Majors chart varied careers and continue to question the status quo
It was the spring of 1978, my sophomore year at Barnard, and time to declare a major. For me, it would be psychology. I had already taken several of the required courses, so there was room to branch out and explore some other subjects. I enrolled in an economics class taught by Dr. Cynthia Lloyd called “Sex Discrimination and the Division of Labor.” The course was not only fascinating, but it touched me on a deeply personal level. My term paper was about women and volunteerism. Dr. Lloyd told me I had done an exceptional job, and asked if I knew about a new interdisciplinary major at Barnard, women’s studies. Not even a department, it was a program that had only been approved as a major a year before. It didn’t matter—I was in.
At graduation in the spring of 1980, I remember feeling especially proud that I had done something so important and pioneering. I’ve always identified myself as a feminist, but I found people would look at me with a curious gaze when I replied, “Women’s studies,” to their question, “What was your major?” I would make a bit of a joke answer, “It was the ’70s.”
Over the last few years I started to hear discussions about women’s studies in the twenty-first century and became fascinated: Who are the women’s studies majors now? What drives them? What is contemporary feminist scholarship? How has the discipline evolved?
For Barnard College, one development is obvious. Women’s studies became a department in 1988. While it remains interdisciplinary in nature, it has several of its own faculty members, some with tenure. What I explore in this article is how women’s studies is the same today as it was 33 years ago and how it is very different. “I took a class and it resonated on a personal level,” appears to be unchanged through time.
“There was a small group of people, including me, Lila Braine, Susan Sacks and Catharine Stimpson who pushed for the major at Barnard,” says Hester Eisenstein, professor of sociology and women’s studies at Queens College and the CUNY Graduate Center. “We were all feminist professors. I wrote a report and circulated it to the faculty and that started a whole debate. Eventually, we were asked, ‘Can you design a curriculum? What would your courses be?’”
“Now there’s a body of knowledge... Then, we were just asking the questions. It was what now seems a very elementary process because no one had asked these
questions for decades,” says Hester Eisenstein.
“There were already courses like my course, ‘Contemporary Feminist Thought,’ which later became my first book,” she says. “The students were very receptive. You were thirsty for the ideas. It was very satisfying because people responded and they felt it spoke about their experience.” Eisenstein’s account of the founding of Barnard’s women’s studies program is available on the department’s Web site.
Mary Donovan Moreno, MD, ’84 attended Colby College in Maine prior to transferring to Barnard. She’d taken her first women’s studies course at Colby. After leaving, she took two years off and worked. But she knew she wanted to major in women’s studies, which led her to Barnard. “[That course] had been so empowering for me personally.... It opened my eyes to the politics of feminism,” she says. Her senior thesis was about the psychological dimensions of the effective and ineffective use of birth control among college-educated women. She did not see the major as related to her future career. “I always viewed my undergraduate years as a platform from which I would then go to some kind of graduate school,” she says. “I viewed it more as learning for life rather than as a career springboard.”
After graduation, Donovan Moreno worked for a while, then realized she wanted to become a physician. She enrolled in a college near her home, took the premed requirements, and entered the University of Arkansas medical school in 1987. Finishing her residency in psychiatry in Philadelphia, she worked at the Women’s Therapy Network.
Today she lives in Laramie, Wyoming, where she has a general practice—mostly because there are so few psychiatrists in the state there is no room for specialization. While women’s issues are not part of her day-to-day practice, women’s studies do play a role in her life. “The bottom line of having a foundation in women’s studies is having a foundation in not taking things for granted and looking at the power structure, how power influences social structure and interaction,” she explains. “You question things and you don’t make assumptions. You have a far more critical eye in terms of the status quo. Should it be this way? How can we change it?”
Jessica Chalmers ’84 double-majored in women’s studies and French, finding her way to the former after spending time at the Barnard Center for Research on Women (BCRW). Chalmers describes herself as a rebellious kid; women’s studies spoke to her intellectually and had a tangible connection to her life. She didn’t connect it to any future career; possibly because she wasn’t much focused on any career then.
Her intellectual bent and feminist ideology fit nicely with her artistic nature. In her senior year she started a group called The Feminist Union, which staged performance-oriented protests. After graduation, she and three other Barnard alumnae formed the V-Girls. She spent 10 years as a performance artist. “We kind of did a parody of academia,” she says. “We were ... intellectual and functioned more in the art world than in the theatre. Our spoofs were really smart. Academics loved us.”
Eventually she earned a PhD and taught at University of Notre Dame for nine years. She’s working on a book, part of which is about different generations of feminism. “I’ve gone through periods in my life where I’ve wanted to distance myself from feminism because after my initial engagement the institutionalization was disillusioning to me.” Chalmers explains, “I joined it looking for radical solutions, but in the ’90s the institutionalization [of women’s studies] within academia was really disappointing for me. I’m only getting back into it now.”
Three Decades as a Major
“There are jobs and there are structures,” says Susan R. Sacks, who oversaw my senior thesis and who still teaches psychology at Barnard. “You can get structures and laws in place that mitigate against prejudice, stereotypes, and narrow, boxed-in attitudes, but attitudes are really hard to change and [change] so, so slowly.”
