Alumnae and past projects

Past Scholars and their Research

Over 300 Barnard alumnae are proud to be counted among past Centennial Scholars. Each of these Scholars had a unique and specialized research experience with faculty, experiences that set the stage for their academic and other pursuits. Past Scholars have pursued diverse projects such as conducting environmental studies in Kenya, research on sustainable building and community development in Buffalo, producing a short animated film set in Kuala Lumpur, and composing and staging an original musical. Not surprisingly, past Scholars include well-known professionals in fields as diverse as academia, law international development, human rights, activism, scientific research, writing and the arts.

Rachel Arky

After graduating from Barnard with a degree in music, I went on to obtain my Master's Degree in Classical Vocal Performance from Manhattan School of Music (just up the block!) Since then, I've performed professionally with companies such as Palm Beach Opera, Annapolis Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Chelsea Opera, and others. In tandem with my music career I've also been working in administration and education, and am currently the Administrative Associate in President Beilock's office. I'm thrilled to be back at my alma mater!

Centennial Scholars Project: My project combined my two great passions: music and academia. I had always been fascinated by the depiction of madness in opera, specifically the archetypal 'mad scene': an explosion of vocal histrionics, beauty, tragedy, and poignancy. I decided to delve into an exploration of the history of 'madness', particularly the type attributed to and associated with women. I presented this research along with a performance of the mad scene from Italian bel canto composer Vincenzo Bellini's I Puritani. 

Julie Carr

After my time at Barnard, I moved into the world of professional dance, performing with dance artists such as K.J. Holmes, David Dorfman, Nancy Stark Smith, and many others. I also originated and ran the New York Improvisation Festival for seven years with Sondra Loring. I have since become a writer, having published nine books of poetry and essays. My tenth book, Real Life: An Installation, is due out in October. I received an MFA in poetry from NYU in 1997 and a PhD in literature from the University of California, Berkeley in 2006. I am an Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where I've been teaching since 2006. I still collaborate with dancers. I've created sound and text for performances by dance artist K.J. Holmes and am currently collaborating with Gesel Mason. I also teach courses in writing and performance. In short, multi-media performance has been central in my life since my time at Barnard.

Centennial Scholars Project: "No Stillness by The Sea" was an evening-length dance/theater work about the effects of sexual assault on women. It featured five performers and included art work by Barnard student Kim Adrain, original writing by myself and original music composition. The program allowed me to study at the American Dance Festival and in other workshops with important dance artists. It also helped to cover the expenses of producing a complicated multi-media event. I've always been very grateful for the Centennial Scholarship and for how it allowed me to move into the career that has become my life.

Anne Ebersman

When I was at Barnard, I was an English major planning on becoming an actor. Shortly after college, through my friendship with fellow Centennial Scholar Rachel Friedman, I got involved with the Jewish community and began a journey that ultimately led to becoming a rabbi. Today I am the Jewish Studies Programming Director and Director of Service Learning at the Abraham Joshua Heschel School in New York City. I am also pursuing a PhD in Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary. I am married and have two teenage daughters.

Centennial Scholars Project: My project was a comparison of the career paths of stage actors in New York City and London. I interviewed a lot of actors who went on to become famous (and some in London who were already famous at the time but agreed to talk to me anyway...) including Nathan Lane, Christopher Reeve, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon. For my presentation, at the prodding of the other Centennial Scholars, instead of doing a more formal presentation, I wrote a play based on the interviews and got some Barnard students to perform in it. It was called "Acting, By Actors" if I recall correctly.

Elisabeth Jay Friedman

A member of the inaugural class of Centennial Scholars, I graduated from Barnard in 1988 -- and was thrilled to teach there from 1997 to 2004. I’m now Professor of Politics and Latin American Studies at the University of San Francisco, and live in Berkeley with my wife and teenage twins. My research focuses on feminist and LGBTQ movements in Latin American and global contexts. My 2017 book Interpreting the Internet draws on an insight my Centennial Scholar mentors—Temma Kaplan and Karen Barad—and I spent many hours discussing: that society and science are co-constituted.

