Athena Center for Leadership at Barnard College - Annual Report - 2022-2023

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Fall 2023 Dear Friends, Four years ago, the Class of 2023 arrived at Barnard — and so did I, which means this class of remarkable students will always hold an extra-special place in my heart. I’ve delighted in watching them grow and thrive despite the tumultuous experience of starting college pre-pandemic, being sent back home, and returning to Barnard as it is now. Working with these students, it’s impossible to feel anything other than optimism and a sense of powerful possibility. They are creative, collaborative, and courageous changemakers — ever conscious of the opportunities our challenges present and eager to seize those opportunities.



I’m so proud of how our community — made up of aspiring, emerging, and experienced changemakers, including alums, faculty, staff, and a diverse array of friends of the Center in addition to these amazing students — has met the moment in Partners which we find ourselves. Through the annual Athena Film Festival Attendees and our SPARK series, as well as virtual and live events, discussions, and field trips, we have nurtured a space where ideas flourish and individuals feel valued for their unique contributions — and driven powerful narrative change. Through our various communities of practice, we have seen firsthand the power of diverse minds uniting to address the most pressing issues of our time.






Communities of

Visiting Experts and


Communities ofyou’ll Practice Visiting Experts & In this report, see our impact, in terms of numbers, as for Barnard students Experts in Residence always. More importantly, though, you’ll get to learn about some of the students who have gone on their journeys here with Athena’s help. It’s been an extraordinary honor to support them in developing the competencies and community they need to lead the change we all need — something we couldn’t have done without you.



I am deeply grateful to our dedicated staff, my colleagues on Practice Experts in Residence campus, and our community of supporters who make our work possible. Thank you to each and every one of you for your Athena Film Festival Athena Film Festival unwavering commitment to the Athena Center for Leadership and community partners films screened to the collective pursuit of a better world.


In partnership,

Umbreen Bhatti ’00 Constance Hess Williams ’66 Director Athena Center for Leadership



“You don’t choose the times you live in, but you do choose who you want to be. And you do choose how you think.” Grace Lee Boggs ’35

The Athena Center for Leadership prepares Barnard students to lead change in this extraordinary moment and throughout their lives.

ABOUT OUR APPROACH Why prepare our students to lead change, specifically? Put simply, we need it — desperately. Our approach to leadership development is rooted in the belief that a better world is possible and that the challenges that stand in the way of that world are all connected, as are we. Every one of these challenges presents opportunities to lead positive change — but the change we need won’t come from a single person, through a single approach, or in a single try. Our approach to leadership development is also rooted in our reality. Today, our students are more racially diverse, gender-diverse, and accomplished than ever. Nearly half are students of color. Approximately three-quarters held a top leadership position before ever setting foot on campus. And with a single-digit acceptance rate, Barnard is an institution that serves students who haven’t failed at much in their lives — who need and want the learning and transformation in thinking and action that comes from taking risks. Athena is a center for leadership within a center for leadership — after all, women’s colleges are, by definition, centers for leadership — and Barnard has produced remarkable, inspiring leaders for over 130 years. The leaders we develop here are the leaders we need now.

ABOUT OUR PROGRAMS Through SPARK and our communities of practice, we’re building a culture of creativity, collaboration, courage, and conscientiousness in all of us, as change agents here at Barnard. Creative changemakers can see many ways to approach a challenge and engage in divergent and convergent thinking in the face of a challenge to generate and develop innovative ideas. Collaborative changemakers see strength in difference, embrace productive conflict, and seek out opportunities to tackle challenges with others. Courageous changemakers can move from ideas to actions and learn from their mistakes, thanks to their growth mindset. Changemakers who are conscious of impact consider the unintended consequences of their ideas and actions as well as the impact of their actions on themselves, approaching problem-solving in an ethical, responsible, and healthy way. And through the Athena Film Festival, we’re doing powerful narrative change work — widening the aperture for all of us, at Barnard and beyond, to experience the stories of the many rich, complex, exciting, and impactful ways women lead.

SPARK, our event and experience series, ignites thinking about how change happens and where each of us can begin — or continue.

Our Communities of Practice are where aspiring, emerging, and experienced changemakers come together to practice leading change through entrepreneurship, advocacy, policy and government, technology, research and scholarship, film, and more.

The Athena Film Festival and the Athena Creative Development Program are our own way of leading change, in and through media and entertainment, in partnership with Women and Hollywood.

2022-2023 at a glance

15 SPARK events, with 13 partners: 4 film screenings, 5 faculty-student lunches, 2 book talks, 1 field trip, and so much more, all investigating protest as a tool for changemaking

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attendees at SPARK events, including students, faculty, staff, alums, and members of the community

Communities of Practice at Athena, supported by 8 visiting experts and experts in residence: the Athena Fellows Program, Athena Advocacy Institute, Intrapreneurial Leadership Fellows Program, Williams Program for Women in Politics, and our Conscious Investing community, to name just a few...