The course offerings have changed since the late ’80s. We took courses with names like “Women and Religion” and “Psychology of Women.” Today, courses include “Theorizing Women’s Activism,” “Women in French Cinema since the ’60s,” and “Unheard Voices: African Women’s Literature and Gender.” Says Eisenstein, “Now there’s a body of knowledge.... Then, we were just asking the questions. It was what now seems a very elementary process because no one had asked these questions for decades.”
Neferti Xina Tadiar, current chair of the women’s studies department at Barnard, says the BCRW is a huge attraction for women’s studies majors as it combines activism with scholarship; both represent the way many of the majors view their paths. “The close relationship our department has with BCRW, I don’t think there are models out there for that.
It’s unique to Barnard,” says Tadiar. “Women and feminist views have become very much a part of the world we live in. It doesn’t mean all of the political issues have been resolved or addressed,” she adds.
The Current Generation
Three recent graduates are carving careers directly related to their women’s studies majors. Julia Kaye ’07 came to Barnard thinking she would major in art history. “On a whim I took a feminist texts class and I just adored it. I was so stimulated, challenged and moved by it. Applying this new lens brought so many areas of my life into focus,” she says.
She went to career services and said she was thinking of switching her major to women’s studies, fearing it was impractical. The advisor assured her she’d probably find even more career options if she switched. A women and health course with Assistant Professor Rebecca Jordan-Young inspired her to pursue a thematic focus in gender and health. Her senior thesis was a feminist analysis of the work of Doctors Without Borders’ mental-health care programs.
She interned with NARAL Pro-Choice New York. “Being a women’s studies major with a focus on health there is at least one clear career path you can take, which is to work in reproductive justice,” Kaye says. “It was a direct application of some of the issues I was grappling with as a women’s studies major.”
She worked initially with TORCH©, the Teen Outreach Reproductive Challenge, supervising and training adolescent peer educators on topics like reproductive health, self-esteem, healthy relationships, and contraception. Just before graduation, she was hired as a consultant for the national expansion of a related program, the Adolescent Health Care Communication Program through the National Institute for Reproductive Health. After nine months, she moved to Washington, D.C., and took a job at the National Women’s Law Center as a health policy associate, working primarily on the center’s women and health reform project. “I used to tell everyone I couldn’t have found a job that better applied my major,” she says.
She is now back in New York attending NYU Law School on a Root-Tilden-Kern public interest scholarship. Her specific scholarship is called the Jacobson Public Service Scholarship for Women, Children and Families. After graduation in 2013, Kaye intends to return to Washington, D.C., and continue to work in the area of women’s rights. “The work is far from done,” notes Kaye.
Devan Shea ’10 grew up with feminist ideology in her family. After her first year at Barnard, she did an internship at the National Organization for Women.“When I came back from that, I was very stirred up, so I took ‘Introduction to Women’s Studies,’” she recalls. “That sealed the deal for me.” Another course about U.S. imperialism from a gender perspective soon followed. “Women’s studies was something that was very interesting to me—not only academically, but personally and politically,” Shea says. Like Kaye, she was hesitant to declare it as a major because she feared a lack of career possibilities, but came to believe she could sculpt a career plan no matter what she studied.
Shea is currently a Klagsbrun Fellow at Alliance for Justice, a national association dedicated to advancing justice and democracy. She works with the outreach department: Shea helps promote the association’s films, and she supports the outreach team with social networking, as well as planning and promoting events. Planning to go to graduate school, she might pursue nonprofit advocacy or a doctorate in women’s studies;approximately 12 universities now offer PhD’s in the subject.
For Rachel Jacobson ’07, interest in women’s studies dates back to high school, when male classmates treated her with disdain after she wrote a paper about Simone de Beauvoir and her impact on French feminism. The criticism backfired; she was devouring feminist texts before she took a single class at Barnard. “It seemed so clear and obvious that’s what I wanted to do with my life and what I wanted to study at school,” Jacobson says. “That’s very much what drew me to Barnard.” Her senior thesis was about the prosecution of rape as a crime against humanity, and the international criminal tribunals for Rwanda and Yugoslavia.
She went to work in the women’s rights division of Human Rights Watch, and was the program director for the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS. In 2009, she moved home to Austin, Texas, where she now works as a counselor in an abortion clinic. “This work is incredibly satisfying on a different level than policy work,” Jacobson says. “I feel women’s studies prepared me for almost anything.” With her eye on graduate school, she is particularly intrigued by a program in activist anthropology. “One of the things the BRCW does so well is bring together the scholarly world and the advocacy world,” Jacobson says. “There’s an emphasis on creating productive knowledge and doing something with that.”
To the Future
Tadiar says the women’s studies department is currently working on revising the curriculum and crafting a new mission statement. The department recently became part of a consortium with Africana studies and American studies called the Center for Critical Interdisciplinary Studies at Barnard (CCIS). “Our faculty in women’s studies does not deal solely with issues of gender, but rather sees it in relation to issues of race and sexuality as well,” she adds. “Because issues of race figure very importantly in our courses and in the work we do, the chairs of women’s studies, Africana studies, and American studies got together to create mutually supportive programs.