Centennial Scholars Project: Wonderful Barnard professors got me interested in both physics and women’s studies. So I carried out a project combining the two, focusing on how a quantum mechanical epistemology might address the challenge of attracting more women to science. With the paradigm shift from classical, Newtonian physics to quantum mechanics, epistemology, or “how we know what we know,” had to change too. If the observer always influences the outcome, might the inclusion of nontraditional students be not only useful to them, but also essential to the scientific search for truth and meaning? My fabulous feminist mentors for the Centennial Scholars project taught me that what I thought about something mattered. It’s a lesson that has kept me going through an MA, PhD, and four books. And one I never hesitate to share with the many students I’ve had the privilege of teaching.

Rachel Friedman

I'm an Associate Professor of Greek and Roman Studies at Vassar, where I've been since earning my PhD from Columbia in 1997. As a Hellenist, I have published articles on Homer, Herodotus, Greek tragedy, and classical reception. My most recent work is on postcolonial appropriations of classical texts. I'm currently finishing a book on the Caribbean poet Derek Walcott's conversation with Homer in his book-length poem Omeros.

Centennial Scholars Project: My project was on the relationship between the Passover Haggadah and Plato's Symposium. It's been long recognized that the seder was an adaptation of Greek symposium ritual. In my project I looked at the narratives in both texts and the way that both could be seen to be organized around the theme of retelling. I can honestly say that the Centennial Scholars program played a pivotal role in shaping me as a scholar and giving me the confidence to pursue an academic path.

Stefie Gan

I majored in architecture and urban planning and was also interested in writing and fine art. The Centennial Scholars project gave me the opportunity to explore all my interests in an animated film project. It was my first step towards the world of art and animation, and I learned by doing. Since then, I have learned a lot more about animation! I took a myriad of self-enrichment classes in watercolor, animation, figure drawing, and animal drawing, and many more at art schools. My current interests lie in calligraphy and landscape painting. It has been quite an adventure so far, where I have had the opportunity to create animations and art for the Barnard 125th celebration, Scholastic, Oscar Nominee Bill Plympton, a Curious George Documentary, Moneyish, sibling of the Wall Street Journal, and now Project Happiness!

Centennial Scholars Project: I made my first animated film titled “A Day in Kuala Lumpur.” It is an 18-minute long animation depicting life in the city of KL. The film is based on interviews of people in the city, diaspora of those living in NYC, my own personal experience growing up in the capital, as well as my experience as a visitor to the city years later. The film is broken down into three parts with different protagonists – three realms of living situations 1. Private life in an apartment building complex 2. Public life with cars, highways, and malls 3. Family life with suburban homes and neighboring parks. The film explores rapid urban planning and the effect it has on its inhabitants. The film was animated with stop motion puppets, collages, and digital compositing.

Katie Hathaway

I graduated from Barnard in 2010, got an MFA in playwriting from Brooklyn College in 2013 and now I'm a writer and musician living in Brooklyn. My plays and musicals have been performed and developed at Ars Nova, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Clubbed Thumb, New Dramatists, The Bushwick Starr, Dixon Place, Joe’s Pub, Johnny Mercer Songwriter’s Institute, the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop, and the Yale Institute For Music Theater. I'm a MacDowell Colony fellow and a New Georges affiliated artist. I am also a full time lower school music teacher and choir director at Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn.

Centennial Scholars project: I wrote a full length musical "Orpheus and the Sirens" for my project. I spent my summers working on the show and even used some of the funds allotted to travel to Greece for two weeks junior year to feed the soul of my Greek myth mashup musical. I produced a concert reading at the end of my senior year with a bunch of my talented performer friends, many of whom I still collaborate with to this day! It was my first full length musical, and I'd written both the book and score by myself so it was incredibly helpful to have the support of the music and English department behind me, guiding me in the right direction. Writing this musical gave me the confidence (and the demos!) to apply to a ton of amazing programs like BMI and The Composer Librettist Studio at New Dramatists that I wouldn't have been able to get into without it. You can hear a few of the songs from the show on my website

Emma Impink

In July 2011, after a year of working on farms, I moved to Kenya. I've been in East Africa since then, engaging directly with farmers, food, and land use. I spent a year and a half working with a small micro-finance organization in the pastoral communities of Northern Kenya and then moved to Tanzania where I've worked with One Acre Fund for the last six years. One Acre Fund works with 54,000 small farmers in the southern part of the country, offering agricultural inputs on credit. Most recently, I was the Director of Impact, supervising our monitoring and evaluation activities, overseeing our new product development, and setting the agriculture strategy for our field team. At the end of last year, I left my role at One Acre Fund. I'll start a new position with a small elephant conservation project based in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania for the next one to two years, supporting their human-elephant conflict work as well as building capacity within their team. After that, I'm planning to go to cooking school and will see whether I want to make a career change to work more directly with food. I've been thinking a lot about starting a cooking school near Ruaha National Park in Tanzania, teaching neighbors to the park skills that could get them jobs in tourism, facilitating conservation and sustainable employment. Or I might open a pizza place, maybe even in New Jersey. Whatever happens, Barnard and the Centennial Scholars Program were essential. 