381 students in Athena Communities of Practice, across majors and class years

75 Athena Film Festival Community Partners


attendees at the 13th annual Athena Film Festival, where we screened 40 films, including 6 premieres, and hosted 6 panels and 17 Q&As — all possible thanks to the support of our 28 sponsors and 200 volunteers

SPARK, our event and experience series, ignites thinking about how change happens and where each of us can begin — or continue. This past academic year, we examined protest as a powerful tool for changemaking. Through film screenings, field trips, conversations, workshops, and more, we helped students and our broader community explore and investigate what effective protests look like, how they’re built, and the myriad forms they can take.

SPOTLIGHT Field trips and informal lunches with faculty are two of our students’ favorite types of SPARKs. In January 2023, students joined Athena for a trip to the Off Paradise Gallery for “Paint the Protest,” a group exhibit that honors artists who center cultural dissent in their art and practices (pictured on previous page). This exhibit featured established artists, as well as those who exist outside of the canon, and their understandings and commentaries on political demonstrations of various mediums. In the words of the curator, “This exhibition threads a needle between representation and real-world dissent. It features artists who ... portray the language of opposition, the semiotics of rebellion.” Faculty lunches included conversations with Dr. Erika Kitzmiller about the ways in which her public education advocacy and protesting in the city of Philadelphia has shaped her methods as an educator and an academic; theatre professor and Director of Sustainability Sandra Goldmark about how her experience as a climate activist has informed the way she thinks about protest; and Dr. Jennie Kassanoff about her research, with a special focus on Mississippi civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer, challenging students to consider: Is it better to protest in the streets or at the ballot box? *** We extend enormous gratitude to all of our partners across campus who assisted in bringing these SPARKs to life, including the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, the Barnard Center for Research on Women, and AC4, the Program for Partnerships at Earth Institute, Columbia Climate School, and numerous academic departments. Special thanks to the Harnisch Foundation for believing in this series and providing the support to make it possible.


At Athena, we know that the challenges we face won’t be solved by a single person, through a single approach, or in a single try. That’s why we build and support multiple communities of practice — spaces for aspiring, emerging, and experienced changemakers to come together to practice leading change through entrepreneurship, advocacy, policy and government, technology, research and scholarship, film, and more.

A NOTE FROM OUR DIRECTOR OF APPLIED LEARNING For a generation that is constantly bombarded with messages of scarcity and pressure to be perfect, simply taking a first, likely messy, and *definitely* imperfect, step in the direction of the world we all want to inhabit can be difficult. Doing so when we’re more disconnected and lonelier than ever, thanks to COVID-19 — well, that can feel next to impossible. Knowing this, as Director of Applied Learning, I’m committed to creating opportunities to move from theory to practice that support students as they cultivate relationships with each other and with various resources at Barnard, deepen their ability to reflect on their impact on the world and themselves, and explore new and old ways of leading change rooted in collaboration and sustained engagement. And what better way is there to achieve this than working with our colleagues from across campus, New York City, and Barnard’s amazing community of alums? In the following pages, I invite you to read about all the communities we’ve built and supported this year, from perennial faves to communities that were designed to meet the moment, and to learn about a few of our newest alums. Chriss Sneed Director of Applied Learning Athena Center for Leadership



INTENTIONAL COMMUNITY A space where students connect with peers with similar interests, explore Athena’s wider network, and envision collaborations across Barnard’s ecosystem to advance change EXPERT GUIDANCE


Facilitation, practical guidance, and 1:1 mentorship from an Expert in Residence + Applied Learning team

A nongraded space to take on changemaking through a particular method, backed by a curricular arc and planned activities



A clearly defined commitment with expectations and guidelines for engagement

Programming that is co-created and informed by ongoing student feedback, interest, and aspiration

INCENTIVE Resources that help make the commitment more accessible for students, whether it’s a stipend, dinner, or leadership materials


2022-2023 COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE Athena Fellows Program

Student Advisory Board

Fall 2022, Spring 2023

Fall 2022, Spring 2023

Propose a specific challenge, identify a faculty advisor, commit 10-4:30 every Friday for a semester to tackling that challenge, and receive a stipend.

Shape Athena’s programming and learn critical skills for nonprofit board leadership, all alongside your peers.

Athena Entrepreneurs

Athena Digital Design Code Academy

Fall 2022 through Spring 2023

Fall 2022, Spring 2023 Join other students interested in technology as a tool for social change: explore user experience design in a stress-free environment. Offered in partnership with the Vagelos Computational Science Center. Led by Tech Experts in Residence Sarah Breen ’18 and Anisa Bora.

Explore your interest in entrepreneurship with other students who share your interest, through conversations and handson opportunities offered by our Entrepreneur in Residence and members of our broader network of entrepreneurs. Led by EIR Deepti Sharma.

Athena Incubator Fall 2022 through Spring 2023

Athena Digital Design Project Academy Fall 2022, Spring 2023 Join other students interested in technology as a tool for social change: apply your user experience design skills to a project. Led by Tech Experts in Residence Sarah Breen ’18 and Anisa Bora.

Move your business forward with the support of our Entrepreneur in Residence, a small stipend, and other student entrepreneurs. Led by EIR Deepti Sharma.

Intrapreneurial Leadership Fellows Program

Getting Curious About Protest

Fall 2022 through Spring 2023

Spring 2023 Join other student organizers currently engaged in some form of protest — or planning some form of protest — to connect and reflect on your work. We’ll review case studies of various different types of protests, unpack our learnings, and explore how to actually use protest in effective ways. Led by guest expert Cheyenne Wyzzard-Jones.