“One of the ways we’re doing that is also seeing ourselves in relation to these other interdisciplinary programs and taking on transnationalism, race, and sexuality. We do see Barnard as having a role nationally in helping to redefine women’s studies,” she affirms, “[and] we definitely see women’s studies on a path to the future.”
A Bond Across Generations
“I took a class and it resonated on a personal level.” With women’s studies, women follow their gut instincts and passions. We share a feminist ideology, which perhaps 30 years ago was fueled by the newness of it being voiced and today has the momentum of career possibilities in activism and social justice. The first generation of Barnard’s women’s studies majors and the professors who taught us knew we had to explore the possibilities of change. While the current generation knows change is possible because they live it, they also know the scholarly inquiry and activism still have a long way to go.
- by Lois Elfman
For those young women seeking an excellent education, with a strong emphasis in the liberal arts, at a small, top-rated private institution of higher learning, Barnard ranks high, a fact borne out by the increasing number of applicants each year.
For those who are seeking all the above, as well as a potential path to a career in the performance arts of theatre, music, or dance, the College is irresistible. In the following several pages we offer an overview of these three departments and show why Barnard lures so many potential students to its jewel-box of a campus: The combination of the College’s outstanding offerings and its location in a world-class performance arts capital is electric.
Alice Brady Pels Professor in the Arts and Chair of the department W. B. Worthen readily cites the advantages of studying theatre at Barnard: Not only is there an emphasis on performance and artistry, but there is demanding course work in the history and theory of performance that includes theatre history, dramatic literature, and global traditions. Read more...
Musicianship is a life skill one can enjoy forever, says Barnard’s Director of Music Gail Archer, a choral performer and a professional organist as well as a conductor. Making her way in fields largely dominated by men, she describes herself as “determined, but joyful,” and has high praise for the “energizing camaraderie of music.” Read more...
Mary Cochran, chair and artistic director of Barnard’s dance department and a former soloist with the Paul Taylor Dance Company (1984-1996), is a dynamic and energizing presence—one whose influence on the program since joining the Barnard faculty, in 2003, has been profound. Read more...
- Annette Kahn
Barnard students study overseas as more international students come to the college
Under the leadership of President Debora Spar, Barnard is becoming a more global campus. To explain what that means for the College, the annual Leadership Assembly for Barnard’s alumnae volunteer leaders featured a panel on “International Study.” The October 8 panel included two American students who had pursued study abroad and two international students who chose to attend Barnard. “One of President Spar’s primary initiatives is to internationalize the College,” says Gretchen Young, dean for study abroad. She explains, “In our increasingly globalized marketplace students must have cross-cultural experience, language skills, and a proven ability to function in unfamiliar environments, to be successful—not only professionally but simply to be good citizens. Beyond that, I feel that it is important for Barnard students to step out of their comfort zones, to be questioned for what they believe or value, and to realize that their way of being, their perceptions of what is true, may not be as widely accepted as they may think.”
The Admissions office is actively recruiting a wider pool of international candidates. There is also the Visiting International Students Program, which invites foreign students to spend a semester, or even full year, at Barnard. This spring the campus will welcome 59 students from 10 schools, including the University of Ghana, the University of Melbourne, and colleges in China, Denmark, Italy, South Korea, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.
The heart of international study, of course, remains study abroad. “We want to increase the quality and number of opportunities for students,” says Young. “Research and internships are part of an undergraduate experience. So are crosscultural experiences and developing language skills.”
There’s more to study abroad than Reid Hall in Paris. With about 150 programs, including American-run opportunities, such as those at NYU, Syracuse, and Sarah Lawrence, as well as foreign ones available to Barnard students, some 66 students studied in 27 different countries this fall, with destinations ranging from Argentina to Nepal. About 35 percent of Barnard students study abroad at some point during their undergraduate years.
“Not only are we trying to better prepare our students to study abroad, but we are also focusing on encouraging students to bring back their learning and helping them to integrate their overseas experience into their overall Barnard education; [we want them to] share their experiences with the rest of the community,” says Young.
The students on the panel spoke about their interest in study abroad, as well as cultural dislocations and surprises they experienced as a result. Kenyan native Clare Korir ’12 was attracted to Barnard because “I liked the feel of a women’s college. Women could be more appreciated in Kenya. I wanted to be with ‘strong, beautiful’ Barnard women.”
As the daughter of Christine Herring Bruscagli ’82, and niece of Pat Herring Parisi ’77 and Nancy Herring ’79, Elisabetta Bruscagli ’13, who has lived most of her life in Italy, explains, “My American option was always Barnard. It’s more than classes and professors. It’s about the people you meet. Going to school in Italy for so long, I didn’t know that a school could care about you. It’s what drew me to the U.S., and to Barnard.”
Brooklyn native Dueaa Elzin ’11, a political science major, attended the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. Elzin found that because the British system expects students to be “hyper-specialized,” as compared to Barnard’s liberal arts approach, the students she encountered immersed themselves in their fields, “like being a PhD student,” Elzin observes. “At SOAS, the students I encountered didn’t have the preoccupation with postgraduate plans that students have here, and were studying languages, such as Burmese and Tagalog, and cultures that they were truly passionate about.” A fascination with China that stemmed from an eighth-grade, 10-day trip to that country motivated senior Elizabeth Reynolds, an Asian and Middle Eastern cultures major, to pursue nearly every opportunity to study in China as an undergraduate, including summer and semester programs. “I have my heart set on going back to Asia for two or three years,” says Reynolds. “I’m not sure what I want to do; I know where I want to do it.”
