Fall 2013

Fall 2013

For the past 20 years, Barnard’s Environmental Law, Policy and Decision Making course has enabled students to sample the profession of law, teaching them everything from legal research to understanding the litigation process. Created by Environmental Science Senior Lecturer Peter Bower, the course teaches basic civics, legal writing, and legal process—all within the context of the environment. “Students are taught to read and brief a case, which is something that is not taught in the first year of law school, yet students are expected to know how to do it,” explains Bower.

Bower received his PhD in geochemistry from Columbia University and holds an MA in geology from Queens College, City University of New York (CUNY), as well as a BA in geology from Yale. He has been teaching since 1981, and lectured during summer sessions at Columbia as an assistant professor in geology from 1981 to 1994. He started teaching at Barnard in 1986 in the department of environmental science; he served as its chair from 1990 to 1993.

From 1988 to 1996, he held a variety of positions in the township of Teaneck in Bergen County, N.J.—environmental commission member, planning-board chairman, councilman, deputy mayor, and mayor. Bower says his years in municipal government taught him an important lesson. “Whether we were negotiating contracts or starting a recycling program, it involved the law,” he declares. “I learned a lot about law, and out of that experience, I decided to teach an undergraduate law class.”

The course was an immediate hit, gaining and maintaining popularity shortly after it began in 1993. Today the average class size is between 30 and 40 students. It’s offered in the spring and open to both Barnard and Columbia students. (A substantial number of Columbia students attend, but the majority who enroll are from Barnard.)

Since environmental law got underway prior to the digital age, everything was initially done with paper and books, he explains. Although technology has made the research aspect much faster, the class is still designed to cover the same nuts and bolts. First up, a lecture explaining why undergraduates should study law, followed by exercise #1, “Legal Research and the Use of the Columbia Law Library” taught by attorney Dana Neacsu, who is also a reference librarian at the Arthur W. Diamond Law Library at Columbia Law School. In addition to teaching the first class exercise, she also instructs the class for about a third of the semester, and is author of one of its required textbooks, Introduction to U.S. Law and Legal Research.

“I teach the more technical aspects of the law and Peter, who’s not a lawyer, teaches more of the policy aspects,” says Neacsu. “I give the students research exercises that show them where to find answers. They used to go to Columbia’s law library to do the work but now it is a combination tour of physical and digital resources,” she adds. “Today students must be digitally literate to work in the field.”

The research component covers a wide array of topics such as legal citations, differences between statutory, case, and administrative law, the use of indexes to locate secondary sources, and how to identify the correct primary sources.

“Most importantly students learn how to write briefs of cases, research precedent for cases, and research statutes, the Code of Federal Regulations, and the cases that help define the statutes and Code of Federal Regulations,” says Bower. “One of their first assignments is to pick an environmental case not discussed in class, write a brief and research its precedent, and find another case that is cited in the first one and describe how it was used and brief that case as well. So they learn legal writing, briefing, and precedent.”

Throughout the course, the students focus extensively on the Endangered Species Act, which is “dissected,” Bower says, as the class is taught how to read a statute and discover its meaning. “For example, the Constitution says you have the ‘right to keep and bear Arms,’ but you really don’t because those rights have been modified by case law. To really know what it says you have to look at the case law around the specific right, and it is the same with a statute.”

In keeping with his municipal roots, Bower asks students to read A Civil Action, by Jonathan Harr, which details the lawsuit filed by Woburn, Mass., residents who sued W.R. Grace & Co. and Beatrice Foods Co. alleging they had been poisoned by toxic well water. “We ask them to play the role of the attorney for Woburn and write a memorandum of law for the city council to review that answers the question, ‘What is the feasibility of filing a public nuisance intentional tort against the companies asking for an injunction and damages?’ They have to be thorough in their research to help the council decide whether [the plaintiffs] can show harm and causation.”

A key part of the course is learning and becoming adept in the use of legal language, such as what is relief and what are the differences between compensatory and punitive damages? At the start of the course, students are instructed to read cases three and four times, at first identifying and looking up new terms and later being able to synthesize the meaning of the whole opinion in one reading, since as Bower points out, there are always new terms, and you can’t assume you know what something means. Quizzes are frequent. Other discussions range from the legal ramifications of current events to those designed to flesh out the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution.

About one third of Bower’s students envision a future career in law when they begin. “I have created a few lawyers over the years. Some of my students have gone on to work for the Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of Justice’s environmental crimes section.”