Come together with other Barnard students and service members and veterans enrolled at Columbia School of General Studies to connect across personal and professional experiences and develop the skills, confidence, and relationships you need to lead change in your post-undergraduate lives. Led by guest expert Dr. Loretta Brady and offered in partnership with Columbia School of General Studies.

Metaverse Collaborative

Conscious Investing

Spring 2023

Spring 2023

Explore the intersection of virtual reality and changemaking and work in small, selforganized teams to integrate your learnings while you create an ideal world using SPATIAL, a VR world-building tool. Offered in partnership with IMATS and the Vagelos Computational Science Center (CSC) and led by guest expert Cortney Harding.

Learn how to use your money as a tool for changemaking through your everyday practices, while also setting yourself up to achieve your long-term personal, professional, and financial goals. Led by guest expert Eva Yazhari ’06 and offered in partnership with the Francine LeFrak Foundation Center for Well-Being.

Williams Program for Women in Politics Summer 2022 Explore government as an avenue and policy as a tool for tackling intractable challenges. You find the internship (we’ll help!), and we provide the programming and a stipend. Led by Expert in Residence Emma Wolfe ’01.

Athena Policy and Changemaking Fall 2022, Spring 2023 Gather with past, present, and future public servants to examine how change is made through policy and government, and learn how you can make the most of an internship in policy or government. Led by Expert in Residence Emma Wolfe ’01 and supported by professionals from city, state, and federal levels of government across decades of administrations. The Williams Program for Women in Politics and Athena Policy and Changemaking are funded by Constance Hess Williams ’66.

Athena Advocacy Institute Summer Improve your skills as an advocate alongside your peers. You find the internship at a nonprofit organization (we’ll help!), and we provide the programming and a stipend. The Athena Advocacy Institute is funded by the Francene Rodgers ’67 Athena Fellowship Fund, the Marina Weitzner Lewin ’80 Internship Fund, the Carol Krongold Silberstein ’69 and Alan Silberstein Public Service and Internship Fund, and the Daphne Fodor Philipson ’69 Fund for Women’s Leadership.

Laidlaw Scholars Program Summer 2022 (+ Fall and Spring 2023) Develop your leadership and research skills through this two-year research and practice cohort program co-led by Beyond Barnard. The Laidlaw Scholars Program is funded by the Laidlaw Foundation.


Flavie de Germay de Cirfontaine ’23 Paris, France


“Abundance. And nuance. That’s what Athena taught me.” Flavie de Germay de Cirfontaine ’23 sums up her Athena experiences — and there were many — with two simple, powerful words. Flavie’s first Athena experience was a field trip to the U.N. during her first year, just weeks before campus closed in the spring of 2020. That fall, as a sophomore living 3,000 miles away from New York City, Flavie leapt at the chance to take part in ThirdSpace@, the intensive yearlong program Athena designed for a remote academic year to support students in taking meaningful in-person actions in response to the challenges that COVID-19 laid bare. She used the opportunity to develop a project grounded in the arts. Reflecting on that unusual year now, Flavie says,“I think a lot of Barnard students struggle with perfectionism. We feel like we need to control everything — and to control everything, you need to do it by yourself. But then COVID-19 happened, and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I just need to relinquish control for a second because I can’t do this on my own.’” At Athena, our belief that the complex challenges we face as a society won’t be solved by any one person, in any one try, or through any one approach undergirds everything we do with students like Flavie — liberating them from the pressure to find the perfect solution to a challenge and to try new ways of doing things with new people. For Flavie, as a junior, that meant using her interest in finance coupled with her commitment to living a socially conscious life to create a three-part, one-of-a-kind series on ESG investing with Athena, the Francine LeFrak Foundation Center for Well-Being, Barnard’s Office of Finance and Office of Sustainability and Climate Action, and Beyond Barnard. She brought in the Columbia University Impact Investing Network as a partner and worked closely with series moderator and alumna Eva Yazhari ’06, an impact investor, author of “The Good Your Money Can Do,” and member of the Athena Leadership Council, to ensure the series addressed questions from — and included the perspectives of — a broad array of stakeholders. Flavie took the lessons she learned from this and all the preceding experiences into her final Athena experience: the Intrapreneurial Leadership Fellows Program, a program exploring what it takes to lead change from within established institutions, run in partnership with Columbia School of General Studies.

" “As an urban studies major, I look at a city through politics, economics, physical infrastructures, social infrastructures ... and at the Athena Center, I’ve learned that to lead, I have to do that too. To embrace diversity, nuance, and the interconnectedness of various disciplines. To embrace the abundant tapestry of resources, experiences, and knowledge.” Flavie de Germay de Cirfontaine ’23

Last fall, Flavie entered the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University as a 4+1 student; this upcoming spring, she’ll graduate with an MPH. We’re looking forward to celebrating with her!

