A Homecoming Like No Other

Barnard’s Classes of 2020 and 2021 celebrate their graduations


Morningside Heights was bustling with anticipation the morning of Thursday, May 19, as members of the Classes of 2020 and 2021 gathered with their friends and families for a long-awaited day of celebration. It was time to commemorate their graduation!

The festivities began with a procession across Broadway to Low Plaza, where Barnard graduates attended a joint program that included remarks from President Bollinger on behalf of Columbia University, President Sian Leah Beilock on behalf of Barnard College, and individual recognition of all the different collegiate programs represented in the crowd. 

After spending time snapping pictures and enjoying snacks on Barnard’s campus, the community headed up to the historic United Palace theatre in Washington Heights. Here, Gabi Garcia and Aliza Lifshitz from the Class of 2020, and Norah Hassan and Julia Betancourt from the Class of 2021, shared reflections about their student experiences and what they can look forward to as they continue their post-graduation lives.

This graduation was unique for these two classes in many ways, most notably because it didn’t take place within the blur of final semester responsibilities. Without exams, presentations, or move-out logistics to worry about, graduates were able to truly savor the moment.

“Today is a homecoming of sorts,” said actor and activist Cynthia Nixon ’88 to the crowd. “I’m hoping this separation, this pause, will give you fuller clarity to see and appreciate all that your Barnard experience was and to truly feel the magnitude of what you achieved and all the obstacles, COVID included, that you overcame to be here.”

When journalist and Latinx advocate Paola Ramos ’09 took the podium, she did not sugarcoat the challenges of the times but rather expressed her trust in the ability of the Classes of 2020 and 2021 to face them head-on. “You are about to embark, and you are already embarking, on what I believe will be one of the most consequential journeys of your lives and in modern American history. … Barnard has prepared you for this exact moment. In fact, you’ve already proven to be extraordinary.”

As Dean Leslie Grinage read off the graduates’ names, an intense roar of applause reverberated throughout the theatre, making it clear just how important this celebration was not only to these resilient graduates but also to the entire Barnard community.

“This is the culmination of strength, perseverance, pushing through the pandemic, changes, online classes,” reflected Jade Thompson ’21. “To come back and actually celebrate is …” she paused for a second and looked with hope-filled eyes toward her mom, who beamed with pride as she finished her daughter’s sentence: “... a triumph.”

From the graduates, to the speakers, to Barnard faculty, staff, and volunteers, thank you to everyone who brought this beautiful day to life.

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