Across disciplines, Barnard's coursework incorporates the natural world and climate change into its teaching and research. These courses allow students to explore and grapple with our human interactions with the natural world from a variety of perspectives, ranging from the hard sciences to the fine arts.
Students majoring in Environmental Science, Biology, Urban Studies, Anthropology, Architecture, and History can all pursue concentrations or tracks that touch on climate, sustainability, and human interaction with the environment. Departments ranging from Economics to Theatre offer additional coursework.
In 2020-2021, the Anthropology Department launched a new Political Ecology track, designed for students who wish to pursue studies in fields relevant to environmental justice, climate change, and sustainability. The major track is grounded in strong theoretical and methodological training in sociocultural anthropology.
2020-21 also marked the inaugural year of Barnard’s new Environmental Humanities minor, offered by the Consortium for Critical Interdisciplinary Studies. EHMC will bring together students in both the humanities and STEM to collectively focus on the ways in which issues surrounding environmentalism, global warming, land- and water-rights activism, and non-human rights intersect with race, ethnicity, gender, and class. EHMC is open to all Barnard students. Please email Professor Severin Fowles with questions.
Fall 2022 Course Listings
Browse our full list of Fall 2022 courses related to environment and sustainability. Here are a few highlights.
- ANTH-BC3932 | Climate Change, Global Migration, and Human Rights in the Anthropocene taught by J.C. Sayler, Assistant Professor of Practice, Anthropology, and Human Rights. While the existence of processes of anthropogenic climate change is well established, predictions regarding the future consequences of these processes are far less certain. In no area is the uncertainty regarding near and long term effects as pronounced as in the question of how climate change will affect global migration. This course will address the issue of climate migration in four ways. First, the course will examine the theoretical and empirical literatures that have elucidated the nature of international migration in general. Second, the course will consider the phenomena of anthropogenic climate change as it relates to migration. Third, the course will consider how human rights and other legal regimes do or do not address the humanitarian issues created by anthropogenic climate change. Fourth, the course will synthesize these topics by considering how migration and climate change has arisen as a humanitarian, political, and economic issue in the Pacific.
- ARCH-UN3120 | City, Landscape, and Ecology taught by Ralph Ghoche, Assistant Professor of Architecture. City, Landscape, Ecology is a thematically driven course that centers on issues and polemics related to landscape, land settlement and ecology over the past two centuries. The course interrogates our changing attitudes to nature from the 18th century to the present, focusing on the artistic and architectural responses to these perceptions. It aims to demonstrate the important role that artists and architects have played, and are to play, in making visible the sources of environmental degradation and in the development of new means of mitigating anthropogenic ecological change.
- HIST-BC3327 | Consumer Culture in Modern Europe taught by Lisa Tiersten, professor in History and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. The development of the modern culture of consumption, with particular attention to the formation of the woman consumer. Topics include commerce and the urban landscape, changing attitudes toward shopping and spending, feminine fashion and conspicuous consumption, and the birth of advertising. Examination of novels, fashion magazines, and advertising images.
- URBS-UN3440 | Shrinking Cities taught by Mary Rocco, Assistant Professor in Urban Studies. While some cities thrive and struggle to house the global majority, others struggle with the effects of urban shrinkage—population loss, disinvestment and abandonment. The path to urban decline is paved by social, economic and spatial forces that result in shrinking cities. This class explores how to understand and engage with urban decline. It includes a consideration of sundry efforts to reverse, live with, and rethink urban decline in a variety of locales. The hope is that this exercise will shed light not only on iconic declining places like Detroit, but also on the nature of uneven development and how it is the rule rather than the anomalous exception within capitalist urbanization.
Summer 2022 Courses & Opportunities
- Chemistry BC1050 | The Jazz of Chemistry | Meets Tues/Thurs 1:00-4:10pm | Instructor: Meena Rao. The contribution of chemistry to everyday life is immense. The applications of chemistry in medicine, petrochemicals, cosmetics, and food are readily apparent. However, chemistry is a key part of many other fascinating fields, some of which may be less obvious. Examples of areas in which chemistry plays a key role include forensic science; art restoration and forgery detection; and flavors and fragrances in food, beverages and other consumer products. The goal of this course is to provide insights and spur discussion of several areas and applications of chemistry, and provide hands-on experience in techniques used in these fields sparking the curiosity of Barnard students into this marvelous field.
- English BC3170 | Literature & Science 1600-1800 | Meets Tues/Thurs 5:30-8:40pm | Instructor: Ross Hamilton. The "Scientific Revolution" began in England in the early seventeenth century, with the experiments of John Dee and the reforming projects of Francis Bacon, to culminate in Isaac Newton’s discovery of the natural laws of motion. This was also a period of great literary innovation, from Shakespeare’s plays and the metaphysical poetry of Marvell and Donne, to the new genre of the novel. This course will explore both the scientific and literary "revolutions" – indeed we will attempt to put them in a kind of conversation with one another, as poets and scientists puzzled over the nature of spirit, body, and the world.