Nami Weatherby ’23 Kobe, Japan


Nami Weatherby ’23 came to Athena with a world of knowledge and very, very big ideas. As an ethnomusicology and sociology major, Nami was compelled to tell complex stories — of geopolitical power, inequality, and the lasting impacts of these issues on communities across the world. And, as a Fall 2022 Athena Fellow, Nami discovered new connections to bring these stories to life. Before finding herself at Athena, Nami’s experience at Barnard was deeply affected by the onset of the continuing coronavirus pandemic in 2020. With two years almost completely virtual, she found herself as a senior urgently wanting to build relationships on campus and take advantage of the extensive resources Barnard has to offer. Once accepted into the Athena Fellows Program, Nami was able to seize an opportunity to deepen her knowledge and her bonds to Barnard. At the same time, Nami also had a chance to explore the complex issues she deeply cared about through more creative and experimental methods. Her initial proposal for an Athena Fellow project focused on developing an extended research project about nuclear war and its impacts on communities across Japan. With the support of Athena staff and her faculty advisor, Nami took a chance on doing something outside of the box — she combined her artistic and musical passions to dream up an immersive, creative installation that displayed on campus during her Movement Lab Student Residency in March 2023. Nami’s project, “They Never Told Us These Things,” used animation, sound, and poetry to invoke a 15minute looping narrative of nuclear war, resistance, and stories often untold. “They Never Told Us These Things” has since become an award-winning project. In 2023, Nami received a social impact grant from Cocovibe and was selected as both a Fulbright ETA Fellow and a Projects for Peace fellow all in the same year. As a Fulbright ETA, she will teach English to students in Taiwan. Nami’s story truly embodies the spirit of the Fellows program; it’s a space for highly motivated, creative, and ingenious students to take risks, makes connections, and produce interventions that impact the world.


Elise St. Amant ’23 Dallas, Texas



I’ve always enjoyed word association tests. Cat … mouse. Luck … clover. Bee … honey. As a neuroscience major, unraveling the inner workings of the mind has always been of great interest to me. But if I’m being completely honest, I simply find them fun. And if you asked me for the first word that comes to mind when I hear “Athena,” I would likely say “puzzle.” I know that this word would seem like a rather odd response to many. People who don’t know anything about the Athena Center might think I’m a bit off my rocker. Those at the Athena Center would probably believe that I am referring to the ever-present puzzle on the table near the front door, welcoming guests to try their hand at connecting a piece or two. And yes, I do think about those puzzles, too. However, to truly understand my meaning, you have to know about my earliest interactions with the Athena Center. I can still recall seeing the bright blue and orange flyer for the HTML/CSS course offered by Athena Digital Design (ADDA) standing out among the others adorning the walls of Barnard Hall. I remember immediately calling my mother and telling her how badly I wanted to take part in that program. The Athena Center was offering a chance to learn transferable skills that would open a world of opportunities for me in a lowstress environment, something that is hard to find in a Barnard classroom. But learning how to code HTML/CSS through the ADDA course was only the first piece of the puzzle. Eventually, I became a member of the ADDA Student Advisory Board, assisting in designing the coding course and implementing the ADDA community of practice (CoP). By senior year, I had risen to the position of Student Lead of ADDA, leading the ADDA Student Advisory Board and working with the Center to improve the course and CoP. As I prepare to graduate and reflect on my four years at the Athena Center, I have come to realize that every interaction and experience there has added a piece to the puzzle that I had been hoping to solve since my first days on campus. The courage to speak up for my beliefs was one piece of the puzzle. The skills to effectively communicate those beliefs were another. The ability to direct and organize a team was a piece, as well as the ability to listen and collaborate with others. The Barnard student body is full of brilliant individuals brimming with potential and bubbling with a desire to enact change in the world. We are at an institution and located within a city that has so much to offer, it is almost overwhelming. From my personal experience, the Athena Center is a unique place on campus that provides students with the resources and guidance to filter and transform that buzzing energy and overwhelming desire to do something into the action of actually doing. For any student with either an inkling of an idea or a jumbling mass of them, I will always recommend visiting the Athena Center, because the individuals there will help them bring those scattered puzzle pieces together to form an amazing creation. Elise St. Amant ’23, May 2023


Dipashreya Sur ’23 Sunnyvale, California

Dipashreya Sur ’23 knew she wanted to get involved with Athena as soon as she arrived on campus, and she did, starting in her first year, by participating in the Athena Hunger Challenge and then joining the Athena Student Advisory Board. As a sophomore, Dipashreya joined ThirdSpace@, Athena’s pandemicyear program. A loss led to an exploration of grief — what it looks like in South Asian communities and how we might de-stigmatize it, something she took up as an Athena Fellow in spring 2022, ultimately producing the Desi Grief Project. Along the way, she joined multiple other communities of practice, including our conscious investing community, and supported our community for coders as a Computing Fellow with the Vagelos Computational Science Center — a perfect Athena x CSC collaboration. At all points in her journey, the Athena Student Advisory Board was her constant, and in her senior year, she became its co-chair and a partner in the board’s evolution: Today, the Athena Student Advisory Board is a community of practice for future nonprofit board members. Members not only help shape the work of the Center, they learn about the role of boards in achieving organizational success, how effective boards work, and more.

