Dear Barnard Community,

I offer a warm and hope-filled welcome to all of you as we kick off the new semester. Today I write with some familiar themes about how we grow and thrive together, even under challenging circumstances, and to share some exciting news about how Barnard continues to deepen the engagement with our city, which is so integral to our mission.

First, I want to thank and congratulate our entire community for coming together to make our Fall semester a success. Your care for one another kept us safe even as the world continues to grapple with COVID-19; your curiosity and drive propelled all of us further on our intellectual journeys. I especially want to call out our faculty and staff, who continue to find inspiration and innovation where others see obstacles. And a special thanks to those of you who continued to work through our winter break to keep our campus safe and healthy and prepare for the new semester.

As you know, we will begin this semester with two weeks of remote classes, to help us get beyond the worst of the Omicron surge and to ensure that when we do come together, we do so as safely as possible. I appreciate everyone’s willingness and growing skill at adapting to whatever comes our way. Please know that even as the pandemic and our response to it evolves, we continue to put your health — in all its facets — first.

These periods of greater distance and isolation have prompted us all to reflect on how important community is to our work and to our happiness. That is true on our campus, and it extends far beyond our gates. You have heard me say on many occasions, beginning with my inauguration, that Barnard is not just in New York, it is of New York. We learn and benefit from all this great city has to offer, and our contributions help make it greater.

The work of our new Office of Community Engagement and Inclusion (CEI), led by founding Executive Director Cammie Jones, is a prime example. We’ve seen the power of Cammie’s work and CEI’s bridge-building in programs such as STEAM in the City, Powered by Barnard — an important partnership between College faculty and local grade-school teachers to devise new ways to teach and engage K-8 students in science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math.

We have also seen these connections to the city through Andrea Stagg, our Director of Government Relations, who helps coordinate Barnard’s COVID response with city and state officials; our Office of Campus Sustainability and Climate Action, which partners with city parks and organizations across the city to reduce Barnard’s ecological footprint; Beyond Barnard and its ability to connect students to internships and jobs city-wide; through faculty involved in Barnard Engages: New York and Africana Studies’ Harlem Semester; and more. 

In the spirit of yielding even more opportunities for our faculty, staff, and students to participate in the social, political, intellectual, and cultural life of our city, I am very pleased to announce the return of a distinguished alumna, Emma Wolfe ’01, to help coordinate our work with the greater New York City community. Emma recently completed eight years at the heart of city government, concluding as deputy mayor and chief of staff to Mayor Bill de Blasio. This month, she joins us as Senior Advisor to the President, focusing on external relations and leadership growth. 

With her extraordinary relationships and understanding of both New York and Barnard, Emma will co-oversee (along with the new Vice President for DEI, once hired) Cammie Jones and the Office of Community Engagement and Inclusion. Emma will also oversee the Athena Center for Leadership, led by fellow alumna Umbreen Bhatti ’00, who has so successfully reimagined the Center as a co-curricular hub for student leadership and innovation since her return to campus in 2019. Finally, Emma will work closely with Human Resources to help coordinate and further elevate Barnard’s leadership development efforts for its staff. 

Because her portfolio touches so many parts of the College, Emma will be spending much of the next few months meeting with many of you, getting to know you, and listening to your ideas on how Barnard can be a more effective and essential part of New York City. Barnard has made important strides in recent years in this crucial part of our mission. The prospect of watching this part of the Barnard experience become more deeply rooted in our daily lives, across the College, is one of the many reasons I enter this new semester and new year with such inspiration.

I wish you all the best in your own journey this semester and look forward to increasing opportunities to see you and share in all that Barnard has to offer.


Sian Leah Beilock