AlumnaeColumbia Three Barnard alumnae — Brenda Aiken ’77 ’81PS, Maryam Banikarim ’89 ’93SIPA ’93BUS, and Jolyne Caruso-FitzGerald ’81 — are among the 10 alumni to be honored with a 2019 Columbia Alumni Medal at the University Commencement on May 22, 2019. The medal is the highest honor given by the Columbia Alumni Association (CAA), in recognition of 10 or more years of distinguished service to the University.

Brenda Aiken, MD, ’77 ’81PS

Brenda Aiken’s long history of commitment to community began during the activism of the civil rights movement. As the first in her family to graduate from high school and attend college, the South Carolina native began her residency in internal medicine at Harlem Hospital Center, after finishing medical school.

An alumna of the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, Aiken attends classes and weekend alumni events, hosts alumni gatherings during the American College of Physicians national meetings, chairs the Campaign for Diversity, participates in the Home Away From Home program and the Admissions Committee, and speaks to first-generation and female medical students. She served as president of the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons Alumni Association from 2014 to 2016 and was the 2018 P&S Gold Medalist for Meritorious Service to the Alumni Association.

For two decades, Aiken worked in community clinics and private practice in Harlem and the South Bronx. She has served as the director of Medical Services at Columbia Health, the student health service of the Morningside campus. An active member of the National Medical Association and its New York affiliates, she is currently president of the Susan Smith McKinney Steward Medical Society. This year, two of Aiken’s sons will graduate from Columbia.

Maryam Banikarim ’89 ’93SIPA ’93BUS

Maryam Banikarim is a professional change agent who teaches organizations how to build themselves through the lens of purpose. While at Barnard, the Iranian-born Banikarim took advantage of the many opportunities offered by the College and the city, where she tried a variety of different classes, clubs, and internships, and won the prestigious Truman Scholarship.

“You could basically be yourself at Barnard. It’s really where I came into myself,” she said.

After Barnard, Banikarim earned a joint master’s degree in business and international affairs from Columbia, which positioned her to become a leader in marketing at corporate giants such as Hyatt, Gannett, NBC Universal, and Univision. Currently, Banikarim is a member of the Samsung Retail Advisory Board and executive advisor to Cove Hill Partners. She was most recently elected to chair the board of the press advocacy group Reporters Without Borders USA.

Banikarim remains active within the Barnard-Columbia community. She just completed two terms as a member of the board of the Columbia Alumni Association. This year, Banikarim spoke at Columbia Business School’s Women’s Circle and keynoted their Women in Business conference; she presented a talk in Seoul, Korea, for the inaugural CAA Mom’s Club, as well as one for alumni in Los Angeles. She also hosted a day of mentorship for Barnard students. In addition, Banikarim is an executive-in-residence at Columbia’s School of Professional Studies.

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