- Barnard Sustainable Communities in Ecuador | Location: Quito and Papallacta, Ecuador. The proposed course is designed to provide students with a unique one-to-one interaction with Spanish native speakers in three different sites: the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest Reservation of Papallacta, the Indigenous Reservation of Mandaripanga, and the Runatupari Indigenous Community in the Andean Region of Ecuador. Students will be living with families in each community we will be visiting, maximizing the amount of contact with the target language and culture. In order to be eligible, you must be in good academic and disciplinary standing, have a minimum GPA requirement 3.0, have completed Intermediate Spanish (SPAN UN2102 at Barnard/Columbia, and be at least 18 or older prior to beginning of summer term. The program aims to:
- Explore, learn and document the work some indigenous groups have been doing since the new constitution was approved back in 2008.
- Provide students with a service-learning opportunity working hand in hand when possible with women community leaders at the different sites.
- Learn about how their communities work to preserve their resources and maintain a sustainable culture.
- Immerse themselves in the Spanish language and culture by interacting, sharing, and living with native Spanish speakers.
- Have students produce a focused final essay linking the key concepts from the readings and their lived experiences in the communities visited.
In the spring of 2020 and 2021, the Center for Engaged Pedagogy hosted two workshop series on the development of new coursework and support for existing coursework centered on the environment, sustainability, and/or climate change. These sessions were attended by 70+ participants across multiple academic departments, including Biology, History, English, and Environmental Science.
Barnard's faculty research crosses similar disciplinary boundaries, engaging with scientific and cultural concepts of nature and the environment within a wide range of fields. Here are some highlights:
- Professor of Environmental Science, Martin Stute, focuses his research on water resources, carbon sequestration, and the social and economic impacts of climate change. He is currently involved in a project determining the greenhouse gas footprint of NYC.
- Professor of Professional Practice in Architecture, Kadambari Baxi, uses architectural visualizations to examine toxic emission flows and climate justice. She is displaying these multimedia projects in a variety of exhibitions.
- Assistant Professor of Spanish and Latin American Cultures, Orlando Bentancor, teaches on the emergence of capitalism in sixteenth century Latin America, specifically looking at the relationship between the commodification of nature and the transformation of indigenous peoples into workers. His book, The Matter of Empire, examines conceptions of metal resources in early colonial mining.
- Paige West, the Claire Tow Professor of Anthropology, looks at the relationship between societies and their environments. More specifically, she has written about the intersections between indigenous epistemic practices and conservation science, the linkages between environmental conservation and international development, the material and symbolic ways in which the natural world is understood and produced, the aesthetics and poetics of human social relations with nature, and the creation of commodities and practices of consumption.
- Assistant Professor of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Marisa Solomon looks at the durability of racism and its many material forms: toxicity’s movement through soil and bodies, the placement of landfills, waste infrastructure, and the technocratic planning and management of Black life and death. Her work focuses on how Black improvisation with waste’s form and meaning upend environmental thinking — including the raced, classed, and gendered stewards to whom the earth supposedly belongs.
- Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, Jonathan Snow, researches the cellular stress responses of honeybees, a species crucial to our agricultural systems.
- Associate Professor of Professional Practice in Theatre, Sandra Goldmark, teaches design and focuses her research on circular economy solutions to overconsumption and waste. She is the founder of the social enterprise, Fixup, which employs theatre artisans to repair household items, re-envisioning repair as a part of a sustainable circular economy. She also serves as Barnard's first Director of Sustainability and Climate Action.
Through the Provost's Office, faculty have access to external funding opportunities to support and develop their research. Learn more about the research being done at Barnard, as well as opportunities for student research.
Alumnae, Careers, and Internship Opportunities
Barnard's engagement with climate action does not end at the borders of our campus. Barnard alumnae move on to internships and careers in these fields. Our career development office, Beyond Barnard, helps direct students towards opportunities, build their resumes, and prepare for interviews. Here are a couple of alumnae who have found success in this field:
- Annie Leonard, Barnard '86, is the Executive Director of Greenpeace USA, and creator of the book/animated film, The Story of Stuff.
- Rhea Suh, Barnard '92, is the former president of the National Resources Defense Council. She was awarded the Barnard Medal of Distinction in 2018.
- Sue Chiang, Barnard '93, works as Pollution Prevention Director at the Center for Environmental Health, where she leads work on market incentives for companies to manufacture products safe for public health.
- Tsechu Dolma, Barnard '14, founded the Mountain Resiliency Project to address the poverty and food insecurity prevalent in mountain communities. They are working to create stronger communities from within to combat the already apparent impacts of climate change.
- Maddie Taylor, Barnard '17, is the National Director of Sprout up. She was a founding member of the NYC chapter as a student