Kedari Reddy ’94 is one such success story. Prior to taking Bower’s class in 1993, she says she was planning to get a graduate degree in environmental science or public health. “The class showed me that I could integrate policy, law, and science, which seemed much more holistic and it made me stop and say this could be an intriguing career path,” says Reddy. Instead of heading to graduate school, she took a job as a legal assistant at Bivona & Cohen in New York City to test the waters further. “I worked in the environmental law group. The firm had environmental lawyers, scientists, and geologists on staff which clinched my decision to enroll in law school at Rutgers.” Today she serves as director of the office of environmental compliance assessment at the New York City Department of Transportation, a job she secured after more than eight years as assistant regional counsel at the EPA. “Thinking about it, I would have to say that without the class I probably never would have gone to law school.”

Kelly Ann Taddonio ’10 was a political-science major when she walked into the classroom in 2009. “I had been thinking about law school and it was a great way for me to see if it was something I could be more serious about.” The work not only convinced her to apply but also helped prepare her for what was ahead. “On the first day of law school, I was one of the few people that had seen an actual published case,” Taddonio says. “It is really hard to get an internship in the legal field (before law school). For me, the class served the same purpose.” Now 25 and a graduate of Seton Hall University’s law school, she is a law clerk at Hantman & Associates in New York.

Samantha Roberts ’10 made a different choice. While she was contemplating law school when she took the course in 2010, she opted to forego a legal career and is now working on her PhD in atmospheric sciences at Stony Brook University on Long Island. “The course was very helpful in terms of developing critical thinking skills and I think it was a good glimpse of what it would have been like in law school,” says Roberts. But after working as a legal assistant, she says she realized the law was not for her. In school she had been pursing a major in environmental science with an emphasis in environmental policy. “Meteorology was something that I always wanted, that is why I chose to go the environmental science route, and decided to stay on the research path versus having an office career.”

Although the class does not always produce future attorneys, Bower does promise students will leave with tools they can use throughout their academic careers and beyond. “We try to encourage first- and secondyear students to sign up because it completely changes their ability to do research,” which he says improves all their coursework. “It can also help them buy a house or go through a divorce,” says Bower. “The law is everywhere.”

—Sherry Karabin

—Illustration by Jesus Sotés

Excerpts from Barnard President Debora Spar’s new book—personally candid and engrossing, well researched and often humorous—the work is a plea and a plan for a reassessed and more balanced approach to the well-lived life.

The day before Wonder Women hit the shelves of bookstores—real and virtual—President Debora Spar invited all Barnard students to a lunch-time “first look,” at the Event Oval in The Diana Center. She told an enthusiastic audience her reasons for writing the book and summarized its ideas. After Spar’s remarks, there was a Q&A session, and students received an autographed copy of Wonder Women.

In outlining the main ideas of the book, Spar described it as a hybrid of cultural history, social analysis, and personal story that asks, “How far have women really come since the feminist and sexual revolutions, and why do we appear to have such a long way to go?”

Students lined up to ask Spar a range of questions: Is being a working mom better than being a stayat-home mother? How do you get employers to support work-life balance? And, how does one know when a life decision is the correct one? (Tough question, that.) In explaining to one student why she had written the book at this time, Spar reflected a moment, then said she “realize[d]…perhaps too late, that my life as a woman and my friends’ lives as women had unfolded fundamentally differently than men’s, and I wanted to try to understand that.”

Tracing through the ages and stages of contemporary women, Wonder Women espouses a revised and somewhat reluctant feminism, one that desperately wishes we no longer needed a women’s movement but acknowledges that we still do. It argues that women of my generation got feminism wrong, seeing it as a route to personal perfection and a promise of all that we were now expected to be. Instead of seizing upon the liberation that had been handed to us, we twisted it somehow into a charge: because we could do anything, we felt as if we had to do everything. And by following unwittingly along this path, we have condemned ourselves, if not to failure, then at least to the constantly nagging sense that something is wrong. That we are imposters. That we have failed.

Meanwhile, in exploring the nooks and crannies of a woman’s life, Wonder Women also advocates for a feminism based at least in part on difference. Put simply, it acknowledges (along with many earlier versions of feminism) that women are physiologically different from men and that biology is, if not quite destiny, nevertheless one of those details in life that should not be overlooked. Only women can bear children. In the state of nature, only women can feed those children through the most critical months of their lives. From these two unavoidable facts—wombs and breasts—come a vast series of perhaps unfortunate events. We can rue these events, or the gods who apparently predestined them, or we can come to terms with our differences and focus on ways of making them work. Wonder Women takes this latter tack. 

