Sophomore Class Dean Christina Kuan Tsu

As Dean for the Sophomore Class, I am a resource for all sophomores, helping them to make the most of their academic and personal lives during this second year of college. Since students are expected to declare their majors in the latter half of their sophomore year at Barnard, I spend a lot of time speaking with sophomores about their academic interests and how they may be satisfied by the majors offered at the College, as well as about whether or not the majors may be related to their future career aspirations. As with other class deans, I meet with students and parents/guardians, as needed, to guide students’ academic progress towards the degree, clarify the academic policies and procedures at the College, and if warranted, explain the process of requesting exceptions to academic policies. I also work with faculty members in supporting students’ learning in the classroom.


I have been a dean in the Dean of Studies Office since August of 1993. Prior to joining the College, I worked as an associate attorney in an intellectual property law firm in New York City. Having majored in Biology during my time as a Barnard student, practicing patent law was a great way to combine science and the law after graduating from law school. I was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and lived in Sydney, Australia, for five years before immigrating to New York at 11 years old with my parents and three siblings. I now live in Long Island with my husband, and have two adult daughters, one who is working for a startup in Manhattan, and another is a current Barnard student. I have a sister who is also a Barnard alumna; so we’re a very proud Barnard family.

In my spare time, I love to cook. I belong to a cooking club, a group of women who enjoy cooking/baking healthy recipes and get together for a delicious potluck meal once a month. I also love to travel to see new places and learn about other cultures through the people and the food.

Now that you have a year of college behind you, you may be feeling more settled into the routine of your college life. Sophomore year can be an exciting time. There are many choices before you and many more opportunities than were available to you as first year students. And there are decisions you need to make—What major should I declare? Does study abroad fit into my overall academic plans? Where do I want to study abroad? What internships should I apply for? Are there fellowships I might be interested in?

All these choices and decisions may feel overwhelming. To assist you in making these and other decisions, we ask all sophomores to go through the Sophomore Planning process. This process will entail reflecting, planning and acting.


Before you forge ahead to make these decisions, it is important to look back on the journey you have traveled so far.

Sign up for one of the Sophomore Dinner Conversations, co-sponsored by the Office of the Dean of Studies and Furman Counseling Center in September, to join other sophomores to reflect on your first year of college and take the lessons learned through this next year and beyond.

Review your progress with the Foundations general education requirements by going to MyProgress in Student Planning. Arrange a meeting with your academic adviser or class dean at the beginning of the fall semester to discuss your online degree audit as you are finalizing your course selection for the semester.

If you are thinking of possible majors, you may click on a specific major from the drop down menu next to “What if I changed my program of study?” in MyProgress to see your progress in that major. You may also see the major requirements on the website of each academic department or program, which you may access from “Areas of Study” under the “Academics & Library” tab on the Barnard homepage. Many of these sites have a major requirements worksheet, which provides a checklist of the courses required for the major. You may want to discuss the majors you are considering with your adviser or class dean during your fall meeting.

Before engaging in these conversations about the major, it may be helpful for you to do some thinking and reflections of your own by completing the Sophomore Planning Worksheet. Bring the completed Worksheet with you for your follow up meeting with your adviser or class dean.


Sophomore year is a time for you to take ownership of your academic study by declaring a major during the spring semester. Each year there are many students who struggle over the decision about their major. Some feel that choosing just one major will narrow or close off their options. Some place too much significance on how the decision will impact their career or job choices in the future. Many who have been through college, and are successful and feel fulfilled in their careers will tell you that there is no direct relationship between one’s major and career. With very few exceptions, rarely will the factual knowledge you gain within a particular discipline affect your career or job options after college. Therefore, you should allow the decision about your major to develop organically from the courses you find yourself enjoying most, not only in terms of the content covered in the courses, but also the methodology or approach to learning the discipline requires. The transferable skills that you acquire no matter what major you pursue and how you articulate and apply them to the professional context are what most employers and graduate schools are interested in. So take the time to explore over your first two years by sampling the many courses available to you at Barnard and Columbia.