" “I don’t like being the loudest person in the room, and I’ve learned at Athena that I don’t need to be in order to be a leader. In fact, it’s better if I just pose a question to the group, see how everyone responds, and then go accordingly, which is what I like to do. I used to think that leaders had to be the ones to always drive the conversation or always have a concrete idea, but in actuality, I really like collaborating with people and figuring out a solution together instead of just throwing one at them. I notice, even with my dance team now, a lot of what I’ve done at Athena has transformed how I am as a leader. I’ll come up with an agenda before a meeting and send it out to the group, and then as I go through each one be like, “Hey, okay, so what are your thoughts?” before I pose my own. So that I can really make sure that I’m incorporating the perspectives of everyone in the room in addition to my own, instead of trying to persuade them one way. It’s so small but so big.” Dipashreya Sur ’23

What’s next for Dipashreya? A Ph.D. in civil engineering at Stanford University, beginning this fall. “I feel like for a long time I’ve been trying to combine my interest in technology with sustainability and understanding the built environment — applying computation to understand the world around us. I’m just excited to see where I go with that!”


Amalia Garcia ’23 Miami, Florida

This year, Emma Wolfe ’01 (pictured at right on the preceding page), who served as deputy mayor and chief of staff to then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and senior Amalia Garcia ’23 (pictured left) coled an academic year community of practice for students interested in policy and government: Athena Policy and Changemaking (”APC”). APC was a complement to Athena’s long-standing summer community of practice, the Williams Program for Women in Politics, for which Emma also served as our resident expert. Before returning home this summer, to put all she’s learned at Athena into practice as an aide to the mayor of Miami-Dade County, Amalia sat down with Emma to learn more about how Emma thinks about public service — and what the opportunity meant to her as an experienced changemaker.

AMALIA: You've mentioned before that, similar to your prior career, you view your role here as another form of public service. Why is it important to encourage students to participate in government and politics, Barnard students especially? EMMA: I am constantly energized by efforts to bring more students from Barnard into public service. In the current political environment, I worry that there is less appeal for some entrants into the workforce when they think about government, advocacy, and electoral work – but it’s now more than ever that it’s meaningful for students with their Barnard boldness to enter these fields. AMALIA: What is your favorite part of working with students? EMMA: Favorites: students like you! Seriously, the students are really energizing, and I’m so excited to see where they’re going. I love it when you can see the passion for a particular issue or field of inquiry get sparked. I also think the students I’ve worked with at Athena have by and large a great combination of curiosity and humility, and that’s wonderful to see when they interact with practitioners and ask questions. AMALIA: What do you hope the impact of APC is on students, both those who attend consistently and those who pop in for specific sessions? EMMA: A growing comfort and excitement about a field that can sometimes seem difficult to understand; government in action can feel like a confusing labyrinth. A connection with practitioners from fields they may be interested in — one that they learn from but also a connection that’s useful for their future aspirations. AMALIA: How does your experience as a Barnard graduate inform your work at Barnard and Athena today? EMMA: I’m grateful for what Barnard did for me in giving me experiences I never had and many I never would have had anywhere else. I’m grateful for the career I subsequently had. If there is even an iota of that life-changing experience that Athena, and those of us who are part of the Athena community, can contribute to — awesome.

Our sincere thanks to Constance Hess Williams ’66, former Pennsylvania state senator and longtime champion of Barnard students, for her generous support of the center and especially her support for our policy and government programs.

Sharmie Azurel ’23 Los Angeles, California

Sharmie Azurel ’23 joined the Athena Advocacy Institute in the summer between her sophomore and junior year at Barnard, after taking Pandemic Tales, a Spring 2021 seminar led by history professor Premilla Nadasen that partnered with the Damayan Migrant Workers Association to share stories of people impacted by COVID-19. “It was really inspiring for me,” Azurel says. “Oftentimes, when we’re just reading books about human rights cases, you lose hope, but then you see theory in practice and you’re like, ‘Wow, things can change, and advocacy really starts within the community.’” Sharmie learned what it means to decentralize and organize powerfully and effectively through her involvement with the worker organizers at Damayan. She recalls the impact of a labor trafficking survivor’s story to her outlook on immigration advocacy and the importance of storytelling:

" “I had to help translate her affidavit — but after I translated that, I didn’t process what had happened. I thought, ‘Oh, that was nice, I finished my work.’ But then, after I showed her the letter, she started crying. I started out thinking that my work was literally just translating one word to the other. Then I began to realize how I can make that difference within my community as well. It’s through those partnerships, collaborations, and using my skill sets where it matters. That’s the type of work I want to do. And that’s what being an advocate means for me and what advocacy can look like. You don’t stop being an advocate after one summer.” Sharmie Azurel ’23

Sharmie continued her work with Damayan after that summer, helping Damayan to collect and document stories from its community with Professor Nadasen’s guidance. In reflecting on what the Athena Advocacy Institute gave her, Sharmie says, “I thought, I have to be one way or the other. But then I started seeing things in a broader perspective, and that allowed me to do more meaningful work and reach more people than I could have imagined the next following two years.” Read “Pandemic Tales,” the report to which Sharmie contributed, here. What’s next for Sharmie? In June 2023, Sharmie joined Cleary Gottleib as a paralegal — building more skills that will serve her well in her future career in the law. *** The Athena Advocacy Institute is funded by the Francene Rodgers ’67 Athena Fellowship Fund, the Marina Weitzner Lewin ’80 Internship Fund, the Carol Krongold Silberstein ’69 and Alan Silberstein Public Service and Internship Fund, and the Daphne Fodor Philipson ’69 Fund for Women’s Leadership. We are so grateful for their vision and support! THE ATHENA CENTER FOR LEADERSHIP | 2022-2023 ANNUAL REPORT

