The following emails were sent to Barnard students and Barnard faculty & staff on February 5, 2020:


 

Dear Barnard students,

The world is full of vexing challenges. A warming planet, hunger, mis- and disinformation, all of the -isms that keep people from reaching their full potential, just to name a few. These challenges require creative solutions, but it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. What can we do? Where do we even start? 

In March 2018, the Athena Center began the process of planning for its future. After nearly two years of listening and learning from Barnard students, faculty, staff, and alumnae, today I’m excited to share that in our next chapter, Athena is expanding from a place focused on nurturing individuals to one that emphasizes collaboration and the power of collective action. We’re looking at leadership as, at its core, problem-solving — and redefining our role to provide Barnard students a wide range of ways to practice doing that, all experience-based and available to students from the day they set foot on our campus.

Athena will be home to Barnard students who see opportunities in challenges and seize them to build a better world — because these are the leaders we need now. 

Here, you can learn to lead by doing. You’ll build on the knowledge and experiences you gain in the classroom with Barnard’s world-class faculty, and you’ll work in meaningful collaborations, because few problems worth solving are solved by a single person. 

You’ll build resilience, because few problems worth solving are solved in a single try. 

And you’ll tap into your creativity, because few problems worth solving are solved through a single approach. 

We welcome scientists, artists, activists, entrepreneurs, policy wonks, and everyone in between. 

In the new Athena,

  • You can show up with a specific project, defined problem to solve, or creative solution to pursue. We’ll help you figure out how best to tackle your idea

  • You can participate in an Athena Challenge — a project offered by us and a partner, supported by our extraordinary faculty and community. This semester, students will take on hunger, climate change, and our diminishing privacy online, alongside A Place At The Table (co-founded by Tom Colicchio of Top Chef fame), Barnard Sustainability, and the New York Public Library, respectively. Space in these challenges is limited, so apply now.

    As we develop ideas for a better world, together, we’ll ask, “Better for whom? Who might be helped and who might be harmed by these ideas, and what can we do to prevent or mitigate any harm?” Athena will help you put your ideas for impact into practice responsibly, and we’ll help you ensure that you develop these ideas in healthy, balanced ways. 

Many of our existing programs will continue or be enhanced. You can explore public service through our fellowships and other funded opportunities, go on a Feminist Field Trip, or learn how to code with Athena Digital Design. You can build problem-solving skills — what we view as the most important skills for leadership — through our Skill Builders (formerly known as Leadership Labs). This spring, you can learn how to make an ask that ends in a yes, and how to nurture yourself while nurturing your ideas. And, as always, you can work on developing financial fluency

We’re looking forward to engaging with you early and often throughout your time here. Every one of these opportunities is open to all Barnard students — as is our space for collaboration. 

What we’re phasing out is the Scholars Program, though currently enrolled Scholars can complete the Scholars Program. It’s clear that this program has served many of you well — but it’s just as clear that there are many more of you it isn’t serving. We’re excited to be welcoming all students, in newly flexible ways, going forward. To sign up for our offerings, please visit our website. We have answers to your FAQs here

These are big, ambitious plans, and we can’t pull them off and build a vibrant community without you. This afternoon, and the next two Wednesdays this month, please stop by our open house from 4 to 6 p.m. on the 4th floor of Milstein. You can chat with our staff as well as learn more about our Student Advisory Board, which is looking for new members. In the coming weeks, I’ll be hosting small, intimate conversations over dinner. Or if you prefer one-on-one conversation, send me an email. I’d love to hear from you. 

With excitement,

Umbreen Bhatti
Director, Athena Center

 

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Dear Barnard faculty and staff,

In March 2018, Athena began the process of planning for its future. This work included dozens of meetings with faculty, staff, students and alumnae, consultation with Athena’s faculty advisory committee, and conversations with department chairs and staff leaders. This campus input has been essential in shaping our plans, and I’m grateful for the time so many of you took to share your ideas.

After nearly two years of listening and learning from the Barnard community, today I’m excited to share our next chapter. Athena is expanding from a place focused on nurturing individuals to one that emphasizes collaboration and the power of collective action to solve problems that matter: a warming planet, hunger, mis- and disinformation, all of the -isms that keep people from reaching their full potential, just to name a few. The Center will be home to Barnard students who see opportunities in such vexing challenges and seize them to build a better world — because these are the leaders we need now. 

Here, students can learn to lead by doing, building on the knowledge and experiences they gain in the classroom with Barnard’s world-class faculty. Students will work in meaningful collaborations, because few problems worth solving are solved by a single person. And because few problems worth solving are solved in a single try or with a single approach, students will build resilience and flex their creative muscles. As they develop ideas for a better world, together, we’ll ask, “Better for whom? Who might be helped and who might be harmed by these ideas, and what can we do to prevent or mitigate any harm?” Athena will help students put their ideas for impact into practice responsibly, and we’ll help them ensure that they develop these ideas in healthy, balanced ways. 

In the new Athena,

  • Students can show up with a specific project, defined problem to solve, or creative solution to pursue. We’ll help them figure out how best to tackle their ideas

  • Students can participate in an Athena Challenge. In the next few months, students can take on hunger, climate change, and our diminishing privacy online, alongside A Place At The Table (co-founded by Tom Colicchio of Top Chef fame), Barnard Sustainability, and the New York Public Library. In each of these challenges, we’ve partnered with faculty and staff to ensure our students start with, and remain grounded in, the context they need as they develop their ideas. 

Many of our existing programs will continue or be enhanced. Students can explore public service through our fellowships and other funded opportunities, go on a Feminist Field Trip, or learn how to code with Athena Digital Design. Students can build problem-solving skills — what we view as the most important skills for leadership — through our Skill Builders (formerly known as Leadership Labs). This spring, students can learn how to make an ask that ends in a yes, and how to nurture themselves while nurturing their ideas. And, as always, students can work on developing financial fluency. We’re looking forward to engaging Barnard students early and often throughout their time here. Every one of these opportunities is open to all Barnard students — as is our space for collaboration with you. 

What we’re phasing out is the Scholars Program, though previously enrolled Scholars who complete the Scholars Program requirements will graduate with the Athena Scholar designation on their transcript. It’s clear that this program has served many students well, but it’s just as clear that there are many more students it isn’t serving. We’re excited to be welcoming all students, in newly flexible ways, going forward. For more information, please visit our website or review our FAQs

We need your continued feedback and ideas to realize this vision. These are big, ambitious plans, and we can’t pull them off or build this community without you. If you know students who would benefit from these opportunities, please send them our way. And if you have thoughts about how we might work together, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’d love to hear from you. 

With excitement,

Umbreen Bhatti
Director, Athena Center

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