Centennial Scholars project: My experience began with a focus on human-wildlife conflict. I was interested in how people and animals interacted, an area of inquiry informed by time I spent in southern Africa during a year off before college. What were the sources of conflict in those spaces? After studying abroad in Kenya my junior year, I started thinking about the role that food played in land use: so much of the human-wildlife conflict that I saw in Kenya came from growing food. Living in New York City, I spent a lot of time eating and learning about the power of food to tell stories. In the Nairobi airport, waiting for my flight home, I started thinking: could a restaurant educate consumers about land use challenges? My senior project was a sort of meditation on this: how effective were restaurants as communicators? What was the appetite of diners for information? My mentor was Michael Anthony, the Executive Chef at Gramercy Tavern.

Megan McNally

I currently run a non-profit called The Foundry. It is a business incubator and creative educational space that houses four makerspaces. We provide affordable access to tools and the knowledge and expertise in how to use them. We offer hands-on education to an annual average of 120 low-income students who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out of high school, providing alternative learning spaces for students to succeed in STEM-education. We also assist an average of 35 small businesses annually as they transition from idea-phase into implementation and production of products for sale.

Centennial Scholars Project: My project was about empowering homeowners in low-income neighborhoods (specifically the East Side of Buffalo), teaching DIY home repair and learning how to avoid common pitfalls in hiring contractors. Using the money allocated through the Centennial Scholars program I bought a house in the city foreclosure auction for $3500. I wrote a letter to family and friends asking for their support, and raised over $20,000 to facilitate workshops and cover cost of building renovations. My end project for Centennial Scholars was about repurposing and reusing garbage found in the streets of NYC...but it was the experience learning about home repairs and carpentry that made me dive into that field as I was exiting Barnard. My experiences in Centennial Scholars set me on a vastly different path than Environmental Policy, and I ended up starting my own woodworking business and co-founding the non-profit organization that I currently run, The Foundry (

Celeste Mendoza

After graduating from Barnard with a degree in Theatre and English Literature, I received a Master of Fine Arts degree in Poetry from the Bennington Writers Seminars. I am currently working on a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration at the University of Texas at Austin, where I work as a professional fundraiser. I am a poet and also write plays and essays. My first full-length poetry manuscript, Beneath the Halo, was published by Wings Press in September 2013. I also co-founded and co-direct CantoMundo, a national workshop for Latinx poets. I have participated in the Macondo Writers Workshop and am a past resident of Hedgebrook, a retreat for women writers. My poetry and essays have been published in the following anthologies: Entre Guadalupe and Malinche: Tejanas in Literature and Art; Her Texas: Story, Image, Poem and Song ; Goodbye Mexico: Poems of Rememberance; Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education ; Telling Tongues: A Latin@ Anthology on Language Experience; Red Boots and Attitude: The Spirit of Texas Women Writers; ¡Floricanto Sí!: U.S. Latina Poetry; This Promiscous Light. My work has also appeared in literary journals and magazines, such as: Poet Lore; Borderlands, Salamander, 5 am, Rio Grande Valley Woman and San Antonio Current.

Centennial Scholars project: For my project I interviewed three Chicana activists who live in San Antonio, Texas--my hometown--about their first job as a way to learn about their professional origins. The three women were: Dr. Ellen Riojas Clark, Terry Ybañez, and Sandra Cisneros. In addition to interviewing them, I edited their oral histories to three 10-minute monologues, which I edited together to create a one-woman show.

