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Perspectives for Parents A Newsletter for Families from the Dean of the College

Vo L . V II / N o . 2 s p r i n g / s u m m e r 200 9

IN THIS ISSUE Focus On: Internationalism Pages 2-3

Academic Calendar Page 3 Getting to Know Brenda Slade Page 4 Meet the Faculty Page 5 Senior Profiles: Planning Careers Pages 6–7

Letter from the Dean Themes of unlimited promise, the bonds of sisterhood, and the still emerging power of women resounded throughout the 2009 Barnard Commencement ceremony. Rising to the podium to preside over her first Barnard Commencement, President Debora Spar extended her greetings to the 575 May graduates and introduced Chair of the Board of Trustees Anna Quindlen ’74 whose opening line said it all, “Wow, am I surrounded by strong women today….” Among those women were the four recipients of the Barnard Medal of Distinction, the highest award given by the College: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Kay Crawford Murray, distinguished attorney and advocate for the rights of women and youth; Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsico; and Irene Winter ’60, scholar, author, professor, and expert on the arts and antiquities of ancient Mesopotamia. In her address, Clinton, the

Commencement’s keynote speaker and herself a graduate of a women’s college, asserted that her years in college were “the best investment that I and my parents ever made.” She noted the “unprecedented challenges of the times: war and terrorism, climate change and economic recession, extreme poverty and extreme ideologies, the proliferation of disease and nuclear weapons.” But, she affirmed, “the same interconnectedness that amplifies these global challenges also makes it possible for us to solve them, and for you to help lead us to the solutions.” More than a “matter of morality,” women’s progress is a “political, economic, social, and security imperative” for all nations. She added, “If you want to know how stable, healthy, and democratic a country is, look at its women, look at its girls.” Clinton urged her audience to be citizen activists and diplomats who incorporate public service into their lives and spoke of technology’s ability to continued on page 3

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Perspectives for Parents

Focus On

is published semiannually by The Office of the Dean dorothy denburg ’70

Dean of the College karen blank

Associate Dean of the College and Dean of Studies LILLIAN APPEL

Manager of Special Projects and Programs Susan Cohn ’66

Assistant to the Dean david doumeng

Administrative Assistant









mailing address Barnard College 3009 Broadway New York, NY 10027 telephone 212.854.3075 web address e-mail


The Beijing symposium. From the left: moderator Debora Spar, novelist Yan Geling, TV host Yang Lan, filmmaker Ruby Yang, and professor and district leader Wu Qing. Photo by Bill Liu

APPROACHING INTERNATIONALISM: Barnard’s Student Government Association Holds a Fireside Chat with President Debora Spar On April 20, the SGA sponsored the last Fireside Chat of the 2008-09 academic year with President Spar as the guest speaker. President Spar had recently returned from a landmark event, The Kang Tongbi Commemorative Symposium: Women Changing China, in Beijing, China. The Beijing symposium, for which she served as a principal organizer and its moderator, brought together a distinguished group of women who have made important contributions to education, politics, and the arts and media in China. Often challenged by family and societal obstacles, they spoke about their experiences as they sought to achieve their goals. While abroad, Spar also met with alumnae in Korea and Hong Kong, and visited two Korean and three Chinese universities with the goals of establishing ongoing global exchanges

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of ideas, students, and dialogues about women’s roles as leaders and activists. Approximately 25 students from all class years—many from international backgrounds—attended the SGA’s Fireside Chat, “Internationalizing Barnard,” where President Spar shared her thoughts about the symposium and her ideas about international exchanges; the students suggested means of pursuing this goal by incorporating the international experience into the curriculum, extracurricular activities, and new global-minded initiatives. Katie Palillo ’10, organizer of the event and the new president of the SGA for 2009-10, said these informal meetings offer students the opportunity to address issues specific to Barnard and are among the most popular events sponsored by the SGA, and the audience was enthusiastic about this

