100 Scientists & Students, Four 40-foot Gamma Ray Telescopes, 10 Years Later

astronomyenvironmentphysics Prof. Reshmi MukherjeeReshmi Mukherjee, the Helen Goodhart Altschul Professor of Physics and Astronomy, has spent years staring into space. Literally. She begins her introductory physics class on noctilucent clouds—clouds seen in polar skies and only at twilight—which some believe are symptoms of climate change. Mukherjee often takes Barnard and Columbia students in her research group to the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory 50 miles south of Tucson, Arizona, to research astrophysical sources of high-energy gamma rays with VERITAS (Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System), the telescope system operated by a global network of scientists, for which she is the international spokesperson. Nearly 100 scientists and research students collaborate on the system’s four 40-foot gamma ray telescopes to better find gamma rays emitted from supernova remnants, exotic galaxies, black holes, neutron stars, and other immensely powerful astrophysical sources.

This year, VERITAS marks its tenth anniversary since the first full-scale observations began. The milestone was recently celebrated at a conference co-sponsored by Barnard that included presentations led by Mukherjee and others highlighting VERITAS’s history, updates, and scientific accomplishments. During her presentation, Mukherjee explained that today this telescope system can detect a source in less than half the time it took 10 years ago. As a result, her team has amassed more than 12,000 hours of data and detected high-energy gamma rays emitted from sources in the Milky Way Galaxy such as supernova remnants, pulsars, and extremely powerful distant astrophysical sources such as gamma-ray blazars that are thought to be powered by super-massive black holes in their centers. In February 2017, VERITAS caught a flood of gamma rays from a quasar believed to host a binary supermassive black hole, roughly 18 billion times more massive than our sun, among the largest known.

In April 2015, VERITAS together with NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope caught an outburst of high-energy gamma rays from its most distant galaxy (light that took more than 7.5 billion years to reach us on Earth). “The gamma rays that travelled billions of light years, avoiding obliteration in the cosmic fog (generated by astrophysical objects such as stars and galaxies that emit light), gives us an opportunity to learn about the star formation history of the Universe,” says Mukherjee.

Gamma ray astronomy began in the 1960’s as a challenging discipline with several technological hurdles; gamma rays with energies of more than a trillion electron volts (1 TeV) are so rare they can only be studied from the ground, indirectly, with very large telescopes. The need to see beyond our stars led to the construction of the first gamma ray telescope at Mount Hopkins (Arizona), half a century ago, in 1967. Forty years later, in 2007, the first full-scale observations began using VERITAS. Today in gamma ray astronomy, more than 200 objects have been detected and more than 1,350 scientists are developing the next-generation TeV gamma ray observatory. Barnard College is part of an international collaboration carrying out R&D towards the development of new telescopes for the future large scale Cherenkov Telescope Array. At


Visit original >

Barnard College Board of Trustees Announces New Members

alumnaecollege history Barnard College Board Chair Jolyne Caruso FitzGerald ’81 has announced three new members of the College’s Board of Trustees. They are financial services executive Jyoti Menon ’01, Columbia professor Serge Przedborski P’14, P’17, and Harvard Law School Dean Marcia Lynn Sells ’81. They join three board members who joined the Board during the 2016-17 school year: writer and humanitarian Nina Ansary ’89, president of Barnard’s London alumnae association Leila Bassi ’94, and investment advisor Caroline Bliss Spencer ’09.

“Barnard’s Board is proud to welcome this year’s new and returning Trustees,” said Caruso-FitzGerald, who has been Board chair since 2010. “Our new Board members come from diverse backgrounds, but all have deep roots in the Barnard community. The breadth and depth of their experiences will greatly benefit both the Board and the College as we continue to build our endowment and strategically position Barnard for the years to come.”

The Trustees of Barnard College are responsible for the overall governance and stewardship of the College, including the selection of the president and other senior administrative and faculty appointments, oversight of strategic direction and large-scale programmatic initiatives, and supervision of the endowment and budget.


Jyoti Menon is currently Head of US Third Party Wallets at Citibank, where she runs the partnership and product strategy for Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay. In prior roles at Citi, she worked on innovation in payments and drove roll outs for Apple Pay and Samsung Pay in the US. She has spent most of her career in financial services in product development and strategy.

