Lili Brown headshot

Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced campuses across the country to temporarily shut their doors in March 2020, many Barnard staffers have found creative ways to keep students engaged as they skillfully switched to a socially distanced work environment. On July 14, Admissions counselor Lili Brown ’18 offered a glimpse into a day in the life of a Barnard staffer, at a time when Barnard’s Summer Open House event for prospective students saw a milestone of nearly 1,200 registrants for the College’s week of 10 open house sessions.

In her role in the Admissions office, Brown, who served as a Barnard Student Admissions Representative (BSAR) while earning her degree in history from Barnard and a degree in modern Jewish studies through the College’s dual-degree program with the Jewish Theological Seminary, reads applications and plans events for prospective and admitted students. The pivot to a remote format has allowed Brown and her colleagues to expand programming to offer a broader view of Barnard’s community and opportunities.

“Having an entire day of programming to talk about our identity as a historically women’s college means that we don’t have to exclusively discuss why going to a women’s college is important when paired with other things,” she said. “We can talk about our identity as a women’s college as an important, valued aspect of the experiences on its own — it’s not supplemental. As an alum, the biggest skill that I took away from Barnard was self-advocacy. Dedicating an entire student panel to exemplifying and explaining what that has looked like in their Barnard experience will provide the best argument for why someone should look at a women’s college.” 

Here, Brown shares her daily routine as she juggled multiple Zoom panels and several baking and cooking projects.

Lili Brown view from morning walk.jpg

8 a.m.: My Tuesday begins by getting up and going for a walk before the start of the workday. I’ve been sheltering with my parents in my hometown of Atlanta, and they neighbor a great park with trails and a lake that I like to take advantage of while I’m here. I typically go for a walk after the workday ends, but because I have recruitment events until 6 p.m. today, I figure it’s better to get this walk in earlier. Along the trail, I catch up on the Code Switch episode I missed earlier in the month.

8:45 a.m.: Time to wash up and prepare for the day! I’ve tried to retain as much of my routine as possible after leaving my apartment in Brooklyn for Atlanta, and that includes my commitment to eating the same thing for breakfast everyday. My breakfast of choice is courtesy of co-worker Jade Levine ’19. In February, Jade hosted a birthday brunch at her apartment featuring these knockout breakfast buns that her host family made when she studied abroad in Copenhagen during her junior year at Barnard. My girlfriend and I have made them every week since, and this week is no exception! We add our own touch to the recipe, which is topping them with Everything But the Bagel Seasoning from Trader Joe’s. 

Lili Brown breakfast buns!.jpg

9 a.m.: The workday begins. While the breakfast buns are in the oven, I respond to emails from prospective students and take stock of tasks I need to get done today. 

10 a.m.: With breakfast finished and my inbox leveled out, I check in with my panelists for this evening’s Summer Open House programming, which will focus on my favorite aspect of Barnard — our identity as a women’s college. I double-check that the Zoom links are sent to the right panelists and test the reminder emails that registrants will receive shortly. All looks good, so let’s clear these emails to send! 

12 p.m.: I generate an attendee report from Zoom for last night’s events to make sure that the attendance we captured matches who Zoom says was there. I notice that we didn’t capture everyone, so I enlist my girlfriend (who is sheltering in Atlanta with my family and me) to assist me in creating a formula in Excel that will quickly identify the gaps. Anna is also Class of 2018 and developed and taught many workshops to our peers as an Empirical Reasoning Center (ERC) Fellow on how to best utilize Excel to perform data analysis. There are many times during the workday when I benefit from a mini, in-house workshop — she is a data literacy queen, and I love learning from her! 

Lili Brown mahjongg.jpg
Anna Carlson '18 is an Excel expert and mah-jongg winner


1:30 p.m.: Time for lunch! You might notice a theme here, but on the menu is a miso vegetable brown rice stir-fry kit from Trader Joe’s. It is so delicious that I forget to take a picture of us eating it before it is gone. 

2:30 p.m.: Lunch break is over, and it’s time to take care of any last outstanding administrative tasks before I channel my energy into this evening’s events for the rest of the day. 

3:45 p.m.: Our first session for Summer Open House today begins in 30 minutes, so I change into my Zoom shirt and set up my desk for the next two-and-a-half hours of event management. My events setup almost always involves two monitors so that when I share my screen, I can still keep track of what’s happening in the Zoom call itself. With 200-plus expected attendees per event, today is no different.

Bold Shades panel
Bold Shades panel

4 p.m.: I start our first webinar of the day, “The Bold Shades of the Barnard Woman,” from the Admissions Zoom account. The panelists and I meet for a few minutes before showtime at 4:15 p.m. to check sound, go over any remaining questions, and troubleshoot how to best answer questions as they’re submitted through the Zoom Q&A feature. The webinar is about how Barnard students hold many identities and how Barnard makes space for all of these identities to exist together; it’s a great discussion on how identity-based conversation, learning, and growth is integral to the Barnard experience on all levels — for students, faculty, and administrators alike. 

Admissions student panel 2020

5 p.m.: Our first panel has wrapped up, and I immediately move on to our next event, which gives current students and recent grads the opportunity to voice how they’ve applied the self-advocacy skills they learned in our women’s college environment to other spaces in their lives. I catch up with the wonderful student workers who are joining me for this panel during our check-in before showtime at 5:15 p.m. As the moderator of this panel, my colleague Sarah Yoon ’17 monitors the Q&A and, in a chat between us on Zoom, selects questions that would be good additions for our panel. The questions from attendees were poignant, and our student panelists were, obviously, fabulous and eloquent. I am so thankful that during this virtual time I can still collaborate with students and stay in touch with what prospective students want to know from them.

Lili Brown dinner.jpg

6 p.m.: The programs for the day are over, and my monitors are turned off! I change out of my Zoom shirt and catch up with Anna and my parents while making dinner for all four of us. 

7 p.m.: Anna and I have whipped up a favorite recipe of ours that my parents haven’t had before: a pasta recipe with broiled chickpeas and broccoli in a ricotta-lemon sauce. It is delicious, and my parents approve! 

8:30 p.m.: The Browns are a games family, and we’ve been spending our nights playing mah-jongg, which the bubbes and great-aunts before us also played religiously. My family uses my great-grandma’s tile set when we play (Anna and I naturally have our own), and Anna wins with a beautiful hand during our second game. 

10 p.m.: By this point, everyone has won a round of mah-jongg except for my dad, but we call it a night. I wind down every night by keeping my German Duolingo streak alive and reading a few pages of something; I’m currently reading The Mothers by Brit Bennett. I am going to sleep feeling positive about today’s events and looking forward to what the rest of Summer Open House brings!

Lili Brown game