Since 2010, the Athena Center for Leadership at Barnard College and Women and Hollywood have partnered to challenge tired, troubling narratives about women and leadership with original, thought-provoking, compelling, and diverse women-centered stories. Today, the Athena Film Festival is where thousands of people gather each year to experience these stories together, and the Athena Creative Development Program is where the creatives working on these stories find community, critical connections, and support, year-round.


Our founding sponsor is the Artemis Rising Foundation, led by CEO Regina K. Scully.

Premiere Level

Silver Level

Bronze Level

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

Abigail Disney Bloomberg Philanthropies J.J. Abrams and Katie McGrath Sheila Nevins Uber Whitewater Films

The Adrienne Shelly Foundation Banijay Americas Comcast/NBC Universal Joan Fallon Gale Ann Hurd Ann Kaplan The Ravenal Foundation Stephens College Jenny Warburg Jacki Zehner

Platinum Level Netflix

Gold Level Christine A. Schantz The Dobkin Family Foundation Evenstar Films Hanky Panky Secret Sauce Media Walt Disney Studios

Accessibility Sponsor The Loreen Arbus Foundation

The Athena Film Festival is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. THE ATHENA CENTER FOR LEADERSHIP | 2022-2023 ANNUAL REPORT

A ONE-OF-A-KIND GATHERING & SHOWCASE In 2023, we were delighted to return to campus for the first fully in-person Athena Film Festival since the start of the pandemic. We screened 40 films, including six premieres, and held six panels and 17 Q&As with filmmakers, film subjects, and members of filmmaking teams, for an audience of more than 3,000. OPENING NIGHT FILM We kicked off the festival with “Till,” a deeply moving and politically significant film directed by Athena List winner and longtime friend of the festival Chinonye Chukwu, for whom our Emerging Writer award is named — we screened Chukwu’s film “Clemency” at the 2020 festival. “Till” tells the story of how Emmett Till’s mother transformed her grief into a movement for justice. It is an insightful and critical look at the history of racism in the United States and one of the most significant women figures of the Civil Rights Movement. CENTERPIECE FILM With humor, sensitivity, and a healthy dose of adolescent cringe, “Judy Blume Forever” — our centerpiece film — tells the story of the woman whose trailblazing books changed the way millions of readers understand themselves, their sexuality, and what it means to grow up. This New York premiere was a fan favorite, with hundreds of students, alums, and other festivalgoers in attendance. After the screening, the audience enjoyed a conversation with director Davina Pardo and producer Marcella Steingart in which they discussed Judy Blume’s impact on them growing up and the continued relevance of her work.

CLOSING NIGHT FILM We closed the festival with the New York premiere of “Plan C,” a documentary that follows the hidden grassroots organization doggedly fighting to expand access to abortion pills across the United States, keeping hope alive during a global pandemic and the fall of Roe v. Wade. The post-screening Q&A with Athena Film Festival co-founder Kathryn Kolbert, “Plan C” director Tracy Droz Tragos, doctors, and activists fighting for reproductive justice was a fascinating and electrifying discussion about the state of reproductive healthcare in the U.S. and what we can do moving forward.


AN UNPARALLELED PIPELINE OF TALENT In addition to hosting our annual festival, we make strategic interventions that increase the likelihood of success for women-centered films. To date, we have supported over 200 creatives working on womencentered projects — the majority of whom hail from communities traditionally underrepresented in the film industry. The Athena Creative Development Programs — the Athena Writers Labs, Documentary Pitch Program, and the Athena List, as well as the multiple grants and fellowships we offer — provide these creatives critical opportunities and a strong, supportive network. In 2022-2023, we introduced three exciting new initiatives: an opportunity for teens interested in filmmaking, a program for aspiring curators, and a collaboration with Barnard’s film program and the Media Center.

THE ATHENA DOCUMENTARY PITCH PROGRAM Now in its 10th year, the Athena Documentary Pitch Program, sponsored by Secret Sauce Media, is an intensive pitch training and storytelling strengthening opportunity like no other. This year, we were honored to screen not one but two completed films that came through the program: “The Fire That Took Her” by Patricia Gillespie and “Black Mothers Love & Resist” by Débora Souza Silva. Both Patricia and Débora were able to join us for moving Q&As following the screenings of their respective films.