Studying abroad—overseas for American students, or Morningside Heights for international ones—is likely to be even more important going forward. As Elzin believes, “You can’t be global and open-minded without actually leaving Barnard and [your home] country.”
- Merri Rosenberg
Exploring the role of sports in the creation of women leaders
Confidence, competitiveness, resilience, and teamwork are some of the benefits that women gain from participating in sports, especially team sports. The message was delivered by a powerful panel of women athletes who spoke at “Beyond the Game: Women, Sports and Competition” on November 10. The line-up included Erinn Smart ’01 and Sarah Hughes, two Olympic medalists; Jane Geddes, former U.S. Women’s Open golf champion; and Donna Orender, former All-Star player for the Women’s Professional Basketball League. New York Times sports writer Juliet Macur ’92 moderated the discussion.
“Many point to the role of sports in forming their character,” noted President Debora L. Spar, citing a study of women CEOs, which found that 80 percent of that group had played competitive sports in their youth. Some of those character-building lessons gained from participating in sports, suggested Spar, include “how women and men learn teamwork through competitive sports. There’s trust, reliance, responsibility, pulling back when it’s not your turn, and the concept of resilience, which is what gets you through. As the song says, ‘you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.’”
And while “sports may not be the first thing you think of when you think of Barnard, it plays quite a large role at the College,” she added. “Barnard is the only women’s college that offers Division 1 athletics, with 15 NCAA varsity sports and 30 club sports,” as well as many intramural opportunities for students.
There are obvious advantages to playing a team sport, said Orender, who is president of the Women’s National Basketball Association. “The language of corporate America is the language of sports. Winning is something women have to learn how to do. When you’re part of sports, you learn how to do things you ordinarily wouldn’t. One benefit of Title IX is that you’re doing it side-by-side with your male counterparts. It goes back to cultural expectations. In sports, men expect you to be aggressive and expect you to want to win.”
Smart, who earned a silver medal in fencing at the 2008 Olympics and now works in the financial industry where 80 percent of her colleagues are men, said, “I keep up with them because I have the confidence that comes from athletics. I’m usually one of the first women to speak up. It’s one of the differences from having been an athlete. I have the confidence to say it. I’m never one to sit back....”
That ability to negotiate and navigate in a man’s world is a clear benefit to participating in sports, said Jane Geddes, senior vice president of tournament operations and player services on the LPGA tour. “Golf is such a world, [but] I’m very comfortable with it. I’ve had the confidence to survive in golf and then survive in business, and keep moving forward.”
There are powerful lessons to learn from athletic defeats and losses that translate into leadership away from the playing field. Setbacks can reveal someone’s character, said Sarah Hughes, a 2002 Olympic gold medalist in figure-skating. She compared athletes who essentially give up after a fall to those who still perform with passion, even if a medal is out of reach. “You like to see a fighting spirit,” she said.
The panel emphasized that women can learn from sports, even if they’re not athletic superstars. “Physical activity and sports are one of the most important things you can do,” said Orender. “The socialization skills are invaluable no matter what level you’re at. It matters that you try.”
- Merri Rosenberg ’78
First photograph, skaters from Figure Skating in Harlem join the panelists (from left): Zjana Ray, Jiordan Ali, Nyasha Franklin, Sarah Hughes, Sharon Cohen, founder of the Harlem skating group, Erinn Smart, Bria Culpepper, and Eliyah McKayle
Second photograph, from left: Donna Orender, Jane Geddes, Erinn Smart ’01, Sarah Hughes, Juliet Macur ’92
Seated (from left): Kristina Milnor, Elizabeth Boylan, Emily Tow Jackson. Standing (from left): Christian Rojas, Leonard Tow, and Debora Spar.
A generous benefactor supports faculty research and exemplary teaching
Kristina Milnor, an associate professor of classics, was pregnant with her first child last May when she received the exciting news. Milnor, along with Associate Professor of Chemistry Christian Rojas, had been named as the first two recipients of a new award for Barnard faculty members offered by the Connecticut-based Tow Foundation: The Tow Professorships for Distinguished Scholars and Practitioners. Designed to help Barnard recognize and promote outstanding teaching and research, the new professorships will be awarded to two associate professors each year and come with two years of support totaling $50,000 for each professor; the award’s uses include summer stipends, research, and professional development.
“It was a real vote of confidence,” says Milnor, who joined Barnard in 1998 and teaches lecture courses in classical civilization as well as classes in elementary, intermediate, and advanced Latin. A specialist in Roman history and Latin literature of the late Republic and early Empire, Milnor received the Charles J. Goodwin Award of Merit from the American Philological Association for her 2005 book, Gender, Domesticity, and the Age of Augustus: Inventing Private Life. She also recently completed a book about literary graffiti from the ancient city of Pompeii, and says that the Tow award will be a big help as she chooses and begins pursuing her next big project. Milnor’s not sure yet of the topic—perhaps something on representations of law and the idea of law in Roman literature—“but stay tuned,” she says. “I feel incredibly grateful.”