Deciding on an academic discipline based on an evaluation of your abilities and interests may not always be simple. Both in the fall and spring semesters, each academic department or program will hold its own meeting or open house to introduce you to the faculty and discuss the major requirements, as well as research and other opportunities, within the department. There are many people at Barnard, including your academic adviser and class dean, who can engage you in constructive conversations that can help you to arrive at the major decision.

Follow up by making an appointment with the Chair or Director, whose name is listed on each department or program’s website, to discuss whether your academic interests can be satisfied by one of the department’s major options.

Special or Combined Major

It is usually in your best interest to select an already approved major that is listed in the Barnard Catalogue, which provides affiliation with a department or a community of peer learners. However, if you are interested in developing a special or combined major, you will need to speak with your class dean, who will explain the process for petitioning for the special or combined major, help you clarify your interest and identify Barnard faculty members who may be appropriate serving as your major adviser(s).

A major adviser for a special major should be chosen from the academic departments that are represented prominently; for a combined major, two advisers must be chosen, one from each of the two departments. A proposal for a special or combined major must demonstrate breadth (adequate coverage within a field), depth (sufficiently advanced coverage), and coherence (evidence of the intellectual integrity of the major). The Committee on Programs and Academic Standing must approve the special or combined major.

Study Abroad

If you are considering studying abroad in your junior year, this is the year to plan for that opportunity.

Visit the study abroad website:, and check out the list of approved programs.

Attend a study abroad information session, offered throughout each semester.

Connect with Barnard students who have studied abroad in the programs you are considering.

Follow up by making an appointment with Associate Dean Wendy Garay to discuss your specific interests and possible abroad programs that satisfy those interests.


Use this sophomore year to continue to explore your personal, academic and career interests. There are many of us within the College who can help guide you in this exploration, but you will need to play an active role—whether it's attending programs specifically designed for sophomores, attending meetings hosted by academic departments or programs, or seeking the advice of faculty members, academic advisers, deans or others on and off campus. You won't know what will spark your interest or passion unless you put yourself out there and avail yourself of the many resources the College and the city have to offer.

Midway in the spring semester, in early March, is when the College expects second-semester sophomores to declare their majors. Follow these major declaration procedures:

Print a major declaration form from the Registrar Office’s website: Major Declaration Form.

Meet with your current adviser to review your degree progress and satisfaction of general education requirements again. At the end of this meeting, your adviser will sign off on the lower portion of the form.

Bring your form to the relevant department chair or departmental representative for the academic area of interest to obtain their signature. Since each department has its own process for selecting a major adviser and signing of the major form, consult this list for the detailed instructions for each major: Major Declaration Process by Department

Submit the completed major form to the Office of the Registrar, located in 107 Milbank Hall.

Career Exploration

Many students are ready to explore possible careers in which they may be interested during their sophomore year.

Check out Beyond Barnard located on the second floor of Elliott Hall. Beyond Barnard is designed to provide you with opportunities and knowledge to think about the transformational experiences you have while at Barnard, and about what is next for you after you graduate. Make an appointment with one of the career counselors to obtain guidance on how to approach your career exploration.

Attend the sophomore-specific program co-sponsored by the Offices of Career Development and the Dean of Studies, Majors and Careers: What’s the Relation?, in early fall and learn how to get started exploring careers and building your professional profile.

Draft a resume by November of this year and have it reviewed by a Peer Career Advisor (PCA) during one of Beyond Barnard's daily drop-in hours.

I look forward to meeting many of you over the course of this year and to being on this exciting sophomore year journey with you. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me by email at or to make an appointment with me in the Dean of Studies Office, 105 Milbank Hall, by visiting my online calendar.

Sophomore Class Dean
Christina Kuan Tsu