Jyoti’s involvement with Barnard began right after graduation and she has held multiple leadership roles, including Chair of the Young Alumnae Committee, Co-Chair of the Athena Leadership Council, Adviser for the Student/Alumnae Mentorship Program, and Alumna Trustee. She was also recently appointed president of the AABC. She holds a Masters in International Affairs from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, and is a proud member of Barnard’s Class of 2001, where as a student she took on the role of campus mascot Millie.


Dr. Serge Przedborski is the Page and William Black Professor of Neurology at Columbia University, a joint appointment in the departments of neurology, pathology and cell biology. He is also the vice chair of research in the Department of Neurology, co-director of the Motor Neuron Center, and director of the Columbia Translational Neuroscience Initiative, all at Columbia University. His research focuses on neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease; he is the current president and a founding member of the World Parkinson Coalition, as well as a co-chair of the coalition’s World Parkinson Congress 2016, among other health-related associations and societies.
Serge is the father of Sarah ’14 and Natasha ’17. He and his wife Sylvie were both members of the Parents Council.


Marcia Lynn Sells is the Associate Dean and the Dean of Students at Harvard Law School. Prior to Harvard, she spent more than 13 years at Columbia University, first as Associate Vice President, Program Development and Initiatives, for the office


Visit original >

Climate Change Expert Prof. Stephanie Pfirman Warns That Melting Sea Ice Increases Spread of Pollution

climate changeenvironmentenvironmental scienceSTEM Professor Stephanie Pfirman has long been a champion for the Arctic and the environment. This week, the academic journal Earth’s Future published a study, coauthored by Pfirman alongside colleagues at McGill University and Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, that indicates climate change has had a “stirring” effect on sea ice and the Arctic’s surrounding waters. After tracking ice migration for nearly 30 years, researchers learned that melting ice floes have been blown increasingly farther and faster from their origins as the planet has warmed, and 21% of the world’s ice over that 30-year time period has drifted outside of the country’s waters in which it formed.

This stirring could have profound effects on global health and economy: an oil spill, for example, can be carried by ice floes from one nation’s coastal waters to another, spreading pollution rapidly in a manner similar to toxic runoff from factories that ends up in neighboring lakes and streams. Eight countries, including the United States, Russia, and Canada, have territorial claims to coastal waters—commonly referred to as exclusive economic zones (EEZs)—in the Arctic, where untapped oil and natural gas resources abound.

Prof. Pfirman demonstrates her EcoChains game at the White House Arctic Science Ministerial, 2016In a press release issued by Columbia University’s Earth Institute, Pfirman warned, “If you have a Deepwater Horizon-type spill where sea ice is forming, the oil can get into the ice and be transported to another country’s waters. We show that what happens in your EEZ doesn’t necessarily stay there.”

Articles about this study and its impact have run in Phys.org, Scientific American, Environmental News Network, Science Daily, E&E ClimateWire, and more.

Stephanie Pfirman, the Hirschorn Professor of Environmental and Applied Science and co-chair of the Environmental Science department, studies the effects of climate change on polar sea ice. She is the co-creator of EcoChains: Arctic Crisis, an educational strategy game that asks players to build a marine ecosystem while facing various ecological stressors; she demonstrated the game and its benefits last year at the White House’s inaugural Arctic Science Ministerial. Pfirman, who recently spoke with Nature about her research into regrowing the ice shelf, is also a member of Barnard’s Presidential Task Force to Examine Divestment, which was instrumental in developing the College’s enhanced sustainability initiatives and plan to divest from climate change deniers.


Visit original >

Prof. Tara Well’s Research Offers Pathways to Clarity and Calm

health & wellnesspsychology Prof. Tara Well studies meditation, emotional regulation, and nonverbal communication, and her current research focus—and forthcoming book The Clear Mirror: The Healing Power of Self-Reflection—addresses the effect of mirrors on stress and self-image. She has pioneered the “Mirror Meditation” technique, a practice reminiscent of Buddhist mindfulness that involves gazing intently into a mirror for 10 minutes to better attune the subject to their emotions and bodily sensations. Far-removed from an exercise in narcissism, Well found that daily practice has many benefits, including increases in self-awareness and self-love, and teaches the technique in workshops at Barnard College and at the Rubin Museum in New York City.