Professor Rojas, the other 2010 Tow award winner, definitely shares that feeling. “It’s just a tremendous honor,” he says. Rojas joined Barnard’s chemistry department in 1997 after completing an NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Scripps Research Institute. His research focuses on developing novel methods for incorporating nitrogen into organic molecules and the application of those methods to the synthesis of amino sugars. “It’s very labor-intensive,” says Rojas, who notes that the Tow Foundation stipend will enable him to hire two Barnard students to help in his lab this summer.
Along with the two annual professorships, last year the Tow Foundation also announced plans for a new annual teaching award to recognize an exemplary member of the Barnard faculty: The Tow Award for Innovative and Outstanding Pedagogy. The first winner of the award will be announced this spring and will receive $10,000, which can be used for research or professional development that helps promote innovative teaching.
The Tow family has long been a generous benefactor to Barnard. Leonard Tow, a former cable television industry executive, started the family’s foundation together with his wife Claire; their daughter, Emily Tow Jackson ’88, began serving as Tow Foundation executive director in the mid-1990s. Since 1996, the Tows have sponsored the Tow Foundation Public Service Internship Program at Barnard; the program has helped dozens of students get practical work experience at a wide variety of organizations including nonprofit organizations, education, public health, and public-service agencies. Moreover, since 2001 the foundation has also funded the Tow Research Fellowships, which enable students to travel and conduct research for their senior theses.
In the past few years, however, the Tows decided they would like to expand their focus to give faculty members extra support. “We thought it was essential to recognize really top-quality teaching,” says Tow Jackson, who majored in American history. She and her father spoke with Barnard president Debora Spar about how they could best support great teaching, and the ideas for the Tow Professorships and the new Tow teaching award were born. “One of President Spar’s goals was to really shore up faculty recognition,” says Tow Jackson. “We think there’s a tremendous benefit to the College in helping high-performing staff pursue their interests.”
News of the Tow Professorships and the new teaching award was greeted with rousing applause at a faculty meeting last May. Barnard Provost and Dean of Faculty Elizabeth Boylan was thrilled that Barnard was able to recognize Professors Milnor and Rojas, each is a “wonderful and distinctive embodiment of the scholar-teacher ideal.” Boylan says she believes the new Tow teaching award will send a strong signal both within and to the outside world about “the value we place in innovative and effective teaching.”
Spar says that the experience of working with Emily and Leonard Tow and witnessing their strong support for Barnard has been a real pleasure. “They both know the institution so well and clearly understand higher education,” she adds. “We are very lucky to have them as part of the Barnard family and I look forward to seeing all the good that will come from the generous awards they have established.”
The Tow Foundation last year also decided to double the funding available for both the public-service internship program as well as the Tow Research Fellowships. The fellowship program was launched a decade ago; 89 students have received funding for summer travel and research projects since 2002. These projects have covered everything from microfinance in the nonprofit sector in China to the study of graffiti from the Ptolemaic and early Roman period in Egypt. “We knew that travel costs were prohibitive for many students,” says Tow Jackson, who notes that her father, the Tow Foundation chair, is a strong proponent of travel for students. “He really believes it’s an essential experience,” she says.
With the public-service internship program, Tow Jackson says the goal was to assist students who wanted to explore potential careers in the nonprofit and public policy spheres, while also providing some extra support for the organizations for which the students interned. “We saw it as a double bang for the buck,” she says and notes that many nonprofits struggle to do their work with limited budgets and staff. Since the program started 15 years ago, it has provided support for some 230 interns working for a mix of organizations including public-interest groups and government agencies, such as the Revenue Watch Institute, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and the New York State Office of the Attorney General.
- Susan Hansen
From left: the chemistry department’s John Magyar, Christian Rojas, and Mary Sev
A modern-day makeover in Altschul Hall is an important step for the department’s future
If you happen to pass through the Helen Goodhart Altschul Hall on the Barnard campus during the spring or summer of 2011, please pardon any dust, debris, or noise emanating from the chemistry department on the sixth floor. It’s not the result of an experiment gone awry, but of Barnard’s continued drive to stay competitive in the sciences. The floor will get a full renovation that will modernize the facilities and allow the chemistry department to increase the size of its faculty, with the goal of attracting more students in the future.
In larger research universities such as Columbia, students typically conduct research alongside a graduate student or postdoctoral student. At Barnard, independent research is done under faculty mentorship; the renovation will mean more opportunities to do such independent research. Students will have hands-on experience working with a professional, and often will be able to present their results. This includes taking part in writing the literature that interprets the data, and learning how to submit those research papers for peer review and publication. The experience can make a huge impact on what students do after Barnard— whether they go into the chemical industry, pharmaceuticals, health, dentistry, or other related fields, doing this kind of research as an undergraduate is invaluable. “It allows students to apply the kinds of things they learn in the classroom in a new and different way,” Assistant Professor of Chemistry John Magyar says. “We are fortunate at Barnard that we are able to provide such a high level of research experience to the students.”