Mercedes Montagnes

I serve as the Executive Director of the Promise of Justice Initiative. After Barnard, I received a JD degree from Harvard Law School. At Harvard I worked as a student attorney for the Massachusetts Prisoners’ Legal Services and the Criminal Justice Institute and held summer internships with Mississippi civil rights attorney, Rob McDuff, and the Public Defender’s Office in New Orleans, the city which later became my home. I was also the president of the Harvard Law and Policy Review and coordinator for the Hurricane Katrina Legislative Tracking Project. I served as a law clerk for Judge Carl Barbier of the Eastern District of Louisiana and Roger Gregory in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. In 2012, I began working at the Capital Appeals Project and eventually helped to launch the Promise of Justice Initiative in New Orleans. The Promise of Justice Initiative, based in New Orleans, advocates for humane, fair, and equal treatment of individuals in the criminal justice system and was awarded a seed grant by Harvard’s Public Service Venture Fund. Among other things, I oversee projects which put a spotlight on inhumane conditions of confinement, prosecutorial and judicial misconduct, and incompetent representation for poor people charged with crimes.

Centennial Scholars Project: Fragments of Feminism- Inspired by Roland Barthes' A Lover's Discourse: Fragments. I created a live performance piece that linked interviews, research, archival documents, and my own creative writing to create a piece about some of the contemporary themes around feminism including intersectionality, class inequality and feminism, the male gaze, and constraining definitions of womanhood.

Qudsiya Naqui

After graduating from Barnard in 2006 with a degree in political science and human rights, I spent a year working as a paralegal at a nonprofit legal aid organization, which propelled my career toward public interest law. I attended Temple University Beasley School of Law in Philadelphia and graduated in 2010. After practicing immigration law for about a year, during which time I primarily worked with Central American and South Asian asylum-seekers, I joined the Vera Institute of Justice, where I helped to manage a government funded program designed to increase access to legal services for unaccompanied immigrant children facing deportation. Inspired by my experiences at Vera, I moved to Washington DC in 2014 to launch the justice AmeriCorps program, the first ever federally funded initiative designed to increase access to legal representation for unaccompanied immigrant children in deportation proceedings. Since the launch of this program, I have continued to design and implement access to justice programs in my current role as a Senior Program Manager at a nonprofit organization called Equal Justice Works, which is an organization committed to launching the careers of passionate public service leaders.

Centennial Scholars Project: As a Centennial Scholar, I traveled to Jaipur, India through the School for International Training. My project focused on the commodification of traditional Indian handicrafts, such as blue pottery, and its impact on local economies. This experience spurred my interest in Indian politics and inspired my later thesis work on the topic. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in this unique program. It provided a wonderful space for creativity and thinking outside the box, and introduced me to a diverse group of fellow scholars in whom I found inspiration and comraderie.

Acadia Roher

I am a community organizer and nonprofit consultant focused on education and racial justice in my hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas. I organize with Grassroots Arkansas, the Southern Movement Assembly, and the Arkansas People's History Project. I also coach high school swimmers, assist activists with family history research, work in community gardens, and care for my rambunctious nephew.

Centennial Scholars Project: After stumbling upon an abandoned homestead deep in a nature preserve in the Ozark Mountains, I was inspired to unlock its secrets by embarking on a study of the history, people, plants, animals, and other natural forces that shaped the site. The culminating product was a documentary film entitled “Sustaining Williams Woods.” I began my journey by studying Ozark vernacular architecture and history in order to situate the site within a broader historical perspective. While in NYC, I apprenticed with a historian on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail to gain experience researching and interpreting a site that represents a marriage of the historical and the environmental. The exciting variety of facets of the project gave me the opportunity to network with a broad array of historians and members of the Arkansas conservation community. My goal was to produce a study that would be useful to current and future owners of the Williams Woods Nature Preserve, as well as to help to protect a beautiful, biodiverse, and historically rich site.

Asali Solomon

I am a fiction writer and an English professor at Haverford College, where I teach fiction writing and courses in African American and Caribbean literature. In 2015, I published the coming-of-age novel, Disgruntled, in which a girl raised by Black nationalists finds herself exiled in wealthy, white suburban Philadelphia and in which a Barbadian servant burns down Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin. I am currently working on a novel called American Dinner Party, which pays homage to Toni Morrison’s Sula and Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.  This novel is about sexuality, race, social climbing, it is also a meta-joke about the overrepresentation of dinner parties in American fiction.

