications for their continued vitality.”
She expects to return to the classroom for a master’s degree in applied linguistics and to do fieldwork in language documentation, with the hope of having a career in which one foot is in academia and the other is working with communities and doing language revitalization. She also plans to stay active as a coach with the Skyliners synchronized skating team; she’s been a member for 12 years. For the past six years, she has joined the group in competing both nationally and internationally as Team USA.
“I’m so excited to be part of this close-knit Fulbright community that shares similar values with Barnard,” says Bialo. “It will be a great transition.” --Michele Lynn ’82
Danielle Hopkins ’21: Reforming the System
When Danielle Hopkins ’21 entered Barnard, she had little idea that she’d graduate, four years later, committed to pursuing a career in the criminal-legal field. But by the end of her freshman year — after her first African history course with Professor Abosede George — that path was becoming clearer.
“The class helped me to realize that history as a discipline would be the best way for me to attain the skills and knowledge necessary to work in the criminal legal field,” Hopkins says.
She credits another member of the history department, Dr. Barbara Fields, for informing her views on American history and how race is used to justify oppression. For Hopkins, who grew up in a mostly white town on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, “being in New York and having classmates who come from different backgrounds also really changed my perspective.”
After graduating magna cum laude from Barnard with a degree in history and a minor in Spanish, Hopkins started working in the Houston office of Partners for Justice, an organization that trains non-attorney legal advocates to help people at risk for incarceration. At the Harris County Public Defender’s Office, she’ll serve a two-year term as an advocate, providing case navigation and wraparound support to clients. “For example,” she says, “I might help someone whose car has been repossessed find an alternative way to get to work so that they don’t lose their job.”
The central goal is to advocate for and support clients and their families and help them deal with the consequences of being entangled in the legal system, particularly focusing on the marginalized communities who are most heavily impacted by the legal system. In Harris County, Black people are more than twice as likely to be incarcerated than their white counterparts are.
Beyond Barnard played an essential role in helping Hopkins take this first step in her career. Like many new graduates, it initially took Hopkins a little time to land the right job. After she discovered the position on Handshake, Barnard’s student job board, she went to the Beyond Barnard office for assistance with the application process.
“[Dean of Beyond Barnard] A-J Aronstein specifically really kept me going,” she says, even prepping her for the Partners for Justice interview. In fact, Hopkins had two job offers to pick from during graduation week. Beyond Barnard also helped her with her successful application for an investigator position at the Tennessee Office of the Post-Conviction Defender.
Hopkins’ ultimate goal is to become a public defender. “That being said, I also know that my career could take me in many directions as I work to join the efforts already being done in dismantling the criminal legal system in this country,” she says. “While there need to be immense structural changes — and I hope to see those changes — I want to work as a lawyer so that I can support and advocate for the individuals, families, and communities that are being impacted right now.”
Julie Seager ’21: Economic Impact
As Julie Seager weighed her college admissions choices, Barnard came out on top, in no small part because of its multifaceted economics department. “The economics faculty have such fascinating research topics and do progressive work,” says Seager.
The knowledge, training, and research opportunities she gained as a dual economics and math major prepared Seager for the job she began in July as a research analyst in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s two-year program for recent graduates. On the forecasting team, she and her colleagues use macroeconomic models to assess the current and future state of the U.S. economy.
Doing research, however, is nothing new for Seager. Starting in the spring semester of her sophomore year, she helped Barnard economics professor Rajiv Sethi’s team conduct research on hybrid forecasting of geopolitical events — work that continued during the Summer Research Institute and subsequent semesters. In her senior year, she further honed her research skills when she teamed up with Sethi to examine disparities in police use of lethal force. In fact, by the time Seager graduated, she had co-authored three papers with Sethi and fellow researchers. For Seager, this mentorship has been critical to her growth. “He helped me transition from being his research assistant to being his collaborator,” she says.
“Presenting my research during the poster session at the Summer Research Institute and having that practice in a safe space where people were supportive helped build my confidence before I presented at a professional conference,” she says.
Seager is appreciative of the funding she received for her own independent research over two summers, one of the many benefits of being selected for the Barbara Silver Horowitz ’55 Scholars of Distinction Program, which provides a four-year scholarly experience to a cohort of students.
For Seager, classes such as Economics of the Public Sector— taught by Elizabeth Ananat, Mallya Professor of Women and Economics — were transformative. “Professor Ananat, who served on the White House Council of Economic Advisors during Obama’s presidency,” she says, “opened my eyes to what a career as an economist in the public sector could look like.”
These courses, coupled with research opportunities, provided Seager with a road map for the future. “My interest in economics has come from a place of understanding different dimensions of social inequality,” says Seager. “I’m grateful that Barnard’s Economics Department has a commitment to economic justice and encourages students to go down different paths.”
Seager envisions pursuing a master’s in public policy or data science or a Ph.D. in economics. “I want to combine my passion for social issues and my love for data science to make an impact,” she says. “I learned at Barnard how many different career options there are that fit at that intersection.” --Michele Lynn ’82