It’s all being done with the help of a generous $1.84 million grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant is a small part of President Obama’s $789 billion American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009, which includes earmarks to help rebuild the laboratories of America’s academic institutions. Under a program called the Academic Research Infrastructure Program: Recovery and Reinvest, the NSF offered $200 million to make necessary updates and repairs to school research facilities. Upon hearing about the grant opportunity in 2009, a team of Barnard science professors—most from the chemistry department, but a handful from other departments as well—went to work on a proposal focused on renovation as a means of expanding research and research training. “Since we are an undergraduate institution, we do most of our research in-house,” says Associate Professor of Chemistry Christian Rojas, a principal investigator on the grant. “That [research and research training] was part of the award guidelines.” Renovations will allow the floor to be reconfigured to provide more room for instruments, equipment and, most importantly, department instructors. More instructors mean more research time for students, and a more well-rounded learning experience.
Built in 1969, the tall, imposing Altschul Hall is the main science building on campus. Environmental science is housed on the fourth floor, physics and astronomy on five, chemistry on six, seven, and eight, and biology on nine through 13. The sixth floor currently has two faculty research labs and associated offices, and teaching labs for biochemistry, physical chemistry, and environmental science. While many parts of Altschul have been renovated since it was built, says Rojas, others haven’t been touched. That changed in early January, when demolition of the sixth floor began.
“We are going to completely gut-renovate, knocking down all of the interior walls,” says Magyar. The plan is to reconfigure the space in a more modern way, with four faculty research labs and offices instead of two, a reconfigured teaching lab for bio- and physical chemistry, and separate climate-controlled rooms for equipment and instruments. (The environmental lab will move to a new spot on the fourth floor.) The architects on the project are with Mitchell Giurgola Architects, a New York City firm that has worked with Barnard in the past—leading the roughly $2.8 million design renovation of the organic chemistry teaching labs on Altschul’s seventh floor in 2004, and two new faculty spaces consisting of labs and offices on the eighth floor completed in 2009.
The modernization will also include updates to some of the built-in ventilation equipment, such as fume hoods. “We included in the proposal some nice pictures of peeling cabinets and small hoods that were acceptable back in 1970 but certainly wouldn’t be part of a lab that you would design now,” continues Rojas. Today’s fume hoods are larger and much more energy efficient. Additionally, the space will have a new autoclave and dishwashing system for sterilizing and cleaning glassware. A separate NSF grant awarded in April allowed the department to buy new spectrometers to be housed in a new instrument room.
Along with Rojas, Magyar was the grant proposal’s co-principal investigator. Also involved were Associate Professor Dina Merrer, Assistant Professor Marisa Buzzeo, and Senior Lecturer Alison Williams of the chemistry department; Assistant Professor Brian Mailloux from environmental science; and assistant professors Kristen Shepard and Krista McGuire in biological sciences. Mary Sever, an assistant professor who joined the chemistry department in 2010, is involved with implementation of the project. Rhonda Zangwill and Abigail Feder-Kane from Barnard’s department of institutional support helped with proposal preparations.
The finished proposal, submitted in August of 2009, included a request for $1.97 million, very close to the $2 million threshold for many of the grants. (The NSF planned to give approximately 100 to 120 awards worth up to $2 million, as well as additional awards of $2 million to $10 million for some 9 to 15 recipients.) An official award letter of $1.84 million came in September, and renovations began on January 4. The project will use funds from other sources as well. A $3 million grant was awarded from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2007 offering a $1 match for every $3 the College contributes from certain funds raised to support sciences at Barnard. For every $3 granted by the NSF, the Mellon Foundation provides a $1 match for the project. The team is working to get other funding sources as well.
Barnard’s chemistry department is comparable to those at other small liberal arts colleges. The staff, however, is “on the smaller side in terms of faculty members,” says Rojas, and this renovation project is a key component in the department’s future direction. “Part of our strategic plan is looking at how we are understaffed in terms of tenure. We need people, but there’s nowhere to put them. This funding will help break that log jam.” The grant will allow the department to gain two faculty members— increasing staff by a third from the current group of six faculty members on the tenure track. The new facilities should also help in recruiting top talent to Barnard.
The department averages 10 to 15 chemistry and biochemistry majors per year. But with each student spending one or two afternoons per week in the lab, space is a big concern. There is also a limitation on how many students each faculty member can reasonably advise. “Students need a lot of attention, especially in the beginning,” Rojas says. Each faculty member oversees about three to four students per year. The rigorous summer program is also packed. “We always have considerably more students who want to participate than we can accommodate,” he says.
In the meantime, the department will continue to scramble for space through the summer in what Magyar calls “various creative and cramped ways.” Despite dislocations, the faculty maintains a positive reaction. “It is going to be a challenging spring semester,” says Magyar. “But absolutely worth it in the long run.”
- Melissa Phipps
How men can help women
Rosabeth Moss Kanter couldn’t contain her smile. “I thought about this question,” said Kanter, as she stepped up to the Diana Center’s stage for the conference, “Building Partnerships: What Men Can Do To Advance Women’s Leadership.”
“What can men do?” Kanter asked. She grinned. “The laundry.” The crowd erupted in laughter. But she wasn’t joking.