Well’s expertise has also been of great use during a tumultuous political season. Not long after the inauguration, she spoke to Bloomberg News about “emotional contagion,” a phenomenon that psychologists define as the spread of a heightened emotional state from one person to another, and the role of social media in amplifying the contagion. In a second Bloomberg interview, she suggested reducing the amount of time we spend on Facebook or Twitter to reduce anxiety and the risk of emotional contagion, and instead strengthening individual relationships and carving out time for self-care. Well also writes a column for Psychology Today; The Clarity looks at topics ranging from dealing with betrayal or difficult social situations to the neuroscientific research behind compassion and empathy.

Well’s next Mirror Meditation session, centering on the theme “Compassion by Reflection,” will take place at the Rubin Museum on April 29. More information about the event is available on the Rubin Museum’s website.


Visit original >

Break This Down: Q & A with Prof. John Glendinning on the Link Between Taste Buds and Insulin Release

STEM John Glendinning, the Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Biology, studies feeding and taste focusing on the role of the modern diet and overeating. One of his areas of research is the link between taste buds in the mouth and insulin release in the gut. In a recent paper in the American Journal of Physiology, he revealed the connection between a sweet taste pathway in the mouth and insulin release by the pancreas. The paper was co-authored by Yonina Frim ’17, Ayelet Hochman ’16, and Gabrielle Lubitz ’17. Glendinning explained the significance of this discovery.

Prof. John GlendinningHow are taste buds linked to insulin release?

When most of us think about taste, we think about conscious sensations—if you put a potato chip in your mouth, for example, you sense a salty taste. Candy elicits a sweet taste. But what we’re talking about in this paper is a novel sweet taste pathway, which elicits a physiological response—insulin release—but no apparent sweet taste sensation. The response helps us process foods.

What is the significance of your findings?

Scientists previously knew there was a sweet taste pathway that could trigger insulin release from the pancreas and help increase glucose tolerance, but our work gained insight into concrete mechanisms for how this pathway works. There are multiple kinds of sugars—sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, lactose—and then there are artificial sweeteners, but we discovered that only glucose activates the insulin release in this sweet taste pathway. We also found that artificial sweeteners don’t activate it.

How could this impact people with diabetes?

Given the rapid rise in incidence of type 2 diabetes, it is critical to gain a more complete understanding of the mechanisms that control insulin secretion. People who have diabetes either produce too much insulin or too little, and that impacts their ability to process sugar. The value of this work is that we know this taste-elicited insulin release can dramatically improve the ability of people to regulate their blood sugar. By understanding these mechanisms, we may be able to help people who are producing excessive insulin by limiting its secretion, or people who don’t produce enough insulin by enhancing its secretion.

How does this finding suggest potential for drug discovery in the future?

This novel sweet taste pathway may provide a target for manipulating insulin release in diabetic patients. There are a lot of treatments that do work—for example, there are medications that target the beta cells in the pancreas, and there are patients who inject insulin into their body to help regulate blood sugar. But my feeling is that targeting taste cells in the mouth could lead to a more natural method. Our work establishes that the taste system does more than just help us identify and enjoy sugary foods. It also helps the body prepare for the oncoming onslaught of sugar.

Here Prof. Glendinning explains why new foods taste better when you’re on vacation.

And in this video, he discusses how he became interested in his field of study.

Pathways to Passion: John Glendinning



Visit original >

“Solidarity Is a Verb”

activismBCRWpoliticsrace and ethnicity On April 11, a standing-room-only crowd of more than 400 piled into the Diana Center Event Oval to hear a lecture from Alicia Garza, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement and special projects director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance. While the theme of her talk, hosted by the Barnard Center for Research on Women (BCRW), was described as “The Future of Black Lives Under a Kleptocracy,” Garza touched on a wide range of topics, from the responsibilities of U.S. and global citizenship to workers’ rights to the role that Twitter plays in social movements.

Much of the lecture was a review of the current political and social landscape: the appointment of government officials who once tried to discredit or dismantle the agencies they now run, legislation in statehouses around the country that aim to restrict freedoms of speech and assembly, and scandals—like the one surrounding United Airlines’ treatment of a passenger who was assaulted and then maligned in the press—that serve only as smokescreens and cause division among groups. Garza later shifted from current events to an impassioned defense of Black Lives Matter and the importance of solidarity. “[Saying] ‘black lives matter’ does not mean that nobody else’s life matters,” Garza said. “The point is not to play Oppression Olympics.”

