Breaking Norms

Barnard faculty and students are proving that the old way isn’t always the best way

By Amanda Loudin, with illustrations by Jeff Hinchee

Barnard campus 3D illustration with a computer mother board as grass

Picture an architecture seminar that asks students to consider the “invisible obstacles” that impact learning. A new, robust way of melding computer science and the liberal arts. A series of lectures, field trips, and panel discussions around the theme of protest. All are unexpected and untraditional, and Barnard students are making the most of these unique opportunities. The old ways may be good, but new ways may be even better.

After more than 130 years of providing a stellar liberal arts education, Barnard’s faculty and staff could easily rest on their laurels. But instead, the College perpetually innovates, preparing students for the future. Nowhere is that more apparent than in a recent crop of classes, seminars, and programs. Using multidisciplinary approaches, these new offerings combine cross-sectional methods, research, and practices to open students’ eyes to all that’s possible. Innovation comes in all shapes and sizes. As a team, the Barnard staff, faculty, and students are pushing the needle in myriad ways, leading to breakthroughs that extend well beyond the campus.


Illustration of an open laptop showing a bar graph and a woman pointing at it with an arrow

Computing for Critical Thinking

“Traditional thought would suggest that liberal arts students might not have much interest in computer science. But today’s learning environment is anything but traditional, and Barnard’s Computing Fellows program turns that line of thinking upside down....”


Illustration of 4 women carrying a gigantic key toward a padlock

Students Helping Students

“A deliberate ‘rebranding’ of a program or department is always a big undertaking, but sometimes it’s warranted. That was the case in 2019, when the Office of Disabilities Services at Barnard became the Center for Accessibility Resources and Disability Services (CARDS), says current director Rebecca Sime Nagasawa....”


3D illustrtion of 2 empty chairs outside in nature

When Design Informs Well-Being

“When you picture a classroom, you probably think of a series of desks and chairs, or a big table with chairs around it. While this design has long worked for most students, for some it just doesn’t. Sitting still for a long lecture or seminar can be nearly impossible for neurodivergent students, who might need to walk around, or find a corner to take a break....”


3D illustration of a white globe emitting many colored protest signs and 3 women holding up signs

SPARKing Conversations on Protest

“The murder of George Floyd. The Chinese government’s zero-COVID lockdown policy. The Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade. The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran’s ‘moral police.’ All have ignited widespread protest, and behind every protest is the desire to drive change....”


3D illustration of toddlers playing on a slide and ball pit

Toddlers, Caregivers, and Emotional Well-Being

“If you’ve ever attempted to get a group of toddlers to sit down, sit still, and stay interested in something for longer than 10 minutes, you know it’s a difficult task. Add in the layer of trying to understand this age group’s relationship with parents and how that impacts their emotional development, and you can appreciate the latest research challenge the Barnard Toddler Center is undertaking....”


3D illustration of a giant megaphone with bold orange sounds coming out

Five Years Bolder

“Learning doesn’t stop after you’re no longer a student. For the past five years, Barnard students and faculty have engaged in a different kind of learning than the traditional route of continuing education. At the behest of students, in 2018, students and faculty collaborated to launch the annual Barnard Bold Conference....”

Latest IssueWinter 2024

Award-winning music producer Ebonie Smith ’07, museum curators on objects of interest, a dance course brings students to the stage, and more!