On March 31, community members attended the fifth installment of the Barnard Bold Conference. Notably, the conference took place on Transgender Day of Visibility to support the College’s commitment to inclusion for transgender students and members of the community.
The Bold Conference facilitates conversations between Barnard staff, faculty, and students and is designed to strengthen teaching and learning by focusing on pedagogical themes and topics that are timely and important to the college community. The conference is hosted annually by staff from the Center for Engaged Pedagogy (CEP) and the Student Advisory Committee, led this year by CEP graduate assistant Annabelle Tseng GSAS ’25 and CEP student intern Catherine Parkin ’23.
Shreya Sunderram ’19, who launched the conference in 2018, sat in conversation with Thea Abu El-Haj, professor of education and director of the Education Program, and María Rivera Maulucci, Barnard’s Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Education. Together, they explored their understanding of what inclusive pedagogy means, reflected on the history of Bold, and discussed how to go forward with creating inclusive classrooms in both K-12 and higher education spaces.
“The fifth anniversary of the Barnard Bold Conference is a moment of reflection and celebration,” said Melissa Wright, the interim executive director of the CEP. “We reflect on the legacy of Bold as a student-led conference and grassroots effort to bring faculty, students, and staff together to discuss emergent and challenging topics, and we celebrate our ongoing commitment to courageous conversations about teaching and learning.”
Among the packed day of sessions was the panel “Creating Trans and Nonbinary Inclusive Classrooms,” hosted by Dylan Kapit ’16 (they/them), the inaugural outreach coordinator for LGBTQ+@Barnard. Dylan opened the discussion by highlighting their own pedagogical experience as a third-year Ph.D. student in special education and concluded by emphasizing the importance of the event.
“Given the rapid increase in the number of Gen Z who are identifying as trans and nonbinary, it is important to make sure that our classroom practices and other institutional policies and practices meet the needs of this growing population at Barnard,” said Dylan. “While many faculty, staff, and administrators are learning about best practices from a variety of spaces on campus, including attending workshops led by me, it is not often that people at Barnard with institutional power, including the staff and faculty who attend the conference, have the chance to hear directly from our trans and nonbinary students about their experiences. Therefore, it is immensely important to elevate student voices in a forum like this one.”
Following a video featuring the stories of trans youth in the United States and the impact of increased legislative attacks on the LGBTQ+ community, Dylan shared an ACLU graphic that tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation across the country.
Panelists Hirsch ’24 (who goes by one name) and Noelle Hunter CC ’22 spoke about their experiences as current and recent undergraduates, stating that their classroom experience was constantly evolving. Hirsch, an economics and urban studies major, explained that he was navigating “things [in the classroom that] I have no guidebook for” as he moved through his college career.
Hirsch and Hunter discussed the need for signaling openness and support in the classroom by respecting the constant evolution of student identities, protecting student privacy, and organically incorporating transgender people into the curriculum.
“I think mak[ing] a trans-inclusive classroom environment overlaps with what makes a classroom environment inclusive for a lot of other people,” said Hirsch. “[It deals with] terms of signaling openness and positionality [in a way] that people can disclose to you what they need to disclose — without fearing some level of discomfort or retribution.”
During the audience Q&A, students and faculty discussed trans inclusivity in STEM classrooms and Barnard’s support for students during winter and summer breaks. At the close of the panel, Dylan announced that the College would follow the example of other colleges and universities and celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride in April (rather than June, the usual Pride Month). Barnard will continue to host on-campus film screenings, workshops, and more, along with the resources around gender, identity, and sexuality that are available to students year-round.
Resources around gender, identity, and sexuality available to students can be found here.