Garza reminded attendees that Black Lives Matter has its roots in previous civil rights movements, and in fact those movements never went away; she and her co-founders simply updated the format to match new modes of thinking and communicating. She referenced the rise of Twitter as being instrumental to raising awareness, but emphasized that social media cannot start a movement and our commitment to a cause cannot end in front of a screen. Garza concluded by encouraging attendees to have conversations with friends and family in person, and to make sure that those friends and family members have those conversations with their own networks.

“Social media is a way for people to be in [a movement], but it is not the catalyst of it… A movement cannot be a bunch of single instruments playing their own songs. It will not create an orchestra—there will be a lot of noise, and it might be beautiful, but it will not become a song.”

A video of Garza’s lecture, and the subsequent question-and-answer session moderated by Prof. Premilla Nadasen, may be found below. BCRW’s next major event, on April 25, will feature a conversation between two critically acclaimed poets: MacArthur Genius Grant recipient Claudia Rankine and Toronto Poet Laureate Dionne Brand will discuss the political importance of poetry as a form of resistance and force for justice.



Visit original >

Prof. Jennifer Finney Boylan Publishes First Mystery Novel for Adults

A prolific writer who has authored 15 books over three decades, Prof. Jennifer Finney Boylan, the inaugural Anna Quindlen Writer in Residence, keeps her readers on their toes. On April 11, book lovers joined the The New York Times contributing opinion writer on her latest literary adventure with the release of her first mystery novel for adults, Long Black Veil. She is the national co-chair of the Board of Directors of GLAAD, the non-profit organization that monitors discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community, a Board of Trustees member of the Kinsey Institute for Research on Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, and a relentless advocate who deftly explores legacy, visibility, and how one makes sense of his or her own past.

Recently, Boylan was quoted in Yahoo Style for speaking out against the Trump administration’s bathroom law repeal, explained how she uses “the medium of story to shine a light on one particular person’s experience” for the Philadelphia Gay News, and has written about gender and humanity for the Huffington Post.

Long Black Veil, which takes the reader from 1980 to today, follows the lives of five former college friends after one of them mysteriously disappears. In a recent interview with Out, Boylan acknowledges that people who have experienced a major life change may be “haunted by the before and the after” and defines what “stealth” means in the transgender community. More than a whodunit, Publishers Weekly called it a “a heartwarming midlife love story” and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo praises it as “one of the most eloquent pleas for empathy and moral imagination I’ve ever encountered.”  

Here, the author of The New York Times bestselling memoir She’s Not There discusses her newest novel, the new world of mystery fiction where the protagonist is transgender, and what it means to have multiple “lives.”

The novel introduces six college friends who are all very different from one another in many different ways. Do you personally identify with any of them?

I identify with all of them, of course. I am a book nerd like Quentin, and a food snob like Casey.  I have a potty mouth like Wailer. And like Rachel, I have an obsession with that Leonardo DaVinci painting of John the Baptist—a defaced version of which appears on the cover of the book [above]. John, in that painting, is a transfigured soul—beautiful, androgynous, one hand on his heart and the other pointing at heaven. He is, at that moment, something both mortal and eternal, male and female, compassionate and fierce. I think trans people have something of this in us too, having experienced so many different aspects of being human. Most trans folks I know have their fingertips on something both carnal and metaphysical.

The reader begins the story in 1980 in Philadelphia staring at an abandoned penitentiary. Why did you choose this place and time?

Eastern State Penitentiary is a real place, designed by Benjamin Franklin and closed in 1972— when I was growing up it was a giant ruin sitting there in the


Visit original >

Katy Lee '17 Receives Fourth Annual Axinn Foundation/Anna Quindlen Award for Creative Writing

literature & poetry

Katy Lee ’17 was awarded the fourth annual Axinn Foundation/Anna Quindlen Award for Creative Writing. The prize is awarded annually to a graduating senior, who receives $25,000 to support her creative writing. It is given by the Joan F. and Donald E. Axinn Foundation in recognition of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anna Quindlen ’74, her outstanding contribution to American life and letters, and her sustained support for the education and development of young people. The Axinn Award was presented by Interim President Rob Goldberg, Provost Linda Bell, and Millicent C. McIntosh Professor in English and Writing Mary Gordon at a reception on campus on April 5.


