This week, SGA Rep Council heard from the team at Access Barnard, a new office supporting the first-generation/low-income, international, and Opportunity Programs student populations at Barnard.

Welcome back to SGA coverage! The meeting started with announcements from several of the representatives. 

 Both Jasmin Torres Piñón BC ‘22, VP for Communications, and Emily Ndiokho BC ‘22, VP for Policy, invited students to attend the CARES Town Hall on March 9, from 7 to 9 pm. Emily also encouraged students to attend a Q&A with Dr. Elizabeth Scott-Francis, Director of Nondiscrimination and Title IX. The Q&A will take place via Livestream on the SGA Instagram (@barnardsga), and students should stay tuned for more details to come.

Danielle Hopkins BC ‘21, VP for Finance, wished all attendees a happy Black History Month and reminded students of the “Beloved Community” event, which took place on Wednesday from 6 to 7:30 pm. 

Cindy Espinosa BC ’22, Representative for Information and Technology, invited students to the Senior Thesis Panel on March 10 at 6 pm. 

Carmela Casaburi BC ‘23, Representative for Wellness Services, encouraged students to apply to be Peer Educators at Well Woman. More information about the application process can be found on the Well Woman site and Instagram account. 

Myesha Choudhury BC ‘23, Sophomore Class President, encouraged sophomores to fill out the Google Form for general feedback, which can be found in her class emails 

Audrey Pettit BC ‘22, Junior Class President, echoed Cindy’s announcement and invited juniors and sophomores to attend the March 10 Senior Thesis Panel. Additionally, the Junior Class Council will be hosting a craft night soon, and juniors will soon receive a form to request supplies. 

Chelsea Sinclair BC ‘21, Senior Representative to the Board of Trustees and Chair of the Elections Commissions told students to keep an eye out for announcements about running for SGA, and that there will be an information session about elections after spring break. 

Norah Hassan BC ‘21, Senior Class President, shared that last Wednesday’s Senior Toast was a success and that seniors should be on the lookout for a recap of the event, as well as other senior events throughout the spring.

Monday’s guests included several of the senior staff at Access Barnard. Dean Nikki Youngblood-Giles, Vice Dean for Campus Life supports several campus offices including Residential Life, Student Life, and Access Barnard. Jemima Gedeon is the Associate Dean for Student Success. Wendy Garay is the Dean for International Students and the Dean for First-Year Students. Elida Martinez-Gaynor is the Director of Opportunity Programs.

Dean Youngblood-Giles first gave an overview of Access Barnard, which was launched in September 2020. It leverages the resources of Barnard, and New York City as a whole, to support international, first-generation, and low-income students as they navigate the American higher education system. As such, Barnard supports 34% of Barnard’s student population (927 out of the 2700 students enrolled in Fall 2020).

Access Barnard combined three existing Barnard programs: Opportunity Programs, International Student Services, and the FLI office. 

Barnard has a long history with Opportunity Programs, as it was one of the first colleges to partake in the Higher Education Opportunity Program in 1969, a New York State Program which supports underrepresented NYS students. To financially support students outside of New York State, Barnard created its own Barnard Opportunity Program in 2000. Additionally, Barnard students have benefitted from the Collegiate Science Technology Entry Program since 2007, which supports NYS students seeking careers in licensed professions.

International Student Services became an independent office in 2018 and was previously housed in the Office of International and Intercultural Programs which supported international students, visiting students, and Barnard’s study abroad programs.

FLI became an office in 2018 with the hiring of Jemima Gedeon, Dean for Student Success.

Dean Garay, Dean Gedeon, and Martinez-Gaynor lead Access Barnard. A number of students also work at Access Barnard. The Student Advisory Board consists of five students who each represent all three aspects of Access Barnard’s support. Additionally, two Social Media Managers create content for the Access Barnard Instagram (@accessbarnard).

Dean Youngblood-Giles then discuss Access Barnard’s approach, which begins even before students start at Barnard. The AB team works in admissions and recruitment, including hosting events for prospective students and reading application files with the Barnard Admissions team. Additionally, they host a summer pre-orientation for new students. Previously, Opportunity Programs ran over the summer to introduce OP students to their first year at Barnard, as did NSOP programming specifically for international students. Access Barnard will be building on these programs, and including programming for FLI students, which will run in August. 

Additionally, Access Barnard offers many student positions. They will be hiring peer advisors, which are older students that will support younger students and help answer their questions. 

Their peer mentoring program has matched 54 junior student mentors with 69 first-year or new transfer student mentees. This program was developed by Gianni Lopez, Associate Director for Advising and Programs, who was previously Mentoring Lead at New York City Public Schools. At Access Barnard, Lopez developed the Mentoring Unafraid curriculum, which supports mentors and makes sure they are equipped to help their mentees, whether that is with finding community on campus, navigating their identities at Barnard, or failing well. 