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exchange. Rachel Wilkinson ’10 thought President Spar’s trip to China “marked an important turning point for Barnard”; by reaching out to women’s colleges and students abroad, “Barnard raises not only its own profile, but the status of women’s education throughout the globe. Partnerships with other nations are playing an increasingly important role in global governance and diplomacy....” By bringing students together during the most important years of their intellectual development, the College paves the way for future cooperation beyond the classroom. Charlotte “Charlie” Dinkin ’12, an international student from England, noted that the importance of diversity is something she often takes for granted. She approves of President Spar’s efforts to make Barnard a more “visible presence globally.” It might feel like “a huge risk [going] half way across the world for college,” she says, “but a widening awareness of Barnard would certainly attract more of the best, brightest and most passionate women from all over the world.” Senior Iyayi-Osazeme Oyegun ’09 is a British-Nigerian student with an “incredibly global upbringing” who insists that the Fireside Chat with President Spar was “one of the most exhilarating moments of my Barnard experience.” She believes the dialogue between the students and the president about internationalizing Barnard was both challenging and hopeful, “Now is the time to share [the College] with the world outside the United States. I am filled with anticipation and awe of the future that lies ahead of our dear Barnard.” Palillo provides a final thought, “By incorporating global perspectives into the Barnard student body and introducing different voices, we become a more diversified and intelligent community.” Planning for the first Fireside Chat scheduled for Fall 2009 is underway; it

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will deal with the science requirement and Barnard’s core curriculum, The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Dean’s Letter, continued from page 1

ameliorate and transform lives. Our own student speakers contributed more personal views of their Barnard experiences and the challenges they themselves will face in the future. Members of the Class of 2009 have enriched the fabric of the community, pursued their dreams, traveled the world, and supported each other, said Jamie Prem, president of the Class of 2009. Faced with a difficult year, “we have endured and created changes,” becoming part of the legacy that supports education for women. Student Government Association President Sarah Besnoff quoted her mother, who was fond of telling her, “When I grow up, I want to be Sarah Besnoff.” Given the opportunity to grow and mature with outstanding teachers and learning opportunities, surrounded by fellow students who are “strong, intelligent, diverse, and passionate,” Besnoff said Barnard has made many choices possible. “This culture of choice allows us all to become trailblazers without fear of the roads not traveled …. We can each forge new paths to equality … we can be pioneers…. The Barnard sisterhood is supportive, collaborative, competitive … but conducive to our collective achievement.” The culture of choice is “our unique opportunity, a blessing that our mothers were not given in equal measure.” Adding to the luster of Commencement were eight recent graduates, including three members of the Class of ’09, who received Fulbright grants. Established in 1946, the grants program aims to increase understanding among people of the U. S. and those of other countries; recipients are chosen on the basis of their academic and leadership promise. This year’s winners plan to study and teach in such places as

Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, the Czech Republic, Nepal, Egypt. Having said good-bye to our most recent graduates, the rest of us at the College are turning our attention to the incoming students in the Class of 2013. In the fall of 2009, we expect 575 new first-years and 75 transfers. With joy, nostalgia, and just a tinge of sadness, I read the names of the students who left us at Commencement. With anticipation and a sense of renewal, we are making plans for Orientation. With warm wishes for a restful and happy summer. Sincerely,

Dorothy Denburg, Dean of the College

Academic Calendar Monday, 08/31 New first-year students may move in Wednesday, 09/02 New transfer students may move in Wednesday, 09/02– Wednesday, 09/09 Registration online through eBear Saturday, 09/05– Sunday, 09/06 Returning students may move in Monday, 09/07 Labor Day holiday Tuesday, 09/08 Classes begin at 9 a.m. Friday, 10/16– Saturday, 10/17 Family Weekend

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Getting to Know Brenda Slade