The Boston-born Lee, who grew up in a small town in Northern California, is an English major with a concentration in creative writing. Her influences in fiction and poetry are Isaac Babel, Elizabeth Bishop, John Keats, Bernard Malamud, Lorrie Moore, Tilly Olsen, Grace Paley, and Katherine Anne Porter. This semester, she is writing her thesis on Isaac Babel and several of his contemporary Russian literary theorists. After graduation she plans to go to nursing school and continue to write short stories. Her work has appeared in Narrative Magazine as “Story of the Week” and in the Whitefish Review.

“There is a line from a Philip Larkin poem titled ‘And the Wave Sings Because it is Moving’ that reads, ‘Laments, years, wreaths, rocks all ridden down/ by the shout of the heart continually at work/to break with beating all our false devises.’ When I write I always go for that ‘shout of the heart,’” says Lee. “I aim for it in the style and rhythm of a sentence or sound of word, but more broadly, I require it to force myself to write every day. I write for two to three hours a day. After those hours, I often scrap everything but a few sentences, so clearly I need all the time I can get. The Quindlen/Axinn grant will allow me to keep that chunk of time; not much is more important to me than that.”

Award committee included professors Jennifer Finney Boylan, Yvette Christiansë, Lisa Gordis, Mary Gordon, Saskia Hamilton, Alexandra Horowitz, Timea Szell, and Margaret Vandenburg. Lee wants to especially thank professors and mentors Rick Bass, Mary Gordon, and Saskia Hamilton “for taking her seriously.”

Information about previous winners
Lillian R. Fishman ’16
Sauleh Kamal ’15
Carmen Ren ’14


Visit original >

Celebrating Trans Stories and Successes

transgender Photo by Matt Harvey

A diverse and passionate audience of more than 250 people came together on April 4 to attend a film screening and panel discussion at a time in history when trans and gender-nonconforming communities fight for increased protections and understanding.

Hosted by the Barnard Center for Research on Women, “Our Voices: Trans Stories, Trans Justice, Trans Resiliency,” featured powerful short films documenting the intimate world of how the trans and gender nonconforming people build community, fight back against bias or prejudice, and focus on intersectional work. Activists Luce Lincoln, Giselle Bleuz, and Devin Lowe from the Global Action Project, Marin Watts from the Trans Justice Funding Project, and Olympia Perez and Sasha Alexander from Black Trans Media, clarified how race, gender, sexual identity, and class can all play a role in oppression.

Panelists also shared work and personal stories that highlighted trans leadership and the community’s unique approach to organizing as well as pronoun preferences, social inspiration, and mentoring within the trans community.

Alexander from Black Trans Media said, “We are not always received and embraced, so thank you for [welcoming us here tonight].” Alexander, who uses “she,” “he,” and “they” as pronouns, went on to say, “I’ve been inspired by rage and grief lately, and the desire for things to get better.”

To watch an archived video of the event, visit the Barnard Center for Research on Women Facebook page here.


Visit original >

Prof. Martin Stute Receives Federal Grant to Address Climate Change

environmental scienceenvironmentfellowships & grants Professor Martin StuteCarbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is wreaking havoc on environmental safety and leading to climate change, and Professor of Environmental Science Martin Stute has been on the front lines of research offering a solution to this enormous problem. To aid in his research, Stute, who has a joint appointment with the Columbia University Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, was awarded  a U.S. Department of Energy grant through the CarbonSAFE program.

The grant supports a feasibility study of permanently storing large quantities of CO2 from power plants below the ocean floor in rocks called basalts in offshore Washington State and British Columbia. This study builds upon the work that Stute and a team of geoscientists have been conducting in Iceland to capture carbon dioxide gases before they enter the atmosphere, rendering them harmless, by transforming them into stone through reactions with basalt.

“The ultimate goal of the CarbonSAFE study is the demonstration that safe disposal of CO2 offshore is possible,” says Stute. “By putting away CO2 for good in this way, we could reduce atmospheric CO2 emissions that are responsible for climate change.” Disposal in this formation has several advantages, as carbon dioxide is rapidly converted to a mineral and cannot be returned to the atmosphere. Even if some carbon dioxide were to leak before the conversion, this leak would occur into the deep ocean far away from human populations, minimizing the risk of potential ecological damage. Basalts are very common on Earth, and this technology would be easy to transfer.