Centennial Scholar project: As a Centennial Scholar, I worked with the wise and generous Judith Weisenfeld to write an essay collection entitled “The Morena Song: on Gender, Color, Caste in the Dominican Republic and the United States.” In it, I worked through the fascinating and agonizing dimensions of my study abroad experience on that island, and the epiphany that the gendered racism that I experienced there was simply a starker remix of the racial scene in the United States. I was extremely grateful to participate in the program, and though I remember being very resistant to the idea that I would go abroad and write some essays (which seemed to me at the time the default Centennial Scholars project) this writing process was invaluable to my development as a writer. Also, the essays themselves are a searing time capsule for me; when I have had the occasion to look back at them, I am reminded of encounters that I managed to forget, though I still bear the indelible marks of these experiences.

Marissa Tremblay 

I graduated from Barnard in 2012 and shortly thereafter moved to California to begin a PhD program in Earth and Planetary Science at the University of California, Berkeley. I earned my doctorate from UC Berkeley in 2017 and am now a Newton International Fellow of the Royal Society based at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre. My research focuses on using observations of noble gases in minerals to reconstruct the thermal histories of rocks on timescales ranging from thousands to billions of years. This research has taken me around the world, from the Tibetan plateau to the Atacama desert and, most recently, beyond our world, as I began working on meteorites from the Moon.

Centennial Scholars Project: "[Re]creating in her Path: How Two Women Imagined Wilderness in the Canadian Rockies." I conducted historical research on Mary Jobe Akeley (1878-1966). The research focused on Mary Jobe’s 1914 and 1915 expeditions to the Canadian Rockies, when Jobe, a single, young woman with an adventurous spirit and a drive to explore, blazed a previously uncharted path in the area surrounding what is now known as Mt. Sir Alexander. Working with Jobe’s expedition diaries, published and unpublished manuscripts, and extensive photographic collection from her journeys, I pieced together a story of Mary Jobe’s experiences in the Canadian Rockies—the landscape she interacted with, the cultural context that framed her expeditions, and the ways in which her depictions of the physical landscape contributed to our cultural perception of wilderness. I felt, however, that I could not get a true sense of her experience without going to the source. So, in August 2011 I spent two weeks backpacking in the northern Canadian Rockies, retracing the path that Jobe took on her 1914 expedition to Mt. Sir Alexander. In my capstone presentation, I juxtaposed Mary Jobe’s experience with my own through photographs and narration.

Ruth Wikler-Luker

I am a contemporary theatre, circus, and hybrid performance curator with an international focus and a social justice lens. I graduated from Barnard in 1998 and went on to study contemporary circus in the UK and Argentina as well as to earn an MA in Theatre from Hunter College. I founded an NYC-based circus theatre company, Cirque Boom, in the early 2000s and honed my skills as a director and producer in that exciting emerging discipline while also learning fundraising and arts administration skills through jobs with nonprofit arts organizations. I segued into programming and curation after getting my MA, first at a theatre think tank at the CUNY Graduate Center and later, after relocating to Portland, OR with my family, through the second organization I founded, Boom Arts, which is now in its seventh season. Boom Arts is a boutique presenter of global, provocative, relevant theatre, circus, hybrid and outdoor performance work; its mission is to "imagine new social and political possibilities through live performance." My Centennial Scholars project was the breeding ground for these ideas-- I trace a direct line between that project and what I'm doing now professionally.

Centennial Scholars project: My project was to survey the evolving aesthetics of political theatre in the Americas. I stretched my CS grant as far as it could possibly go, taking a semester off of college and buying a TWA (Trans World Airlines) multi-flight pass so I could visit various places. My travels took me to the Highlander Center in Tennessee, where I found archives of theatre used for labor organizing; to a gathering of Latin American theatre artists at the famed Bread and Puppet Theatre farm in Vermont; to the San Francisco Mime Troupe; to an indigenous women's theatre collective in Chiapas, Mexico; and finally to a street theatre festival in Colombia as part of the Mime Troupe's company. Throughout these experiences, I noted that the aesthetics of the foundational companies-- Bread and Puppet, the Mime Troupe-- had been forged in the 1960s for a 1960s audience, and that as an aspiring artist, I craved new forms of expression that matched my generation's sensibilities. In Colombia I found what I was looking for in contemporary circus, through a performance by a German quartet whose strange, disjointed, physically rigorous performance seemed about as forward-thinking as I could imagine. This inspired me to become a circus director, producer, and now curator.


If you were a Centennial Scholar, we'd love to hear about your project and what you are up to now.

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