Dear Barnard Seniors, 

We are very much looking forward to celebrating your incredible accomplishments at Barnard Commencement later this month — and it is my pleasure to announce the distinguished guests who will join us for this special occasion.

We are honored that award-winning journalist Christiane Amanpour will deliver the keynote address. She is CNN’s chief international anchor of the network's award-winning, flagship global affairs program "Amanpour," which launched in 2009 and also airs on PBS in the United States. Known for her fearless reporting from conflict zones and natural disasters and her masterful interviews with world leaders, Ms. Amanpour has used her worldwide platform to raise awareness of key global issues, including women’s education and journalists’ rights. Ms. Amanpour was originally scheduled to deliver the keynote address last spring, and we are so excited that she was able to arrange her schedule to deliver words of inspiration to this year’s graduates. 

I am delighted to let you know that Barnard will also award the Medal of Distinction, the College’s highest honor, to three outstanding individuals: writer and advocate for Native representation and tribal sovereignty, Rebecca Nagle; multidisciplinary performer, choreographer, and writer Okwui Okpokwasili; and distinguished professor of physics Myriam Sarachik '54. Ms. Amanpour will also receive the Barnard Medal for her stellar work in journalism and advocacy.

Our medalists fully embody Barnard’s commitment to academic excellence and to making a difference in the world, and we are thrilled to present these exceptional women with the Barnard Medal of Distinction. And this year, we are so happy that each citation will be presented by a member of the Barnard Class of 2021.

You have already received a formal invitation to the Barnard Commencement and University Commencement, which will include a virtual crowd of faculty, staff, families, and friends. In addition to those ceremonies, we are looking forward to bringing graduates together for a special ‘backstage’ Blue Carpet pre-show at 5:30 p.m. EDT before Barnard’s Commencement. You will receive a special link to join this event closer to the date.

In the days leading up to Commencement, academic departments will hold socially distanced, in-person receptions for graduates under the Futter Field tent. We invite you to wear your cap and gown to these special events, at which you will have the opportunity to be recognized by major, take formal and fun photos, and celebrate with your classmates and faculty. You will receive more information about the academic receptions, including the link to RSVP, later today.

Please visit the Barnard Commencement website for full bios of the speaker and medalists, details on how to access the Barnard and University Commencement ceremonies, and a graduation kit, including virtual backgrounds, downloadable yard signs, and more. In addition, our Commencement team is available at to answer any questions you may have.

If you have not yet picked up your cap and gown, you may do so from the Columbia bookstore during designated pick-up hours (Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.). There is no charge for a cap and gown; however, all students must present a valid Barnard ID and appear on the list of eligible graduates. You do not need a green screen or to be in the testing program to enter the bookstore. If you cannot pick up your cap and gown from the Columbia bookstore, please email

Finally, please remember that all graduating seniors must register for Barnard Commencement through Marching Order by completing the participation form, including uploading a photo for your graduation slide by midnight EDT on Monday, April 12.

Class of 2021, we are so proud of your accomplishments and resilience, particularly in the past year, and we look forward to celebrating your achievements throughout the month.

With congratulations, 

Dean Grinage