Stute’s previous research, featured in Barnard Magazine, took place in Iceland and involved several Barnard students. This phase will take place in the Cascadia Basin in offshore Washington State and British Columbia.  

Watch Stute’s presentation, “Turning CO2 into Stone,” to learn more about how this groundbreaking technology works.

Stute is one of the Principal Investigators, and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory will lead the project in close collaboration with other departments at Columbia University and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington.

“Professor Stute’s research has enormous ramifications for our ability to understand and withstand climate change on a large scale,” said Associate Provost Patricia Denison. “This new grant is critical because it ensures that Stute can continue his groundbreaking research.”

Stute serves as co-Chair of Barnard’s Department of Environmental Science and is Adjunct Senior Research Scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and a member of the faculty of Columbia’s Department of Earth and Environmental Science. He is also a core member of the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy.

Stute is collaborating with D. Goldberg, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University; M. Gerrard, Columbia University School of Law; A.-H. A. Park, School of Engineering and Applied Science, Columbia University; and A. Bonneville, M. White, I. Demirkanli, L. Aston, G. Hund, and C. Brown of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.



Visit original >

Prof. Hisham Matar Wins Top PEN America Literary Award

literature & poetry Photo Credit: PEN AmericaPEN America gave its most prestigious award—the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, one of the largest literary awards in the country—to English Professor Hisham Matar for The Return: Fathers, Sons, and the Land in Between. The inaugural PEN/Jean Stein Book Award “recognizes a book-length work of any genre for its originality, merit, and impact…that has broken new ground by reshaping the boundaries of its form and signaling strong potential for lasting influence,” according to PEN America.

An anonymous panel of judges reviewed each work, awarding a prize of $75,000 to Prof. Matar, the Weiss International Fellow in Literature and the Arts and Adjunct Associate Professor in the English Department at Barnard.

The memoir, which details Prof. Matar’s journey to his native Libya in search of answers regarding his father’s imprisonment and eventual disappearance, also appeared on several “Best of 2016” lists by prominent news outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Financial Times. Prof. Matar, who is also the founder of the Barnard International Artists Series, was shortlisted in 2016 for the Baillie Gifford Prize, Britain’s most prestigious award for creative non-fiction, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Barnard Provost Linda Bell congratulated Prof. Matar, “an extraordinary writer and important voice whose memoir sheds much-needed light on our understanding of the political landscape in Libya.” She added, “But his book accomplishes so much more by grappling with the story of a child losing a parent—a universal narrative to which we all can relate.”

The PEN America award citation reads, “Hisham Matar’s The Return is a magnificent book about love and family, about crushing loss and the destruction of hope inflicted by brutal political tyranny. … Exquisitely written and profoundly felt, The Return is essential reading that breaks our hearts while piercing us with light.”

PEN America is the U.S. branch of the world’s leading international literary and human rights organization. The award ceremony took place on March 27, 2017, at The New School in New York City, celebrating the theme of “Books Across Borders.”  

Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN America, said, “Determined to reject attempts to isolate the United States from the world, we centered this year’s awards ceremony on the power of literature to surmount cultural, ideological, and geographic bounds.”  She told the audience that “in our present political moment, words have new meaning,” and that “[w]hen words are used to harm, we use words to heal. When words are used to lie, we use words to shed a light on truth. When words are stopped at the border, we use words to cross boundaries.”

2017 PEN Literary Awards: Hisham Matar


Visit original >

Prof. John Hawley Awarded 2017 Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize

fellowships & grants Professor John HawleyClaire Tow Professor of Religion John Stratton Hawley was recently awarded the 2017 Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize by the South Asian Council of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) in Toronto for his book A Storm of Songs: India and the Idea of the Bhakti Movement (Harvard University Press, 2015). The book examines the claim that India, such a diverse country, is actually unified by means of a bhakti movement that stretched from south to north, coast to coast, and language to language for a full millennium from 600 to 1600 CE.  Bhakti is the religion of song—seemingly just a spiritual thing. But it turns out that the idea of the bhakti movement took shape at very important political moments in the history of northern India. Religion doesn’t exist in a bubble in India any more than it does in the United States.

“Jack Hawley’s dedication to research in north Indian religious life and literature helps to generate new understanding of an ancient culture,” Associate Provost Patricia Denison said. “The AAS award is wonderful and well deserved in that it honors his innovative approach to the subject.”