" “The Athena Documentary Pitch Program was like rocket fuel for my project.” Patricia Gillespie Director “The Fire That Took Her”


" “Without a doubt, the Athena Documentary Pitch Program came at a critical time. I entered the program without any experience in ‘pitch forums’ and left feeling more confident to pitch my film to any audience in any setting.” Débora Souza Silva Director “Black Mothers Love & Resist”

In the summer of 2022, we launched the Athena Film Festival Programming Fellowship with two Fellows: Madison Egan and Tishon Pugh. Working closely with the Athena Film Festival Post-Baccalaureate Fellow, Senior Programmer, and Artistic Director, these fellows deepened their understanding of the curation process for film festivals and, ultimately, helped shaped an incredible Festival program, with a focus on the short film lineup for the 2023 Athena Film Festival.


THE 2022 ATHENA LIST DEVELOPMENT GRANT In December 2022, we held a reading and reception to celebrate “The Gatekeeper” by Jennifer Vanderbes, recipient of the 2022 Alfred P. Sloan Athena List Development Grant. “The Gatekeeper” is a historical drama based on the story of Frances Kelsey — the FDA medical reviewer who in the early 1960s fought a major pharmaceutical firm to keep the drug thalidomide off the American market. The script is based on Vanderbes’ own nonfiction book, “Wonder Drug,” published by Random House and released on June 20, 2023.


THE ATHENA FILM FESTIVAL TEEN IMMERSIVE At this year’s Athena Film Festival, we launched a brand-new program — an immersive, cohort-based opportunity for teenagers from the ages of 14 to 18 who are interested in learning more about film festivals, filmmaking as advocacy, how to get a start in the film industry, and beyond. The weekend included community building activities, workshops with filmmakers, and film screenings for teens from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., New York City, Tokyo, and more. Participants enjoyed private screenings, including a screening of “Afghan Dreamers” and a talk with the film’s producer, Academy Award winner Ellen Goosenberg. They also attended festival-wide events, such as our STEM showcase screening, “Blueback,” and engaged in small group conversations with industry professionals, including festival cofounder and artistic director Melissa Silverstein and filmmakers Sekiya Dorsett, Rachel James, Eimi Imanishi, and Suzanne Andrews Correa.

" “I LOVED the workshop-style classes with professional filmmakers because they were really great at answering our questions about filmmaking and articulating what steps we can take to become storytellers through the film media. I really enjoyed working with my peers because I think we were a really cool group of teens who are from very different parts of the world. I made some amazing friends in the process!” Participant 2023 Athena Teen Immersive

Documentary filmmaker Sekiya Dorsett (right) with members of the 2023 Athena Teen Immersive at her “On Film as Advocacy” workshop.



This year, with support from the Athena Film Festival’s founding sponsor, the Artemis Rising Foundation and its CEO Regina K. Scully, we were thrilled to launch the Artemis Rising Foundation Filmmaker Fellowship. A unique collaboration between Athena, the Barnard Film Program, and Barnard’s Elsie K. Sloate Media Center, this program brings established film industry practitioners and media experts to Barnard to teach, mentor, and coach students. Our inaugural Artemis Rising Foundation Filmmaker Fellow, Sekiya Dorsett, a GLAAD Award-winning filmmaker, taught Social Justice Documentary Filmmaking in Fall 2022. Students in Sekiya’s course produced short documentary films on a range of social justice issues, which were then featured as part of the Athena Film Festival’s Student Showcase. Spring 2023 brought two new Artemis Rising Foundation Filmmaker Fellows to campus: Abbesi Akhamie, a NigerianAmerican writer-director and producer, and Cynthia Lowen, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker and award-winning writer. Abbesi taught a mini-course on the business of filmmaking. Cynthia led a mini-course on writing for nonfiction filmmaking. All three of these extraordinary filmmakers have participated in the Athena Film Festival and our Creative Development Programs. We’re so proud to call them part of the Athena Film Festival family!

" “During my time as an undergraduate at Barnard, I took several film classes — from film production and screenwriting to film history — and was always more focused on the creative side of filmmaking. However, after graduating, I realized how difficult it would be to situate in an industry that is so competitive and has so many moving parts. Film Grant Writing and Creative Career Strategy was exactly what I was looking for. The short course, taught by Artemis Rising Foundation Filmmaker Fellow Abbesi Akhamie in the spring of 2023, helped inform me about the different options I have in the industry as well as the different job tracks at my disposal. We went over different grants and fellowships, how to find these opportunities, and which ones to pick based on our profile and interests. Abbesi then guided us on how to apply to these opportunities, from building a portfolio to drafting an artistic statement. It was a very practical, hands-on course, and Abbesi was extremely helpful and knowledgeable. She went as far as showing us different newsletters, websites, and job boards. All in all, it was a great experience that has directly impacted how I view and search for opportunities to forward my career in film.” Gabriela Jatene ’22 Post-Baccalaureate Fellow Athena Film Festival


A note of thanks. Our success is possible because of the generous support of our donors, the wisdom of our advisors, the dedication of our staff and our community, and the commitment of our leadership at Barnard. We remain thankful to our founding donors, Francene Sussner Rodgers ’67, Constance Hess Williams ’66, and Lucille Zanghi and James Dow P’10, who enabled us to start the Center, to Amy Crate ’94, P’24, and Darrell Crate P’24, who enabled us to move into our next chapter, and to Constance Hess Williams ’66 for her decision in 2011 to endow the Directorship, along with our active and dedicated Leadership Council, co-chaired by Claire Newman and Rochelle Cooper ’84, P’12. ATHENA LEADERSHIP COUNCIL