“Household division of labor has barely budged in years,” said Kanter, a professor at Harvard Business School, and a former editor of the Harvard Business Review. “Women still do a disproportionate share of household and family work.” Kanter explained that “to rise in leadership roles, it’s important to have time for extras such as special projects, travel, and development programs. So men can help by freeing up their wives’ time.”
The largest initiative to date of Barnard College’s year-old Athena Center for Leadership Studies, the conference drew more than 200 women of all ages, and perhaps two dozen men. The October 5 event sparked much animated discussion, as speakers proposed strategies to improve women’s status in the workplace, ranging from flex-time to female role models—as well as relief from the laundry—and some less widely accepted tactics.
In its focus on men, the conference marked a departure from the Athena Center’s previous programs, and may be the first time a women’s college sponsored an event of this nature. “When you talk to high-level women you realize that they didn’t do it on their own. They did it with colleagues, many of whom are men,” said Kathryn Kolbert, director of the Athena Center. “We want to give students the tools to excel in a world that includes men.”
Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, a married couple who won the Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of China for The New York Times, kicked off the event with a presentation on the status of women in developing nations. This keynote was followed by a panel on strategies for advancement in the public sphere, moderated by Marie Wilson, president of the White House Project; a second panel, moderated by Kanter, dealt with lessons learned in the corporate world.
At times, discussion strayed from the overall theme. Kristof, who has won a second Pulitzer for his New York Times columns, and WuDunn, now a business executive, shared heartbreaking anecdotes from their most recent work, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. The pair focused on how Americans of both sexes can further the opportunities of women raised in dire, dismal circumstances - individuals like the Ethiopian girl who gave birth alone in a bush at the age of 14, was left to die by the villagers, but crawled to an American missionary 30 miles away.
The couple urged the audience members, many of them current Barnard students, to consider leaving their comfort zone and inhabit a world unknown to them, whether it’s a local prison or an impoverished village across the ocean. They urged the crowd to establish grassroots projects to help the women they encounter in these desperate circumstances, Kristof said, “You can become a happier person, gain perspective, and you can change the world at the margins—a little bit.”
An advocate of women’s issues for 30 years, Wilson said she’s “given up hope on the more traditional ways.”
“I’ve asked women around the world what works, and they say, ‘quotas’,” Wilson said. She pointed to the transformation in Norway, where 2004 legislation required that 40 percent of corporate boards be composed of women. But Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and a speaker on the public sector panel, suggested that while “quotas played a significant constructive role in opening up opportunities for women around the world, in the United States they are an anathema for a whole variety of reasons.”
Instead, Henderson called for wage transparency. “We need collateral ways of showing inequality, some way of comparing salaries,” he said. Several practical solutions were proposed by James Basker, a speaker on the public sector panel who is a professor of English literature at Barnard as well as president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Basker spoke of the role of mentors in building female leaders, and the importance of offering flexible schedules, including project-based work that can be done at home.
As a general matter, the corporate panel adopted a more pragmatic, less idealistic approach than the public-sector panel. Two of the three speakers on the corporate panel came from the fast-paced, competitive world of finance, a sector “not known to be warm and fuzzy,” in the words of Kanter.
Ravi Singh, a speaker and trustee of the College who is a managing director of Credit Suisse, spoke bluntly of his focus—“making sure the top people stick around,” he said, explaining that sometimes that means finding ways to allow employees more time with their families. “Getting talented women in the door is really easy,” said Singh. “Keeping them in the door is hard.”
- Elicia Brown ’90
Barnard’s annual Family Weekend is a wonderful opportunity for families to visit the campus, meet some of the people who make the College such a special place, and, of course, spend time with their Barnard students.
October 22 and 23, 2010, saw parents and students enjoying open houses in chemistry, psychology, and biology; the last one taking place in the Arthur Ross Greenhouse. Other events included tours of the new, state-of-the-art Diana Center, the Deans’ Reception, and student dance and theatre performances. Families were also invited to discussions about student internships and study abroad. In addition to opportunities to meet President Spar and faculty members, all were free to explore the city that is Barnard’s extended classroom.
-Asiya Khaki ’09
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The Cherry Orchard
by Anton Chekov, translated with an introduction by Sharon Marie Carnicke '71
Hackett Publishing Company, 2010, $6.96/$24.95
French Cuffs: The Lily French Mystery Series
by Kendra Graham '66
Amazon Digital Services, 2010, $3.99
The Ninth Wave
by Ariella Nasuti '83
Smashwords, 2010, $9.99
Birds for a Demolition
by Menoel de Barros, translation by Idra Novey (Rosenberg) '00, Executive Director, Center for Literary Translation at Columbia University
Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2010, $16.95
Samuel Barber: A Thematic Catalogue of the Complete Works
by Barbara Brody Heyman '55
Oxford University Press, 2011, $99
Heat and Light: Advice for the Next Generation of Journalists
by Mike Wallace and Beth Knobel '84
Random House, 2010, $14.00
How To Do Things with Dance: Performing Change in Postwar America
by Rebekah J. Kowal '88
Wesleyan University Press, 2010, $40
American Modern: Documentary Photography by Abbott, Evans, and Bourke-White
by Sharon Corwin, Jessica May '99, and Terri Weissman
University of California Press, 2010, $39.95
Theorising International Society: English School Methods
edited by Cornelia Navari '63
Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, $85
The Survival Kit for the Elementary School Principal
by Judith Gutherman Powers '69, Abby Barry Bergman, and Michael Pullen
Corwin Press, 2010, $43.95
French Global: A New Approach to Literary History
edited by Christie McDonald and Susan Rubin Suleiman '60
Columbia University Press, 2010, $60
James Joyce and the Revolt of Love: Marriage, Adultery, Desire
by Janine Utell '96
Palgrave Macmillan, 2010, $75
Women and The American Experience: A Concise History
by Nancy Woloch, Adjunct Professor of History
McGraw-Hill, 2011, $46
Amy Kaufman: Recent Work
paintings by Amy Kaufman '78
January 9–March 5, 2011
Traywick Contemporary, Berkeley, Calif.
