Across disciplines, Barnard's coursework incorporates the natural world and climate change into its teaching and research. These courses allow students to explore and grapple with our human interactions with the natural world from a variety of perspectives, ranging from the hard sciences to the fine arts.
Students majoring in Environmental Science, Biology, Urban Studies, Anthropology, Architecture, and History can all pursue concentrations or tracks that touch on climate, sustainability, and human interaction with the environment. Departments ranging from Economics to Theatre offer additional coursework.
In 2020-2021, the Anthropology Department launched a new Political Ecology track, designed for students who wish to pursue studies in fields relevant to environmental justice, climate change, and sustainability. The major track is grounded in strong theoretical and methodological training in sociocultural anthropology.
2020-21 also marked the inaugural year of Barnard’s new Environmental Humanities minor, offered by the Consortium for Critical Interdisciplinary Studies. EHMC will bring together students in both the humanities and STEM to collectively focus on the ways in which issues surrounding environmentalism, global warming, land- and water-rights activism, and non-human rights intersect with race, ethnicity, gender, and class. EHMC is open to all Barnard students. Please email Professor Severin Fowles with questions.
Fall 2023 and Spring 2024 Course Listings
Here are a few highlights:
- AHIS-BC3869: Earth, Water, and the Anti-/post- and Decolonial Turns in the Contemporary Art of the Americas || This theory-driven seminar focuses on the artistic practices that engage two primordial elements, earth and water, developed in the wake of land and environmental art of the late 1960s–early 70s. It centers the projects concerned with the politics of land and water in the aftermath of colonialism in the Americas, paying special attention to the work of those dispossessed by colonial projects—that is, Indigenous, Black, mestizo, and other racialized, diasporic, and/or migrant-descendant artists (i.e. Latinxs in the United States).
- EESC-BC3026: Bird, Plant, and Land Use Dynamics || This class looks at the response of wildlife (birds and plants) to climate change and land-use issues from the end of the last glaciation to the present. Case study topics are: (1) land-use and climate change over time: a paleoenvironmental perspective, (2) environmental transformations: impact of invasive plants and birds and pathogens on local environments and (3) migration of Neotropical songbirds between their wintering and breeding grounds: land-use, crisis and conservation.
- ARCH-UN2103-01: Architectural Design: Environments and Mediations || This architectural design studio course explores modes of visualization, technologies of mediation and environmental transformations. These explorations will be used as catalysts for architectural analysis and design experimentation. Introducing design methodologies that allow us to see and to shape environmental interactions in new ways, the studio will focus on how architecture may operate as a mediator – an intermediary that negotiates, alters or redirects multiple forces in our world: physical, cultural, social, technological, political etc.
- HRTS-BC3851-01: ADV Human Rights and Public Health || As we face the triple threats of inequalities, climate change, and a pandemic, the dignity and well-being of many people are under attack or at imminent risk. We will be looking at disparate health impacts and how to understand what drives the disparities; intellectual property laws and how they apply during a global crisis; the double-edged sword of digital technology particularly as it applies to health surveillance; the strengths and weaknesses of a biomedical model dominating the public health discourse; and, the politicization of health policy. We will explore systems of oppression that drive inequalities and lead to disparate health outcomes; the lack of a transnational accountability framework to address both climate change and the rights of those most impacted by it; and how a corporate-driven intellectual property regime has put access to essential medicines, including vaccines, beyond the reach of people living in poverty.
In the spring of 2020 and 2021, the Center for Engaged Pedagogy hosted two workshop series on the development of new coursework and support for existing coursework centered on the environment, sustainability, and/or climate change. These sessions were attended by 70+ participants across multiple academic departments, including Biology, History, English, and Environmental Science.
Barnard's faculty research crosses similar disciplinary boundaries, engaging with scientific and cultural concepts of nature and the environment within a wide range of fields. Here are some highlights:
- Professor of Environmental Science, Martin Stute, focuses his research on water resources, carbon sequestration, and the social and economic impacts of climate change. He is currently involved in a project determining the greenhouse gas footprint of NYC.
- Professor of Professional Practice in Architecture, Kadambari Baxi, uses architectural visualizations to examine toxic emission flows and climate justice. She is displaying these multimedia projects in a variety of exhibitions.
- Assistant Professor of Spanish and Latin American Cultures, Orlando Bentancor, teaches on the emergence of capitalism in sixteenth century Latin America, specifically looking at the relationship between the commodification of nature and the transformation of indigenous peoples into workers. His book, The Matter of Empire, examines conceptions of metal resources in early colonial mining.
- Paige West, the Claire Tow Professor of Anthropology, looks at the relationship between societies and their environments. More specifically, she has written about the intersections between indigenous epistemic practices and conservation science, the linkages between environmental conservation and international development, the material and symbolic ways in which the natural world is understood and produced, the aesthetics and poetics of human social relations with nature, and the creation of commodities and practices of consumption.
- Assistant Professor of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Marisa Solomon looks at the durability of racism and its many material forms: toxicity’s movement through soil and bodies, the placement of landfills, waste infrastructure, and the technocratic planning and management of Black life and death. Her work focuses on how Black improvisation with waste’s form and meaning upend environmental thinking — including the raced, classed, and gendered stewards to whom the earth supposedly belongs.
- Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, Jonathan Snow, researches the cellular stress responses of honeybees, a species crucial to our agricultural systems.
- Associate Professor of Professional Practice in Theatre, Sandra Goldmark, teaches design and focuses her research on circular economy solutions to overconsumption and waste. She is the founder of the social enterprise, Fixup, which employs theatre artisans to repair household items, re-envisioning repair as a part of a sustainable circular economy. She also serves as Barnard's first Director of Sustainability and Climate Action.
Through the Provost's Office, faculty have access to external funding opportunities to support and develop their research. Learn more about the research being done at Barnard, as well as opportunities for student research.
Alumnae, Careers, and Internship Opportunities
Barnard's engagement with climate action does not end at the borders of our campus. Barnard alumnae move on to internships and careers in these fields. Our career development office, Beyond Barnard, helps direct students towards opportunities, build their resumes, and prepare for interviews. Here are a couple of alumnae who have found success in this field:
- Annie Leonard, Barnard '86, is the Executive Director of Greenpeace USA, and creator of the book/animated film, The Story of Stuff.
- Rhea Suh, Barnard '92, is the former president of the National Resources Defense Council. She was awarded the Barnard Medal of Distinction in 2018.
- Sue Chiang, Barnard '93, works as Pollution Prevention Director at the Center for Environmental Health, where she leads work on market incentives for companies to manufacture products safe for public health.
- Tsechu Dolma, Barnard '14, founded the Mountain Resiliency Project to address the poverty and food insecurity prevalent in mountain communities. They are working to create stronger communities from within to combat the already apparent impacts of climate change.
- Maddie Taylor, Barnard '17, is the National Director of Sprout up. She was a founding member of the NYC chapter as a student