Barnard academic and extracurricular departments shared their plans for the 2020-2021 academic year through a week dedicated to orienting students with the upcoming unique semester. 

Throughout the week of July 20 to July 24, Barnard College’s academic and extracurricular departments and programs held informational sessions focused entirely on the 2020-2021 academic school year. Their goal was to create an open forum for students, parents, faculty, and friends of the college to explore what this school year might look like. With a long overdue reckoning of the racial inequities that pervade our country and university and a global pandemic, the College wanted to showcase the changes to programming and curriculum that reflect these monumental current events. This “showcase” consisted of many Zoom meetings with department heads, faculty, and other students over the course of the week, Launch Week 2020. 

Each department at Barnard also publicly shared their responses to three questions: what they’re excited about in the upcoming year, what is new in their department, and how their department is responding to teaching in the “era of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement.” 

Bwog staffers were not able to attend all of the department Launch Week video meetings, but our main takeaways from the meetings we did attend are below. After reaching out to the Center for Engaged Pedagogy (CEP), we were told that the departments who decided to record their meetings–it was optional to record the Zooms–would have those recordings uploaded to the MyBarnard portal. 

Science and Public Policy

  • Brian Morton, Co-Chair of the Biology department and new head of the Science and Public Policy department, emphasized that this minor allows students of all majors to unite in active discussion on the intersection of policy, economics, and public health. 
  • The only SCPP course to be offered this fall is Genetics & Society, taught by Professor Morton; ID: SCPP BC3336. Prof. Halpin-Healy’s seminar, Science, State Power, & Ethics (SCPP BC3334) will be offered during Spring 2021. 
  • As the new director, Professor Morton would like to introduce a few science and public policy lectures, hosted by Barnard, to be available to the entire campus. The topics would include COVID-19 and any other relevant topic; he’s open to suggestions. 

Department of Sustainability 

  • The Sustainability committee, open to students, faculty, and staff, is working on reducing barnard’s carbon footprint by making and implementing a step-by-step plan with specific goals.
  • The department heads spoke often about interrelatedness and interconnectedness of climate justice, systemic racism, and climate change; this upcoming year will focus on that intersection.
  • The “Environmental Humanities Minor and Concentration” (EHMC) addresses environmental science as it relates to and overlaps with subjects of humanities. EHMC is based in the Consortium of Critical Interdisciplinary Studies at Barnard.
  • The new program based out of the Athena Center, ThirdSpace@Barnard, will allow students to explore the question “What can I do right now, with what I have and where I am?” It will be a virtual co-curricular program focused on leadership and action in the world in which we currently live. 


  • Ethnographic fieldwork for the Senior Seminar will not be done as normal, professors will work with students to help find new ways of doing ethnographic research with social distancing.
  • Many classes are being taught “collaboratively,” either with more than one professor or with other institutions across the country (ex: the University of Hawaii, indigenous elders in New Mexico).
  • With the new Political Ecology track of the Anthropology major, new classes about the structural causes of environmental degradation.


  • As part of the immersive or intensive curriculum, the Economics department will be offering intermediate macroeconomics in Fall A and intermediate microeconomics in Fall B. 

Political Science

  • Professor Miller will be teaching Research Methods in Fall A and Advanced Methods in Spring B. The advanced course will be “taught in R,” and it is highly recommended that students have an understanding of research methods before coming to class. Professor Lacombe will be teaching an intensive version of The American Presidency, in both Fall A and Spring A. Similarly, Professor Krimmel will be teaching American Political Parties in Fall A and Summer A. Professor Marten is also going to teach Russia and the West in Spring B.
  • Professor Cooley is planning on teaching a new, immersive course on “the global politics of COVID-19” in the spring. The course will examine the international order and relations of the last five years, global pandemics, politics of the World Health Organization, and questions of de-globalization of the world economy. Professor Lü is planning on teaching a new course in the spring about COVID-19 in the comparative perspective. He wants the course to be like a colloquium, with it examining issues in comparative politics like regime types, parties, and federalism and unitary systems. Professor Murcada is also planning on teaching an online course in Summer 2021 that will showcase his research, either in Africa or South America, with him on-the-ground and students virtually logging in.
  • Professor Marten also stated that the department is “really concerned about the quality of teaching,” and mentioned that most professors in the department took intensive Barnard pedagogy courses on online teaching. The course plan for the Barnard political science department can be found here

Human Rights

  • Human Rights is considered a combined major, so students major in a primary field with an additional six classes that count for human rights. 
  • For the entire fall semester, Professor Widney Brown is teaching an online course on human rights and public health; during Fall B, Professor Brown will teach an immersive version of Human Rights Theory and Practice.
  • Brown is planning on teaching a course during Spring A , preemptively titled “Whose body is it anyway?” that will discuss when a government can legitimately restrain rights pertaining to your body.
  • Professor Vasko, who’s new to Barnard, will be teaching a religion and human rights course and a related course in the religion department on “how different forms of political life become religious traditions” in the aftermath of apocalypse in Spring 2021. 
  • Professor Salyer will be teaching a Fall B anthropology course on immigration law and policies and a Spring A seminar on climate change, the anthropocene, migration, and human rights.

Milbank Hall via Barnard’s Website