Prof. Hawley’s interest in North India began in the 1970s following a graduate course he took on world religions at Harvard University. Since then, he has published 15 books on the subject. In 2013, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and was awarded the Barnard Teaching Excellence Award.

In 2015, Hawley published Sur’s Ocean about the 16th-century Hindi poet Surdas, and it became one of the inaugural books in the Murty Classical Library of India. The book contains the Hindi text for 433 poems that were in circulation in Sur’s own century, as reconstructed from the oldest manuscripts by Hawley’s collaborator Kenneth Bryant.  Hawley’s English verse translations appear on the facing pages.  Some of these poems were previously inaccessible, and all of them differ in some measure from what has been published to date. Last year, Barnard paid tribute to his 30-year anniversary at the College in Barnard Magazine, where he said of his fascination with India, “All these years have passed, and it’s still just as big as it ever was.”

On the same day the AAS award was conferred in Toronto, the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) organized a panel discussion of the book in Delhi. In explaining its interest in A Storm of Songs, the CSDS said, “The interactions between Hindus and Muslims, between the sexes, between proud regional cultures, and between upper castes and Dalits are crucially embedded in the narrative, making it a powerful political resource.”

A paperback edition of the book will become available in India in May.


Visit original >

Barnard Responds to Syrian Crisis Through Creation of the Ann and Andrew Tisch Scholarship for Refugee Women

immigrationeducationfellowships & grantsstudents Beginning in the fall of 2017, Barnard will offer a newly funded scholarship called the Ann and Andrew Tisch Scholarship for Refugee Women.  The scholarship will be awarded annually, and a student whose education has been interrupted as a result of war, persecution, conflict, natural disaster, or crisis will be able to attend Barnard through a generous gift to Barnard’s endowment from the Ann and Andrew Tisch family. The scholarship covers the full financial needs of the student for all four years of her undergraduate career, including tuition, housing, meals, books, travel, and stipends for internships and other co-curricular activities.

“There’s an old saying that when you affect an individual, you affect a world,” explains Ann Tisch, “and that is our intention here.”

Over 20 years ago, Ann Tisch had the vision to provide students growing up in low-income communities with a high-quality college preparatory education modeled on the finest private schools. She is the founder and president of Young Women’s Leadership Network, an organization that operates the Young Women’s Leadership Schools, a network of 18 all-girls public schools around the country, and CollegeBound Initiative, a coed college access program serving more than 18,000 students across New York City.  Her husband, Andrew Tisch, is co-chairman of Loews Corporation and is currently writing a book about immigration. They are the parents of a Barnard student.

Having been deeply involved in educating girls and young women, the Tisches see the scholarship as “a natural extension of our work over the past two decades. Bringing this to Barnard is among the most exciting things we’ve done, and we are thrilled about it.”

This scholarship began as a glimmer of an idea in the mind of senior Maia Bix ’17. In the fall of 2016, Bix met with Debora Spar, then the president of Barnard, to express her frustration that Barnard had not engaged in a meaningful way with the Syrian refugee crisis and with “the complex educational challenges that arise in these contexts of mass displacement.”  Spar told Bix that the issue was weighing on her as well and requested that Bix draft a proposal on what the College could do. “I don’t know what I expected when I walked into her office,” says Bix, “but her response was so affirming.  In true Barnard fashion, she empowered me as a student to really take initiative.” 

Bix researched what other higher education institutions were doing. “Ultimately I settled on the idea of a scholarship because it’s a concrete, impactful response that also furthers the College’s mission, is true to our values, and matches our capacity.  A scholarship is something that plays to our strengths—making higher education accessible to women who otherwise would have little to no access.”

She spoke with Giorgio DiMauro, Dean of International and Global Strategy, and fellow student Yasemin Akcaguner ’17, who connected Bix with Students Organize for Syria, a Barnard/Columbia organization. There she met Alema Begum ’18, who runs the Barnard/Columbia Books not Bombs campaign, and Nadine Fattaleh CC ’17, who has been working


Visit original >

Teagle Foundation Grant Supports Innovation in the Teaching of Economics

fellowships & grants Since 2013, Professor of Economics Rajiv Sethi has worked with the UK-based group CORE (Curriculum Open-Access Resources for Economics) to develop high-quality, open-access instructional content, distributed worldwide under a Creative Commons license. A $290,000 award from the Teagle Foundation will allow Prof. Sethi—along with department colleagues Prof. Homa Zarghamee and Prof. Belinda Archibong—to establish the first branch of CORE in the United States. This chapter will work to expand the vision that economics should be an inquiry into the fundamental problems facing humanity today and to ensure that the resources necessary to implement this vision continue to be freely available online.

