What Will Barnard Teach You?
I didn’t attend Barnard. To be honest, as an introverted, suburban Floridian, it never even occurred to me to go to college in New York City. (Now, I can barely imagine living anywhere else!) Even so, all of my life I have been surrounded and shaped by Barnard women.
My aunt graduated from Barnard in the late 70s, an English major who wrote her thesis on the theme of nature in Jane Austen literature and went on to earn her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. My cousin transferred to Barnard from a BFA acting program seeking greater intellectual rigor and more academically driven peers. She blended her interests in history, art, and women’s studies into a thesis on Artemisia Gentileschi and is now a professional actor and model. My mom and step-dad first met through the Columbia Marching Band when she attended Barnard and he attended Columbia. (He played the saxophone. She played the wood block.) Over thirty years later, they reconnected and married thanks to the magical fates of New York City. And now, my step-sister is the latest addition to this proud Barnard family, a psychology major currently studying abroad in Germany.
These women, all with different passions and life paths, share something special. They all have the same trademark Barnard characteristics: deep curiosity, a critical mind, warmth, and the courage to be themselves.
There’s a common myth that those who work in Admissions all attended the colleges or universities that they represent, so I’m often asked, “Why did you choose Barnard?” When the inquirer finds out I didn’t, they typically become sheepish and try to retract their question, but I like to answer it. The truth is, I too chose Barnard; I simply chose it at a different point in my life than the one you are in right now.
I had worked for multiple years as an admissions officer at other institutions and was looking for a new opportunity to grow. I wanted to work for a selective institution, where I would be pushed to read applications closely and think deeply about the kind of student who would fit best in our environment. (And we do read deeply – don’t be surprised if an admissions officer approaches you at Open House with praise for your essay.) I wanted to work for a small institution where I could have one-on-one conversations with applicants and work closely with current students. I wanted to be in the kind of intellectual environment where I would learn as much from students as I could from my colleagues.
And I have learned so much from Barnard and the students I have worked with as tour guides, Senior Interviewers, panelists, and colleagues. I have learned about Black Holes and intersectionality and symbolism in Mrs. Dalloway, sure, but I have also learned larger lessons. Despite my own liberal arts background, Barnard women have taught me the real value of the liberal arts. They are excellent communicators and embody interdisciplinary thinking, searching out the intersections between Dance and Chemistry, Africana Studies and Women and Gender Studies, Psychology and Religion, Theater and Human Rights. As activists, allies, and aspiring professionals, they have taught me how advocate for myself and others. And as members of this community rich in resources, they have demonstrated how to seize every opportunity for growth and learning. They are at once some of the smartest, most accomplished women I have ever known, and also some of the most down-to-Earth, supportive, and humble.
Barnard and its students have taught me so much about how to be a modern woman and lifelong learner. Barnard has taught me all of this, and I have never even had the privilege of taking a single class here.
Just think what Barnard could teach you.
Kelly Sutton Skinner