A Strategic Plan for Barnard College

Barnard is the world’s premier college for women of intellect, ambition, and vision.

Building on a faculty truly committed to the integration of teaching and scholarship, a highly intelligent and motivated student body, a unique relationship with Columbia University, and unparalleled access to the resources and networks of New York City, we intend over the next decade to develop the people, projects, and programs that will ensure Barnard’s future as the best college for women in the world.

Context of the Strategic Plan

  • The college has an outstanding faculty and student body
  • It has a clear sense of its mission and the commitment to make this mission succeed
  • It is, and will remain, marked by several core attributes: devoted to the liberal arts, dedicated to women’s education, affiliated with Columbia University, located in New York City
  • For the next decade, our overarching goal is to elevate Barnard by:
    • leveraging the College’s superb teacher-scholar model
    • enhancing the College’s distinctive community
    • extending the College’s reach and reputation

To achieve these goals, we must proceed along three related tracks.


One. Core Objectives

These are elements of Barnard’s operation that remain critical to the College’s mission and identity.  They are aspects of the College that are already functioning well. Our task here, therefore, is to remain constantly vigilant, maintaining our commitment and pursuit of excellence, without necessarily changing what we already do.

These core objectives include:

  • dedication to women’s education
  • devotion to the liberal arts
  • mutually beneficial relationship with Columbia University
  • recruitment and support of top-tier faculty
  • recruitment and intellectual nourishment of top-tier students
  • nurturing and expanding diversity within our community
  • commitment to an innovative curriculum that aligns with the College’s mission and provides a distinctive educational experience for all students


Two. Facilitating Factors

These are factors that, although not strategic by themselves, will be crucial for achieving other goals.  Without them, we will not succeed.

These factors include:

  • substantially  increasing the College’s endowment and annual spendable funds, achieved through a mid-nine figure capital campaign to be launched in 2012
  • upgrading our physical plant and improving the appearance and functionality of  the College campus
  • strengthening our on-campus community and alumnae network
  • expanding our communications infrastructure and external profile
  • improving and integrating the College’s information technology systems
  • redesigning business processes to improve the flow of information and increase transparency


Three. Aspirational Goals

These, finally, are areas of proposed change for the College; areas in which we hope either to expand existing efforts substantially or create new initiatives and programs.  These are the efforts that will distinguish Barnard over the next decade and demonstrate its standing as the best college for women in the world.

Leveraging the College’s Unique Position as a Nexus of Teaching and Scholarship; Theory and Practice

Barnard is distinctive in many ways.  What most differentiates us from our peers, however, is the College’s unique role as a nexus between faculty, students, and the vibrancy of one of the world’s most interesting and important cities.  At Barnard, students engage with a faculty that regards them as intellectual adults, a faculty that is eager to involve them in both intensive academic study and the real-world pursuits that those studies inspire.  At Barnard, likewise, faculty benefit from students who revel in their emerging scholarship and look constantly to engage in their communities and the world around them. These interactions are made particularly powerful by the College’s location in, and connections to, the great metropolis of New York.

Over the next ten years, the College proposes to:

  • Construct a major new facility that celebrates and supports its commitment to the joint and interlocked endeavors of teaching and learning.  Replacing the existing Lehman Hall, the new Cheryl and Philip Milstein Teaching and Learning Center will
    • Create sufficient space to allow the College to grow for several decades;
    • Embrace the latest technology and thought in library design, creating a learning space based around digital media, virtual learning environments, and collaboration
    • Bring students and faculty into closer geographical proximity, literally embracing the connections that lie at the core of Barnard’s learning philosophy
  • Invest in a series of campus-based centers that facilitate the continual interaction between students, faculty, and the rich learning communities provided by New York
    • The Barnard Center for Research on Women, for example, will be strengthened and expanded to bring students into greater contact with activists and advocates, and the Center will increase its own presence as a forum (both physical and virtual) for feminist scholars, activists, and journalists from around the city and the world
    • The Athena Center for Leadership Studies will increase its connections between professional women and Barnard students, and will become the premier center in the City (and eventually the world) for understanding and nurturing women’s leadership
    • The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded Learning from the Museums program will expand, building collaborative bridges between Barnard faculty and their colleagues at the Frick, the Museum of Natural History, the Museum of African Art, and elsewhere, and then integrating students, both physically and pedagogically, into the work of these institutions
  • Develop a series of programs that similarly drive interaction and thrust our students into the nexus of theory and practice, knowledge and teaching.  These projects could include:
    • Curricular innovations (such as Reacting to the Past and the Manduca functional genomics project)
    • Seminar or workshops with visiting world-class scientists, artists, or performers
    • Courses and projects built around a faculty member’s emerging research

Sustaining a Distinctive Community that Takes Smart Women Seriously

Barnard is, and has always been, devoted to the education of smart, intellectually curious, and highly-motivated young women.  We may not be the college of choice for all women – but we are the best college in the world for women of intellect, ambition and vision; women who want to seize their choices and commit seriously to their own education.  We intend, therefore, over the next ten years to make Barnard the college of choice for smart and determined young women from around the world, regardless of their country of origin, ethnicity, or socio-economic status.  And, to ensure the distinctiveness of this community – a community where faculty truly invest in their students’ education – we intend to invest likewise in our faculty, ensuring their position as the best teacher-scholars in the nation.

Over the next ten years, therefore, the College will:

  • Expand recruitment efforts across the United States and the world, including students from all social, geographic, ethnic, economic, and racial strata
  • Significantly expand our endowment and spendable funds committed to financial aid
  • Strategically expand summer programs and community outreach for neighborhood students
  • Endow 8 – 10 faculty chairs, focusing on areas that reflect the College’s devotion to education and scholarship
  • Invest in new faculty housing projects
  • Increase dedicated funding for student-faculty research and student-faculty travel

Enhancing the College’s Reach and Reputation

Within US educational circles, Barnard is well-known as the most selective women’s college in the country.  Outside these circles, though, and certainly outside the United States, the College’s reputation lags sorely behind its reality.  If we are truly to be the best college for women in the world, we need to ensure that women around the world are fully aware of the College and what it offers to smart women who take themselves and their education seriously.

To achieve this goal over the next ten years, the College will:

  • Expand our active presence in the Morningside and greater New York communities, focusing on education and issues affecting girls and women
  • Grow VISP into the world’s premier program for non-American students studying abroad in the United States
  • Continue to develop the Global Symposia as a way of bringing attention to the College and placing Barnard at the center of women’s learning in the world
  • Refine and coordinate our strategic communications, ensuring that Barnard’s story is heard by its many communities – local, national, and global – and that its core values are consistently celebrated and expressed