Rochelle Cooper ’84, P’12 (Co-Chair) Claire Newman (Co-Chair) Pooja Badlani ’01 Beth Bloomfield ’73 Leah Dunaief ’62 Gabrielle Ferrara ’12 Julianna Goldman Gottlieb ’03 Patricia Hong Bronwyn Hughes ’87 Kiran Jain ’98 Julie Melwani ’09 Patricia Harrigan Nadosy ’68 Lida Orzeck ’68 Daphne Fodor Philipson ’69 Jennifer Perusini ’10 Melissa Marrus Polinsky ’00 Jenny Raymond ’93 Francene Sussner Rodgers ’67 Ariella Salimpour ’17 Robyn Price Stonehill Jamienne Studley ’72 Meg Withgott ’79 Eva Helene Yazhari ’06 Lucille Zanghi P’10 Jacki Zehner P’23 Anonymous

Umbreen Bhatti ’00 Constance Hess Williams ’66 Director

ENDOWMENT DONORS Marina Weitzner Lewin ’80 Patricia Harrigan Nadosy ’68 and Peter A. Nadosy Daphne Fodor Philipson ’69 Carol Krongold Silberstein ’69 and Alan Silberstein Laird Grant Groody ’67 Susan Weber ’77 Molly Rosenthal Memorial Fund

Victoria Lesourd Chief of Staff Chriss Sneed Director of Applied Learning Erika Guzman Program Manager, Applied Learning Ruchi Shah ’22 Post-Baccalaureate Fellow, Applied Learning Kristin Molloy Operations Manager, Athena Film Festival Gabriela Jatene ’22 Post-Baccalaureate Fellow, Athena Film Festival Lauren Carr Senior Programs Assistant Deepti Sharma Entrepreneur in Residence Anisa Bora Tech Expert in Residence Sarah Breen ’18 Tech Expert in Residence Emma Wolfe ’01 Policy and Government Expert in Residence Senior Advisor to the President for Leadership Development and External Relations



Elizabeth Cook Assistant Professor of Environmental Science

Dipashreya Sur ’23 (Co-Chair) Rachel Burns ’24 (Co-Chair) Fiona Campbell ’23 Adrienne Chacon ’26 Samantha Dhanani ’23 Bria Dominici ’26 Christina Graham ’23 Annabelle Jack ’23 Alexis Jean-Pierre ’24 Anushka Khetawat ’26 Molly Leahy ’24 Mahabuba Masud ’26 Alexia Pérez ’24 Riya Colin Shah ’24 Mariame Sissoko ’24 Arianna Suarez ’26 Emma Sullaway ’25 Menasha Thomas ’24

Margaret Ellsberg Senior Lecturer in English María de la Paz Fernández Assistant Professor of Neuroscience Sandra Goldmark Associate Professor of Professional Practice in Theatre Director of Campus Sustainability and Climate Action Rebecca Jordan-Young Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Erika Kitzmiller Term Assistant Professor in Education Debra Minkoff Professor of Sociology


J.C. Salyer Director of the Human Rights Program Assistant Professor of Practice, Anthropology and Human Rights

Yilan Hu ’24 Elise St. Amant ’23 Maggie Zhu ’24 Jackie Tokayer ’24 Sunny Fang ’25 Cate Mok ’25 Kayla Ansari ’24 Mergen Tamir ’24

Rae Silver Professor of Natural and Physical Sciences


Premilla Nadasen Professor of History

Nick Smith Assistant Professor of Architecture and Urban Studies Joan Snitzer Senior Lecturer in Art History and Visual Art Rebecca Wright Director of the Vagelos Computational Science Center Druckenmiller Professor of Computer Science

Amalia Garcia ’23 Bridget Hughes ’24 Shreya Margale ’24 Diarra Seck ’23 Elise St. Amant ’23 Rose Elliott ’24

In memoriam. We lost an incredible leader in February 2022: Azita Raji ’83. Azita broke barriers as the first female U.S. ambassador to Sweden and the first Iranian-born American ambassador, served a wide range of organizations dedicated to important social issues, and was the recipient of numerous honors for her work. Earlier this year, we sat down with Azita’s daughter and Athena alumna Elena Syman ’18 for a moving conversation about her work and legacy.

" “My mom was a natural leader. Obviously, as her daughter, I experienced her leadership in a different way growing up than many of her colleagues did, yet as I grew older, her leadership in my life changed, and she showed me the importance of curiosity, lifelong learning, self-work, and reflectiveness. She also taught me about Barnard — growing up, Barnard came up in our house all the time, and even though my mom and I had very different college experiences, once I went there, I completely understood why she loved Barnard so much. The Athena Center for Leadership, of which she was a cofounding chair, is core to who she was in so many ways. She was integral to the vision and creation of this amazing resource for women who are on the road to becoming exactly what she was — a leader, trailblazer, mentor, and changemaker.”

This spring, on the occasion of what would have been Azita’s 40th Barnard Reunion, Elena and her father, Gary Syman, established the Azita Raji ’83 Memorial Fund in Azita’s honor, to support current students at Athena. Thank you, Elena and Gary.



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