Six Students Reveal What They are Studying—and Why

Barnard has stood out for more than 125 years as a top liberal arts college for a myriad of reasons; the wide-ranging academic programs offered is a major one. For many students, the opportunity to study with leading scholars in their field, combined with the research and resource opportunities of New York City, means unparalleled opportunity to explore and pursue their interests. For the majority of students, the spring of sophomore year signals a time to declare a major (or majors!) from more than 50 major areas of study. And although the top five most popular majors are art history, economics, English, political science, and psychology, students can also design their own.

As a cutting-edge learning institution, Barnard also houses academic centers—open to students from any academic discipline—which include the Athena Center for Leadership to inspire more women leaders around the world; the Barnard Center for Research on Women, which promotes women’s and social justice issues; the Center for Toddler Development; and the Center for Translation Studies. With the majority of students destined to change their major at least once, a strong academic foundation and a place that understands one’s individual needs is important. For the six students below, their reasons for declaring their respective majors are as diverse as the disciplines offered on campus.

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I am double majoring in English and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. At first, I didn't see them as majors that get jobs after graduation so I researched these fields and was surprised by the breadth of opportunities available. Studying these subjects has made me more self-aware and critical and have given me the tools needed to communicate my ideas to others.
Mia Ciallella ’19
Barnard is one of few colleges that offer Human Rights as a major. I added Political Science after taking American and international politics classes. My courses expanded my research and data analysis capabilities. I've also taken classes with a human rights lawyer and a law professor and interacted with other leaders in the field working on issues here in New York City.
Ali Fraerman ’19
I’m fascinated by human physiology and cellular processes but chose English, with a pre-medical track, because I love creative writing. Literature exposes me to different cultures, communities, and politics, all of which will help me to communicate effectively and to be a more compassionate and aware doctor.
Yudi Liu ’19

Building Foundations

Launched in time for students who entered during the Fall 2016 year (Class of 2020), Foundations is a new curriculum that adds another layer of learning to the College's current course of study. One of the first programs of its kind for a liberal arts college like Barnard, the program requires technology and digital learning, in addition to thinking about historical perspectives and social difference on a global and local scale.

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I decided to major in Music at Barnard. Whether or not you're involved with the Manhattan School of Music or Juilliard programs, Barnard offers the rigorous one-on-one music training found at a conservatory with the freedom to pursue other interests. And because we’re in New York City, I can go right from a class discussion in opera to hearing an aria at the Met Opera.
Amanda Merritt ’20
I chose Astrophysics because I enjoy researching particle and nuclear astrophysics and applying physics to huge structures in the universe. Plus, I could use Columbia as a research university while attending small classes at Barnard. I believe the bonds I have developed with other female physics majors will allow me to approach this male-dominated field with confidence.
Hannah Seymour ’17
Environmental activism is my passion so I chose Environmental Policy. I transferred from UC Santa Barbara; the environmental majors were either too science-based or too broad for me, but Barnard's fit: the chair of the Department of Environmental Science became my advisor and my environmental measurements class collected data from the Hudson River on the first day!
Madeleine MacGillivary Wallace ’18

Learn more about other academic opportunities offered at Barnard.