Director, Health & Wellness Program Director of health services since 2003, Brenda Slade recently assumed the administrative directorship of all Barnard’s health and wellness programs, which include Health Services, the Furman Counseling Center, Disability Services, the Alcohol & Substance Awareness program, Well-Woman program, and the Rape Crisis Center/Anti-Violence Support Center (the latter in collaboration with Health Services at Columbia). She continues as director of Health Services. Slade describes Health Services as a comprehensive primary-care service that focuses on health issues of collegeage women. But, she adds the clinicians and staff do not merely diagnose and treat ailments, “We’re here to help with developmental issues, to teach and help students to become responsible for their own well-being. We definitely strive to promote the concept of good health.” The recent national concern about the spread of the virus H1N1 (swine flu) resulted in a proactive program of education involving other student services and the College’s communications office. E-mails to students, faculty, and staff enumerated 10 ways to avoid contracting or spreading the virus; this information also appeared on the Barnard Web site, on posters throughout the campus, and on postcards distributed at events and in student mailboxes. Hand-sanitizer dispensers were put into place at entrances and exits of campus buildings as well. Awarded national accreditation in 2007 by the Accreditation Association


for Ambulatory Health Care for three years, the longest term given an institution, the Barnard health-services department is alone among its sister institutions in receiving the citation for nationally recognized health-care and health-education standards as well as outstanding services to students. The Health Services office shared the honor with Barnard’s Well-Woman program, which focuses on an integration of body, mind, and spirit for a healthier life. The Health Services suite of offices on the lower level of Brooks Hall offers the same services of general practitioners and is staffed by a medical director, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, a nutritionist, and a health educator. Services are available for acute and chronic illnesses, routine exams, contraception and reproductive health care, nutrition counseling, vaccinations, and allergy treatments. Beyond regular office hours, there is also a Clinicianon-Call service to assist students with emergencies. The office also fields a professional team of experts to deal with eating disorders, and works with other student services, such as Well-Woman and the Furman Counseling Center, to help with mental health issues. While Health Services does no allergy work-ups, their clinicians will work with a student’s allergist to help an individual maintain a specific regimen. Despite the fact that many first-years are 18 years of age, and by law entitled to privacy regarding medical and reproductive matters, “we encourage students to communicate with their parents about their health,” says Slade. Having brought up a daughter herself, she is well attuned to parental concerns. The most frequently treated complaints range from respiratory infections to strep throats to

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gastrointestinal complaints. Stress also figures into a student’s health profile: Technology keeps today’s students well informed about any number of issues, but as these young people transition to adulthood, they often suffer the insecurities typical of their age, such as “fitting in,” being popular, defining goals, and choosing a career path—all stress-triggers that might result in not eating properly or sleep deprivation. Ultimately, Slade’s office will see about 70 percent of the students when classes are in session from fall to spring. That number is fairly consistent with other four-year colleges throughout the country. All students are enrolled in a college health insurance plan, but costs outside routine care, such as tests or medical specialists, are covered by a student’s family medical plan, then secondarily, by the College plan. If a student is not covered by a family plan, Slade recommends a supplemental plan offered by Barnard for a nominal fee. For more specifics about Health Services, please go to

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Meet The Faculty

Paige West

Associate Professor of Anthropology

B.A., Wofford College; M.A., The University of Georgia; M.Phil., Ph.D., Rutgers University

Teaching at Barnard since 2001 Recent/Current Courses “Anthropology of Consumption,” “Environment and Consumption,” “Political Ecology,” “Culture and Environmental Behavior”

Areas of Specialization Environmental anthropology in the Pacific, specializing in Papua New Guinea

College Service Senator, Columbia University Senate; CU Faculty Senate; Presidential Transition Team; Review committee, “The Nine Ways of Knowing”; Advisor, Columbia M.A. program in climate and society.

Javier Pérez-Zapatero Associate in the Department of Spanish and Latin American Cultures

B.A., M.A., University of Granada, Spain

Teaching at Barnard since 2007 Recent/Current Courses “Translating Cultures,” “Gay Culture in Contemporary Spain,” “Spanish for Heritage Speakers”

Areas of specialization Second Language Acquisition, Translation Studies, Spanish for Heritage Speakers

College Service Spanish Language Program Director; Study Abroad Advisor (Spanish)

When not on campus… I can be found at an art gallery with my partner, swimming laps at the YMCA, or at a film screening at MoMA or BAM.

