Dear Barnard Community,

Over these past 18 months, two fundamental issues have stood out. First, with the quick and effective development of COVID-19 vaccines, we have seen in real time the profound power of scientific discovery to safeguard and improve human life. Second, we have seen glaring disparities in who participates in science and who benefits from its advances. 

Both of those realities go to the heart of Barnard’s mission. Our teaching and learning, our research and scholarship, have produced generations of outstanding scientists and important scientific achievements. Yet we know there is an opportunity and an obligation to do still more in opening science to young people — and especially young women — who for so long were discouraged and often steered away from scientific pursuits. We know that for any community or organization, achieving full intellectual potential requires it to engage and embrace the widest possible variety of ideas, perspectives, and experiences. At Barnard, we must work harder to ensure equity in opportunity and success for all in their academic pursuits. 

That’s why — driven by our focus on academic excellence and our belief that diversity of thought and lived experience produce greater knowledge, discoveries, and insights — we are launching Barnard’s Year of Science (BYOS), a yearlong initiative designed to uplift and showcase the work our faculty, students, and alums do in contributing to the most pressing challenges and scientific opportunities of our time. Academic departments and centers from across the College will hold lectures, exhibits, activities, and more that focus on five key questions:

  1. What is our planet’s destiny? 
  2. How can human beings thrive? 
  3. How far can we go? 
  4. How do we change the faces of STEM? 
  5. How do we communicate science?

The Barnard Year of Science is also a time to inspire critical financial support for STEM initiatives. Several months ago, we initiated a silent phase of this campaign with a commitment of $250 million for critical renovations to Altschul Hall, our science building hub, and science programming across the campus. I am pleased to report that we are currently 85% to our goal and hope to reach it this academic year.

Because sciences are an integral part of the liberal arts — all of our students acquire scientific skills that enable them to succeed whether they ultimately pursue a career in the arts, humanities, social sciences, sciences, or some combination of these — we also see Barnard’s Year of Science as a way to showcase and uplift the connection between science and related disciplines. The recently installed “Weecha” sculpture, which is on loan to Barnard for the year via a collaboration with Professor Joan Snitzer, director of the visual arts program in the Department of Art History, is an example of this. The sculpture, inspired by retired Bryn Mawr professor Maria Luisa “Weecha” Crawford, who left an amazing legacy in the fields of geology and petrology, represents the important role of women in STEM.

We have made significant strides in the growth of our STEM programs in recent years: 

  • Our Summer Research Institute (SRI) has become one of our signature programs, with more than 240 students in our latest summer cohort; 84% of recent SRI participants are pursuing an advanced degree or are working in a STEM field.
  • 35% of our recent graduating class were STEM majors, and our two newest programs — Neuroscience and Behavior, and Computer Science (CS) — are already among our top 10 most popular majors. 
  • One third of our Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students are STEM majors.
  • 10% of each Barnard graduating class enroll in medical school each year.

I am excited about this coming year — Barnard has never done anything quite like this — and I hope you will join in by planning programs, attending events and lectures, and celebrating everything STEM at Barnard throughout the year. To learn more and to access an amazing array of stories and videos celebrating our faculty, staff, students, and alums, please visit the Barnard Year of Science website.


Sian Leah Beilock, President