Access Barnard also employs global ambassadors, older international students who are paired with younger international students in order to facilitate the transition to a new school system in a new country. 

Other notable events include International Education Week, which is a nationwide celebration of international education and exchange. This occurred in November 2020, and highlights the experiences of international students, while providing them with the support they need. Other events included class meetings, open study hours, collaborations with the Athena Center and Barnard Library & Academic Information Services, and inter-class events, such as Friendsgiving, which unites students and alumnae through cooking demonstrations. 

Dean Youngblood-Giles brought up a few key ways in which Access Barnard provides students with academic support. Barnard has partnered with Rheaply, an online community where users can post resources they have available (for example, a student or faculty member posting a textbook access code, or art supplies) and other users can reach out to access those resources. Additionally, the Access Barnard Library will help students get the textbooks they need from the Milstein and Butler stacks. Furthermore, students can fill out the Supplemental Academic Support Application (SASA) to request resources or financial support. Since Fall 2020, the SASA Review  Committee has received 800 requests, mostly for textbooks or access codes, computing supplies, and laptops. Recently, there have been many first-time requests from students in emergency weather conditions.

Access Barnard also supports students beyond academics, with the transition to a more independent college lifestyle. The social media team produces Navigating Barnard shorts, including one about how to shop for groceries on a college budget, which they showed during the meeting. Additionally, the Adulting Series works with the Athena Center, Beyond Barnard, and alumnae to give workshops on salary negotiation, renting an apartment, and many more concerns of adult life. 

Dean Youngblood-Giles closed the presentation by inviting students to visit the Access Barnard space, located on the first floor of Milbank Hall, as students will soon be able to reserve the Access Barnard lounge for studying. 

Danielle Hopkins BC ‘21, VP for Finance, asked the staff how they have specifically and tangibly responded to the petition from OP students this summer, which demanded greater institutional support. Dean Youngblood-Giles responded that Access Barnard is working with OP students, and underline that student input is key for building this new program and working to achieve the action items in the petition.

Jasmin Torres Piñón BC ‘22, VP for Communications, asked for more details about SASA, and how the Review Committee determines which requests they can fill, and which requests get denied.

Dean Youngblood-Giles explained that the Review Committee is composed of eight individuals from eight different departments, who engage in a holistic review process. Since the introduction of SASA, they have received 1200 requests. Dean Youngblood-Giles said that she could not specifically say how many had been denied, but that they aim to support students as much as possible, particularly those submitting requests for the first time. 

Emily Ndiokho BC ‘22, VP for Policy, followed up on Jasmin’s question and asked for some reasons why a valid request might otherwise be denied: for example, if a student was requesting a great deal of financial support, but there were many other requests. Dean Youngblood-Giles responded that Access Barnard can offer both financial and non-financial responses to fully address all applicants’ needs. Jasmin then noted that there are many requests for groceries from students on housing grants, but that these students are ineligible for SASA support, and asked why this is the case. Dean Youngblood-Giles expressed confusion about this ineligibility and invited students to reach out to her about this matter. 

Tirzah Anderson BC ‘21, SGA President, asked for more details on the merging of the OP, FLI, and International Student Services, citing past issues with non-OP students accessing OP resources. Martinez-Gaynor clarified that New York State-funded initiatives such as Opportunity Programs are closely monitored by the state and that Barnard must send a yearly statement of which student received state funds. Thus, it is impossible for non-OP students to receive OP funding.

Bex Allen BC ‘21, Representative for Academic Affairs noted that last semester’s Desserts After Dark survey showed that a number of students did not have access to the necessary materials for their classes. They asked how Access Barnard was addressing this, particularly with many students requesting laptops and textbooks through SASA.

Dean Youngblood-Giles responded that Access Barnard is working with the Center for Engaged Pedagogy and the Provost’s Office about this matter. Students who requested textbooks were either provided with the book itself, or with funding to purchase it. After a meeting last week with Avalon Fenster BC ‘24, First-Year Class President, Dean Youngblood-Giles realized that many students do not know about the support offered by SASA, and that Access Barnard should publicize this resource.

Audrey Pettit BC ‘22, Junior Class President, asked what Access Barnard’s three main goals are for the next five years. Dean Youngblood-Giles responded that they want to work with the Student Advisory Board to develop these goals together, to make sure they accurately reflect the students’ wishes, and Dean Gedeon added that even during the interview process, the students on the Student Advisory Board had many ideas. 

Access Barnard’s office in Milbank Hall via Access Barnard