Dina C. Merrer Associate Professor of Chemistry B.A., Smith College; Ph.D., Rutgers University

Teaching at Barnard since 2001 Recent/Current Courses “Organic Chemistry I,” “Organic Chemistry II,” “Modern Techniques of Organic Chemistry Laboratory”

Areas of specialization Physical organic chemistry, carbene chemistry, and organic reaction mechanisms

College Service Member of the Committee on Instruction; member of the Faculty Governance and Procedures Committee

When not on campus… I can be found at the Columbia gym, Yankee Stadium, or playing trivia in Inwood.

When not on campus… I perform and record organ music, perform and conduct in concert, and read Italian literature.

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Senior Profiles While it’s true that today’s college seniors face a daunting economy, many Barnard graduates of the Class of ’09 have firmed up plans to achieve their career goals. The following profiles of eight of these young women illustrate how an outstanding liberal-arts education leads to a diverse array of future professions.

Kathleen Goble Fulbright Fellow

Kathleen Goble knows exactly what she’ll be doing until her fifth College Reunion. This Acton, Massachusetts native is heading to Madrid, Spain, in mid-September as a Fulbright fellow. She’ll be working at the Cajal Institute, an independent neuroscience center where she will study the effects of puberty on the body’s response to infection. Then Goble begins medical school at the University of Massachusetts Medical School at Worcester. “I was always interested in science and medicine,” says Goble, who majored in neuroscience and behavior. A residence advisor and vice president of her senior class, Goble volunteered during college as a mentor and disease educator for children with sickle cell anemia at Harlem Hospital and Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. Her ultimate career plans may include an M.D./Ph.D. program. “I’d like to continue to work with under-served populations,” she says, admitting that she’s equally tempted by public health, basic research and clinical medicine.

Amy Johnson Fulbright Fellow

It’s probably not surprising that someone who “hoarded National Geographics as a child,” as Amy


Johnson recalls, would be heading to the mountain villages of Nepal as a Fulbright Fellow. But Johnson always knew her horizons were greater than her Crandall, Georgia, hometown, where her extended family still lives along the same road. She credits Barnard with providing plenty of opportunities, including study in Nepal during her junior year. Johnson always “had a desire to learn about and travel to diverse cultures, to see other places,” so a major in anthropology “seemed perfect.” While in Nepal, Johnson will be studying a minority ethnic group, the Tamang, who live in the hills surrounding Katmandu. Her research will focus on the group’s ideas about territory and its relationship to the land through mapping. She ultimately plans to attend graduate school, possibly to study environmental geography. “I’ve always been gutsy and independently minded,” says Johnson.

Amreen Vora Born To Teach

Born in India and raised in Albany, N.Y., Amreen Vora is heading to an assignment in Mississippi for Teach for America after graduation. “I’m excited,” she says in the spirited manner that has informed her undergraduate career. Vora, a women’s studies major, has been a resident advisor, vice president of the Student Government Association,

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and vice president of the Muslim Students Association. She focused her extracurricular efforts as an SAT tutor for the “Let’s Get Ready!” program The Young Women’s Leadership Network School of East Harlem, as the program director for the Secondary School of Research in Park Slope, and as a volunteer for Double Discovery, a tutoring and mentoring program for underprivileged students. Ultimately interested in pursuing a career in educational policy and advocacy— and picking up a law degree along the way—Vora says, “I think I came to Barnard as a Muslim woman, not sure of her place. The most important thing Barnard gives you is your identity and the confidence.”

