One of the many advantages that students value about their Barnard experience is the opportunity to compete in NCAA Division I Athletics through the Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium. Barnard is the only college for women — and one of only a few liberal arts colleges in the country — to offer Division I athletics.

Our interview with Rebekah Mills ’19 is the newest installment in an ongoing scholar-athlete series. Rebekah hails from Delaware and is a member of both the Cross-Country and Track & Field teams. She is majoring in history and political science.

How has being an athlete informed your college experience?

Rebekah Mills '19
Running in college requires a lot of planning, time-management, and effort. But after many years of figuring out how to combine running with my other interests, being busy now seems normal. Running in college has taught me perseverance and determination, skills that I can carry into the future. Running track and cross country, especially, which involves running many miles around a tiny circle, means that you have to be both mentally and physically strong. It is amazing to be part of a group of women who are constantly showing their strength.

How did you first become interested in running?

I had only competed in one race prior to joining my middle school team; I ran in a jean skirt and promptly lost my shoe halfway through the one-lap race! After that, no one had high hopes for my future running career, but I surprised everyone, including myself, when I quickly improved. Now I have been running competitively over half my life, and it is hard to remember a time when I was not running.

For the past seven years, I’ve been involved with BrainStrong 5K, a run/walk that I organize and direct with the Brain Injury Association of Delaware. We have distributed almost $60,000 in grants to raise awareness of the impact of concussions in youth sports. Our grants go to research, helmets and padding, concussion training days, and many more great causes.

When you're not competing or studying, what do you like to do?

Living in New York City, I love going to see shows and visiting museums. Also, living in New York means that there are always buses and trains and planes to travel anywhere that you could imagine. During the summers and on school breaks, I enjoy running in many new places. I have had to learn to try to combine my love of travelling with running, and although it does not always work out exactly as planned, running in a new place can be very rewarding. You can see so much more than the typical tourist experience. Some of my most beautiful and challenging runs have been while traveling, like when I decided to run snowy ski slopes in Norway and across, and up, a volcano in the Galapagos.

Why did you choose to study history and political science?

Both majors are important in understanding the world. I love learning about history. It is fascinating to see the way life has changed throughout the millennium, and studying history at Barnard often challenges common, prior assumptions of the past while also serving as a reminder of the different ways society must challenge historical norms that have been limiting and exclusionary. Studying political science demonstrates that anything can become a political issue. History and political science are complementary majors because studying history gives the context and background for why and how political decisions are made — while studying political science reveals the motivation behind the decisions of leaders throughout history.

What are your plans after graduation?

I am a part of the SIPA 4+1 program, so next year I will finish my MIA (Master of International Affairs), and then I hope to work in international historic conservation. At SIPA, I am studying international security policy and UN studies. It is awesome that being at Barnard has allowed me to continue expanding my educational opportunities while giving me the ability to keep competing for my final year of undergraduate studies and the first year of my master’s program.