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 2023 Course Listings
Browse our full list of Fall 2023 courses related to environment and sustainability. Here are a few highlights.
- CPLT-BC3164 | TREES OF KNOWLEDGE: ECOCRITICISM AND WORLD LITERATURE taught by Erk Grimm, Associate Professor of German. This survey of modern and contemporary world literature deals explicitly with environmental issues as a main theme. The course is supposed to serve as an introduction to the new field of “ecocriticism” in the Humanities and to a wide range of literary responses to current ecological concerns and transformations of natural habitat. All texts are available in English, though students will have the opportunity to read them in the original if they desire to do so.
- FYS-BC1114 | HOT STUFF taught by Sedelia Rodriquez, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science. This seminar will explore the science behind volcanoes, their impact on the environment and societies, as well as our enduring fascination with them through the lenses of history, arts, mythology and religion. Where and why do volcanoes erupt? How do they affect nature, climate and society? How has our understanding of these amazing natural phenomena evolved over time? Why do people stay in close proximity to volcanoes, despite the dangers? Can we predict when the next catastrophic eruption will occur? Can we harness the power of volcanic activity as alternative energy source? Students will study historical texts, case studies, current data and methods of analysis, as well as depictions of volcanoes in art and film.
- HIST-BC3864 | FEAST/FAMINE: FOOD ENVIRONMENT CHINA taught by Dorthy Ko, Professor of History. Food has always been a central concern in Chinese politics, religion, medicine, and culture. This course takes an ecological approach to the provision, preparation, and consumption of food in Chinese history, from the Neolithic times to the post-socialist era today. In examining Chinese approaches to soil fertility, healthy diet, and culinary pleasures, we explore alternative food systems for a more sustainable future.
- RELI-BC3671 | RELIGION AND HUMAN RIGHTS taught by Timothy Vasko, Assistant Professor in Urban Studies. What is the relationship between religion and human rights? How have different religious traditions conceived of “the human” as a being worthy of inherent dignity and respect, particularly in moments of political, military, economic, and ecological crisis? How and why have modern regimes of human rights privileged some of these ideas and marginalized others? What can these complicated relationships between religion and human rights explain some of the key crises in human rights law and politics today, and what avenues can be charted for moving forward? In this class, we will attempt to answer these questions by first developing a theoretical understanding of some of the key debates about the origins, trajectories, and legacies of modern human rights’ religious entanglements.
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