Prof. Sethi is the grant’s principal investigator, with Prof. Archibong and Prof. Zarghamee as co-investigators; all three will serve as project directors. Under their direction, and in collaboration with CORE, they will build a coalition of faculty members and graduate students who are engaged with this approach to teaching economics. At Barnard, the initiative will take shape in a workshop series for faculty and graduate students who will be selected through a competitive application process and provided with stipends and partial reimbursement of travel costs.

“The workshop will involve faculty at all levels and Ph.D. students approaching the start of their careers, but the materials they will work on will be suitable for use in undergraduate courses,” Prof. Sethi said. “So Homa, Belinda, and I will each teach a section of Introduction to Economic Reasoning (BC 1003) using CORE during the 2017-18 academic year, like many of the other workshop participants.”

Short-term goals include creating a cohort of new Ph.D. graduates who are confident, networked, and excited about teaching economics. Graduate students who complete a workshop will be certified as CORE-Teagle Fellows, a distinction Prof. Sethi hopes will help to illustrate their level of commitment to education.

The first workshop will take place at Barnard, August 17-19, 2017.


Visit original >

Barnard BOLD Honors Students & Organizations Dedicated to Community

studentsactivismpublic servicestudent life Student Life celebrated five students and three organizations committed to engaging and supporting the Barnard community at the Barnard BOLD dinner reception on February 16 in the Diana Event Oval. Barnard BOLD recognizes the dedication to community that philosopher and activist Grace Lee Boggs ’35 exemplified. As Boggs said, “We urgently need to bring to our communities the limitless capacity to love, serve, and create for and with each other.”


DaMonique Ballou ’17

DaMonique Ballou is the director of The Black Theater Ensemble, an active and creative member of BOSS (Barnard Organization of Soul Sisters), and a Community Assistant in the Office of Student Life. DaMonique is committed to the arts and believes deeply in using theater, performance, and visual culture as ways to engage differences and to work toward social change. In her BOLD work at Barnard, DaMonique centers black experiences and those of other people of color and always invites everyone into the dialogue—creatively.


Helen Cane ’17

Helen Cane is a co-founder of the Divest Barnard from Fossil Fuels campaign, a Well Woman Peer Educator, and a Writing Fellow. She works tirelessly to sustain a community with (in the words of Boggs ’35) “limitless capacity to love, serve, and create for and with each other.” As a social justice organizer, she is deeply invested in anti-oppression analysis and group dynamics.


Valerie Jaharis ’19

Valerie Jaharis runs numerous Facebook groups for Barnard students, including “Barnard Pay It Forward” and “Barnard/Columbia Safety Network.” These groups support students with marginalized identities and reach the larger Columbia University community.



Nadia Mbonde ’17

Nadia Mbonde has an impact on student life through her photography projects and communities on social media. As director and president of the performing arts group V-Day, Nadia launched a platform to publically discuss people’s experiences with disability by creating an exhibit in Sulzberger Parlor. As president of MISC, she has created a new space for transnational people to discuss the intersections of their identity. Nadia has modeled in Columbia’s Afropolitan arts showcase and Culture Shock, presenting a monologue of her Asian heritage.


Aneliza Ruiz ’19

Aneliza Ruiz protested against police brutality in New York and marched for women’s rights in Washington, DC. She has reached out to students of color through her involvement with Mujeres as well as through her positions in Student Life and Well-Woman. As a Resident Assistant, she has organized coloring activities and brunches for her residents. Aneliza constantly works to better the lives of her friends, classmates, and community.        


Latinx Heritage Month Committee

Latinx Heritage Month (LHM) creates community by working with Latinx groups on campus to hold events such as the Maya Hip Hop and Showcase that celebrate different Latinx identities. Almost every single Latinx group on campus is involved, including graduate student groups. LHM enables conversations that often don’t occur, such as discussions about mental health. Students are challenged to take what they learn to their Latinx community as well as to other spaces.


She’s The First

She’s the First (STF) is a non-profit organization devoted to providing scholarships, mentorship, and empowerment to more than 800


Visit original >