Dear Barnard Seniors,

We are excited to celebrate the academic success and accomplishments of Barnard’s graduating Class of 2023 together, in person with family, friends, and guests, in just over two months. Our seniors arrive at this moment with even more grace, strength, wisdom, and tenacity than when we first met them. We could not be more proud of this class, which has overcome unimaginable challenges while pursuing their academic and personal goals.

It is our pleasure to announce that Lena Waithe, Emmy Award-winning writer, creator, producer, actor, and founder of the media and production company Hillman Grad, will deliver the keynote address at Barnard’s 131st Commencement on May 17 at Radio City Music Hall. She will also receive a Barnard Medal of Distinction.

As an actor, writer and producer, Waithe expertly taps into emerging societal trends by speaking to myriad experiences from her unique perspective while challenging audiences to think outside of conventional norms. Through her production company, Waithe and her team fight against the status quo by giving marginalized storytellers the opportunity to access the industry and tell their stories. Acclaimed credits include Netflix’s Master of None and Beauty, Showtime’s The Chi, BET’s Twenties, Universal’s Queen & Slim, and Sundance award-winner The Forty-Year-Old Version. We invite you to join us for a screening of the film Queen & Slim, to be hosted by Barnard’s Sloate Media Center on Thursday, April 20, followed by a talk-back with media professionals about mentorship and the role of mentorship in their careers, in particular how mentorship can help women, nonbinary people, and people of color achieve success. More details about the event can be found here

Waithe’s upcoming projects include Focus Features and A.V. Rockwell’s A Thousand and One, which received the Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival Awards and is set for a March 31, 2023, theatrical release; Kokomo City, which received the NEXT Audience Award and NEXT Innovator Award at Sundance 2023 and has since been acquired by Magnolia Pictures; Disney+’s Chang Can Dunk, which will premiere this year; and Being Mary Tyler Moore, which is set for a world premiere at next month’s SXSW.

Joining Ms. Waithe as a recipient of the Barnard Medal of Distinction will be three other women whose passion, intellect, and commitment to diversity, humanitarian crises, and social issues are inspiring examples for our graduates. The medalists include Lynsey Addario, an American photojournalist who has been covering conflict, humanitarian crises, and women’s issues around the Middle East and Africa; Cuban native María Magdalena Campos-Pons, a diverse media artist based in Nashville who relies on her polyglot heritage to profoundly influence her work in photography, performance, painting, sculpture, film, and video; and Loretta J. Ross, a 2022 MacArthur Fellowship recipient for her work as an advocate of reproductive justice and human rights and a professor at Smith College in the Program for the Study of Women and Gender.

We are grateful to the Medalist Committee for its help in selecting our honorees, as well as to those who shared their input regarding the selection of our Commencement speaker. Full bios of the medalists can be found on the College’s website.

Barnard’s 131st Commencement will take place on Wednesday, May 17, 2023, at 4 p.m., at Radio City Music Hall. The Columbia University Commencement ceremony will take place at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 17, on Columbia’s campus. More details and updates about both ceremonies will be posted on the Commencement website over the next several weeks.

We wish everyone a rewarding and productive conclusion to the Spring semester and look forward to celebrating on May 17.


Sian Leah Beilock


Leslie Grinage

VP for Campus Life and Student Experience

Dean of the College