Cultural Life

Diverse Interests

Although the life of the college is closely linked to the energy and opportunities of New York City and to the resources of Columbia University, Barnard is truly a place apart: a tightly knit sisterhood of undergraduates who live and study in an atmosphere of open expression. From Barnard's president to its first-year students, the entire college community is encouraged to take an active role in shaping and supporting activities that reflect the remarkably diverse interests of students. We seek to foster a campus climate where individuals from diverse backgrounds interact on various levels, on multiple issues.


A Campus of Many Voices

Barnard is a place that celebrates all kinds of voices and opinions. Our student body comes from nearly 50 states and 50 countries. More than 35 percent of our students self-identify as students of color: Asian, African-American, Latina, Native American, bi-racial, and multi-racial. And, nearly 15% of our students have been educated abroad. Our students represent a Kaleidoscope of identities, with each member's race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, citizenship, and culture representing an arbitrary and beautiful arrangement of colors and patterns. More than this, though, each voice represents our many perspectives. And, it is in sharing those perspectives Barnard students learn from one another, each expanding her appreciation of diverse cultures and people, shaping her own lens from which she views the world.


Big Issues: Bigger Community

We believe that issues of diversity are shared and should be explored by every member of our community, not just those populations underrepresented. Our Office Student Life works to promote and support a campus community that embraces its pluralistic identity. The mission of this office, working with the entire campus community, is to enhance the experiences of Barnard students by encouraging and empowering them to explore complex issues of social diversity, educating and preparing students for success in an increasingly inter-connected global society.


Dynamic Programming

Barnard also works closely with our Columbia colleagues, academic departments, and students from all backgrounds to offer a range of programs that include cultural heritage months, lectures, film screenings, art exhibits, and co-sponsorship of a variety of campus programs including concerts, conferences and workshops. Such activities include, but are not limited to, cross-cultural programming such as the Campus Vibes Dialogue Series, addressing issues of social diversity, large celebrations, such as the Latina Heritage Month, Barnard Forum on Migration, Lunar New Year Celebration, Queer Awareness Month, Black Heritage Month, Rennert Women in Judaism Forum, Asian Pacific American Awareness Month, Native American Heritage Month, and Celebration of Black Womanhood, as well as our cultural film series.


Resources for social justice, identity, and inclusion

The Office of Student Life engages students outside of the classroom through programs, events, leadership opportunities, and dialogue. The intent of this kind of co-curricular engagement is to relate the classroom with students' lived experiences, fostering identity and leadership development in a dynamic and multifaceted environment. Student Life staff provide students with tools, resources, and experiences to assist them in the ways they navigate their lives.  By utilizing the opportunities available, students have access to wide-ranging experiences and multiple perspectives, allowing them to be more engaged citizens of our global community.


Through The Eyes of our Alumnae

Perhaps the best proof of the value of a Barnard education—and the Barnard experience—can be found in the remarkable careers that its graduates have built. Barnard’s alumnae excel in virtually every field. They start and lead corporations, make important scientific discoveries, write critically acclaimed novels, develop national policy, and more. Each year, hundreds of alumnae return to campus as guest speakers, provide internships in their workplaces, and act as informal job referral sources. For many, their work has had an impact more far-reaching than they might have believed possible when studying here. And, they are eager to share their experiences and empower other Barnard women.

Consider this (by no means exhaustive) list of accomplished alumnae of color:

  • Zora Neale Hurston '27, Renowned Author and Barnard's First African-American Graduate

  • Jhumpa Lahiri '89, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author

  • Edwidge Danticat '90, Acclaimed Author and Recent Winner of the MacArthur Genius Fellowship

  • Nina Shaw '76, Entertainment Industry Attorney

  • Sheila Abdus-Salaam '74, Supreme Court Judge, New York State

  • Enola Aird '76, Affiliate Scholar, Institute for American Values

  • Jane Allen Petrick '67, Organizational Psychologist, Author, Professional Speaker

  • Rosa V. Alonso '82, President, Associate Alumnae of Barnard College

  • Binta Niambi Brown '95, Corporate Associate, Cravath, Swaine & Moore

  • Maida Chicon '73, Director of Multicultural Marketing, Verizon

  • Cristina Garcia '79, Novelist

  • Graciela Garcia-Moliner '51, Chief, Department of Pathology, Oncologic Hospital, Puerto Rico

  • Maria Hinojosa '84, CNN Urban Affairs Correspondent

  • June Jordan '57, Professor of African-American Studies, UC-Berkeley; Poet

  • Augusta Kappner '66, President, Bank Street College

  • Amy Lai '89, Managing Partner, Emergent Capital

  • Gwendolyn Lee-Dukes '68, Regional Media Director, Medco-Benesys

  • Marcia Sells '81, Vice President for Employee and Organizational Development, Reuters

  • Ntozake Shange '70, Poet, Playwright, Novelist

  • Darlene Yee '80, Professor of Gerontology, San Francisco State University

  • Yvonne Williams '59 Vice President and National Director, Public Policy and International Affairs Program, Academy for Educational Development