At Barnard, [former] professor Amy Trompetter told me every artist is jumping off a cliff with her eyes closed and hands tied — and that was before the pandemic! So I’m jumping in new directions.
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced large-scale shutdowns across the country back in March, college life as many knew it was disrupted. These changes included virtual graduations, the loss of the residential experience, and widespread adoption of videoconferencing (which required mastery of Zoom etiquette). Amid all these shifts, many students who counted on summer internships found themselves with idle hands as in-person opportunities were canceled and budget cuts forced companies to downsize.
For many Barnard students, access to internships in New York City is an integral part of the college experience. To fill in this new gap, the Beyond Barnard office worked diligently to create opportunities for students where old ones were lost, such as through their Summer Colloquium, where participants had access to more than 80 programs and events to help develop skills and create meaningful connections this summer.
Still, other students and alumnae looked beyond the College’s offerings for how they could adapt their careers to an online world. Below, read about five Barnard community members who found innovative ways to grow their career experiences from home.
Bella Bromberg ’23
In quarantine, the Barnard sophomore and musician founded a tutoring business as a passion project.
“I started Summus Tutors this summer as a way to intellectually stimulate my brain when quarantine left me feeling restless. I did not intend to start a business. I simply wanted to tutor a few students through editing college essays and helping with papers. Helping my two high school-age sisters with their writing assignments this past spring was something I found super rewarding; I wanted to share that process with other students.
“It was not until a few weeks later that I started thinking bigger. I reached out to some of my Barnard and Columbia friends, and a lot of them were on board, and we grew from there, recruiting tutors from colleges all across the country!
“Working alongside my CFO, Brock Wilson, who currently attends Harvard, has also been a really rewarding experience, and we are working constantly to make this endeavor as successful and meaningful as possible.”
Kira Fox ’23
Working with yoga teacher and physical therapist Trella Allen, who received her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in 2020, Fox helped create a stretch routine for preventing computer strain in individuals working or learning from home.
“I am a yoga instructor, and I teach and practice yoga regularly. Trella is a yoga instructor and has been teaching me for over five years. Trella is also a physical therapist and works with patients to treat various injuries. We both experience the impacts that virtual schooling has on our bodies, and we wanted to provide an easy and short video for students like me to use. We created a video of stretches that target specific muscles that get tight from sitting for long periods of time. Yoga has been a big part of my life and is crucial for mental and physical health, so I wanted to share its benefits with others through my Instagram page.”
Gloria Makino ’09
Facing the unprecedented shutdown of Broadway until at least May 2021, actress Makino took to YouTube with her new musical based on Thomas Hardy’s novel The Return of the Native.
“My industry, theatre, is completely shut down. As a playwright and singing actress who’s performed professionally since childhood, I’ve been lost, not only longing for work but also aching for this beautiful art form to which I’ve devoted my life. At Barnard, [former] professor Amy Trompetter told me every artist is jumping off a cliff with her eyes closed and hands tied — and that was before the pandemic! So I’m jumping in new directions. And I’m trying a new venue: I’m posting my entire musical Unturning, performed by Broadway and TV actors, to YouTube because I don’t know when theatre will return or how it will change. But I know right now, we have to keep the arts alive. Keep creating, keep listening, keep hoping, and with any luck the world will follow.”
Alicia Serrani ’13 and Isabella Serrani ’16
The Barnard sisters started designing matching masks and tote bags to meet the new needs of the pandemic era.
“It’s hard to think back to the time before COVID and before starting Masks&Totes, but when it hit, we were on very different career paths. I [Alicia] was in law school, and Isabella was working at Elite Model World. When the CDC announced that we should all wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID, we decided to collaborate on a mask and tote combo that was high quality, affordable, and stylish. We hoped that by making products that people could be excited about, that were also affordable, they would be more likely to wear them and stay safe.
“The bright spot throughout quarantine has been collaborating together. We’ve always been best friends — we even went to Barnard together! — but the pandemic has created a new channel for our creativity and teamwork. We hope to continue working together and developing a new fashion line that will allow us to expand on our desire to make good products honestly.”