If there is one word that rattles young professors, it might be this one: tenure. To attain this status, which offers both job security and prestige, a faculty member must undergo a grueling review process of skills and scholarship. At Barnard, tenure-track instructors often endure an intensely challenging stretch, as they are expected to turn out research in the manner of faculty at a large university like Columbia while frequently carrying the heavy course load typical of professors at smaller colleges like Barnard.
Those are just two aspects of the job. “In addition to teaching and scholarship, faculty must also advise students, run labs, supervise student projects and complete their service commitments on various college committees,” says Angela Haddad, who is associate provost at Barnard.
While many Barnard donors stress students’ needs, two alumnae stand out for their focus on advancing the scholarship of Barnard’s junior faculty: Janet Helman and Carole Rifkind, both graduates of the Class of ’56. The alumnae, who know each other only slightly, are affiliated with two separate funds to support faculty research. Both have generously contributed to Barnard in a variety of roles in the past.
Enhancing the research opportunities of Barnard’s faculty, of course, serves more than just the professional advancement of the recipients involved. It provides “resources and knowledge they can impart to our students,” says Haddad. And, depending on the nature of the research involved, the results can—and do—impact communities around the world.
In the years since the founding of the Richard Rifkind and Carole Lewis Rifkind ’56 Faculty Support Fund, Carole Rifkind has delighted in learning about young Barnard faculty members, who, with this support, pursue research on topics ranging from sex differentiation in the womb, to sixteenth- century Aztec ritual dance, to groundwater contamination in Bangladesh.
Both Rifkind, who has pursued various careers, and her husband, who is chair emeritus at the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research in New York City, understand the importance of start-up money in research. She also says she enjoys the exposure to “the newest wave of academic research,” and the benefit of “seeing what new scholars are pursuing in their evolving disciplines.”
Rifkind credits Barnard for her personal confidence in the face of change. She’s drawn upon this reservoir several times over the course of her life. An art history major, she switched from teacher to architecture writer after her children grew up. She is the author of several books, including A Field Guide to Contemporary American Architecture, and is active in numerous not-for-profit cultural organizations.
One day in this past decade, however, she announced to her husband, “I want to make a movie.” “In short order,” remembers Rifkind, her husband countered with, ‘I’ll make it with you.’” The couple, with no prior background in filmmaking, have since produced two documentaries: The Venetian Dilemma, in 2005, about the impact of increased tourism on the fabled city’s cultural and civic life; and Naturally Obsessed: the Making of a Scientist, about the experience of doctoral candidates in a molecular biology lab at Columbia University Medical School. Both films aired on public television. “I identify with people pursuing ideas of great interest to them,” says Rifkind. “The thrill of exploring a novel idea is something that both of us share.”
More than a half-century after she first studied nineteenth- century literature with Barry Ulanov, Janet Helman can still reel off the titles from the extensive reading list that accompanied the course, and still grows awed as she recalls the English professor whom she eventually chose as an adviser. With special expertise in Renaissance and twentieth-century literature, Ulanov was the author or editor of more than 50 books on topics ranging from jazz to Christian humanism; “a true polymath,” says Helman. Four years ago, she endowed the Professor Barry Ulanov Fund to honor her professor, and to provide resources for English department faculty.
Helman, who lives in Chicago, knows firsthand the central role that professors play at Barnard. To this day, she tackles new subject areas with a passion she credits in large part to Ulanov’s influence. A volunteer researcher for the University of Chicago, she spends her time mapping out an archaeological site where shards of Iranian pottery have been discovered. Her interest in the region dates back at least 25 years. In 1984 she was asked to chair the volunteer program of museum docents affiliated with the University of Chicago’s renowned Oriental Institute. She completed an eight-week course on the history of the Near East, but still felt she needed to know more. She agreed to take the job only if the Institute permitted her to take one course on the topic each quarter. “I really felt that when I started to work seriously at the Institute I would need to be more of scholar about this,” affirms Helman.
As for the Ulanov fund, she says, “It’s not a private endeavor. If anyone else wants to make a contribution, the fund could use more money.” After all, as Helman points out, “Students come and go, but the faculty [stays].”
- Elisia Brown
Photographs by Dorothy Hong and Joe Wigdahl