Banna Girmay

Advocate In Training Some 15 members of Banna Girmay’s extended family flew in from California for her graduation from Barnard. Majoring in psychology and economics, Girmay grew up surrounded by family members who had been political refugees from Ethiopia, and had an early education in immigration issues. “My mother inspired me to take action,” says Girmay, who has been involved with the Eritrean community in her native Los Angeles, and in Harlem as well as on the Morningside Heights campus. Pursuing a law degree at USC, Girmay hopes “to parents . barnard . ed u

go into immigration work—a big issue there.” Girmay’s horizons were also broadened by a semester in the Dominican Republic and an internship with an NGO that helped international organizations. On campus, Girmay has been active with the African Student Association, BOSS, and the Double Discovery Center. In L.A., Girmay serves as the youth leader for her local Eritrean community. She credits Barnard with giving her the ability to “forge my own path.”

Jessica Lowry

Pursuing Scholarship The recipient of the George Welwood Murray Fellowship, as well as two awards from the English department, Jessica Lowry will be pursuing graduate study in American literature at Christ Church College at Oxford University. “I’ve always known I wanted to be a teacher,” says Lowry. “It wasn’t until I came to Barnard that I thought of being a professor. I’ve had such good teachers here.” Lowry, a dual Irish/ American citizen who was born in New Jersey and raised in Surrey, England, by her Belfast-bred parents, is off to a productive and ambitious start. Last fall she wrote two theses, one, a collection of short stories; the second, about author Toni Morrison’s imagery. “It was a joy,” says Lowry, acknowledging that it was also hard. At Barnard, Lowry worked on the literary magazine, echoes, and the Barnard Bulletin. She also worked at an art gallery in Chelsea. “Here, students and teachers really care,” Lowry says. “It’s such a support base.”

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Emily Bock

Stepping Out To Dance Chicago native Emily Bock had been a ballet dancer her entire life. “Dance has always been a passion,” says this anthropology and dance major, who hadn’t even tried modern dance until she came to Barnard. “I found it amazing,” says Bock. “I fell in love with letting the body be that expressive.” Now she’ll be dancing after graduation, thanks to her relationships in the dance community forged through Barnard and being in New York. And while she hopes to go to graduate school in a few years, Bock—who minored in women’s studies and was a Mellon Mays Fellow—says “there’s something to be said for living the artistic life. Barnard gave me opportunities. It didn’t give me my voice, but facilitated the process to creating my own voice in both academics and dance.”

Laura Kenkel Off To Work

As the editor of her high school paper in Merritt Island, Florida, Laura Kenkel was convinced by a high school trip that her passion for both journalism and fashion would thrive. “I thought New York was the place to be,” says Kenkel, a native of Fresno, California. Originally interested in pursuing a career in psychology, Kenkel explored her other interests at Barnard. She interned writing for a fashion blog WeAreTheMarket. com and the New York Times News Service/Syndicate as well as More magazine. As the recipient of the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund scholarship and internship, Kenkel

worked last summer as an intern in Macy’s product merchandising group. By last fall, Kenkel found out she had earned a spot in Macy’s Executive Training Program, where she’s heading after graduation. “I was ecstatic,” she says. And Kenkel hasn’t ruled out the idea of graduate school, or pursuing an M.B.A, down the road.

Vanessa Johnson Teaching The Next Generation

Vanessa Johnson can’t wait to get into her next classroom—the one that she’ll be in charge of this September. “I love kids,” says this Westbury, Long Island, native who entered Barnard as a junior transfer student from Hofstra University. “There’s a joy about them you don’t get around adults.” An urban studies major, Johnson’s outstanding work in childhood education earned her the Stephanie Kossoff Prize. “What brought me to education was the realization that education, or the lack of a good one, affects so many other aspects of our lives,” says Johnson. “We’re not paying enough attention to it.” Johnson wants to focus on teaching for the next two years before pursuing a master’s in education. And she intends to take some of Barnard with her, wherever she lands. “What I’m taking away from Barnard is the importance of community,” she says. “That really attracted me to [the College] in the first place. It’s something I need, and something I try to create, and something I looked for when applying for teaching jobs. Barnard has nurtured me to have confidence to go out in the world and do great things.”

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Perspectives for Parents A Newsletter for Families from the Dean of the College

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Perspectives for Parents - spring/summer 2009  

A Newsletter for Families from the Dean of Barnard College