Let me be clear about the biases I bring to this work. I am a working mother of three children, so my viewof women is very much taken from this particular perspective. I therefore focus, perhaps overly, on the fates and fortunes of women juggling kids and jobs, the women who so infamously try to have it all. I have been very happily married for twenty-five years, so I write also as a contented wife and a woman who remains extremely fond of men. I believe that most men today want women to succeed; they want them in their firms and in their legislatures and even, generally, on their golf courses. They just don’t know quite how to make it work. And how can they, if women don’t help to figure it out?

When I was growing up in the early 1970s, there was a commercial for Charlie perfume that appeared on all the network stations. I remember it vividly, as do many women of my generation. It showed a beautiful blond woman prancing elegantly down an urban street. She had long bouncy hair, a formfitting blue suit, and a perfect pair of stiletto heels. From one hand dangled a briefcase; from the other, a small, equally beautiful child, who gazed adoringly at her mom as they skipped along. The commercial never made clear, of course, just where Mama was going to leave her child on the way to work, or how they both managed to look so good that early in the morning. Instead it simply crooned seductively, in the way of most ads, promising something that was “kinda fresh, kinda now. Kinda new, kinda wow.”

All of which led to the massive schizophrenia of the Charlie complex. Before we had even reached puberty, women of my generation not only wanted it all, but firmly expected we would get it: the education, the sports, the jobs, the men, the sex and shoes and babies. And how could we not, when everything around us was screaming “yes”? Indeed, so strong were these cries that we may have been the first generation of girls who could truly imagine that our lives would unfold more or less like our brothers’….

In the end, of course, the myth of Charlie was just that: one silly commercial, capturing a particularly far-flung fantasy. It wasn’t true, and never was. But it left an indelible mark nevertheless on millions of women and girls, convincing us, seducing us with a dream of feminine perfection. We really thought we could have it all, and when reality proved otherwise we blamed—not the media, as it turned out, and not our mothers. We blamed ourselves….

Today, women and girls around the world have fallen headlong into this same embrace of blame and failure, into a stubborn pattern of believing that anything less than “all” in their lives is proof only of their own shortcomings. Rather than acknowledging that feminine perfection is a lie, we continue both to believe in the myth and to feel guilty when we—inevitably, inherently—fall short of it. The irony of this situation is that it is precisely the outcome that feminism fought to avoid. Because feminism, after all, was about removing a fixed set of expectations from women, freeing them to be what they wanted and behave as they desired. And yet, fifty years on, women find themselves laboring under an expanded and in many ways more cumbersome set of expectations: to be good wives and workers, sexy yet monogamous, devoted to their perfect children and their own perfect bodies. This is the unanticipated double whammy that confronts women today: the unexpected agglomeration of all the roles that society has historically heaped upon them plus the new roles and opportunities created by feminism.

So what’s a girl to do?

One possibility, of course, is to give it all up, to throw in the towel of feminism and retreat to an older and more traditional array of roles and values and norms. Under such a move (supported, not surprisingly, by a range of conservative groups), women would relinquish their career goals in favor of motherhood. They would be workers but not bosses, sexual inside marriage but nowhere else. They would, in other words, go back in time. At the other end of the spectrum, a second possibility would be to leap more radically ahead, urging women to strive for some of feminism’s more audacious goals—things like a wholesale destruction of the maledominated global power structure, or a communal approach to child care and rearing. Personally, though, as a creature of compromise, I find myself constantly attracted to the murky path of muddling through. I believe that women are entitled to be whatever they want, but that they can’t ever expect, any more than men, that they can have it all. I believe that childcare should be a joint endeavor, but I suspect that—so long as women carry the chromosomes for wombs and breasts and guilt—they will tend to bear a disproportionate share of their families’ needs. I believe that women, in general, enjoy their sexuality in different ways than men, with a higher premium placed on commitment and procreation.

And finally, I believe that the feminismof the ’60s and ’70s has a great deal to offer to today’s young women— particularly insofar as it urges them to focus at least a portion of their energies on common goals and struggles.

We can’t go back, of course, and undo the myth of Charlie…. What we can do, however, is examine how we got to thisplace: how the women of my generation managed to transform the collective goals of feminism into an individualized quest for perfection; how we have become confused over time by the dazzling array of choices now available to us; and how—slowly, carefully, and with equal measures of common sense and good humor—we can begin to plot a way forward.

From Wonder Women: Sex, Power and the Quest for Perfection by Debora L. Spar, published September 2013 by Sarah Crichton Books, an imprint of Farrar, Straus and Giroux LLC. Copyright © 2013 by Debora L. Spar. All rights reserved.

—Deborah Spar

—Illustration by Niklas Asker

The Museum of the Chinese in America (MOCA) might not exist today if not for the dedication of a loose coalition of volunteers and community activists in New York City’s Chinatown. Originally known as the Chinatown History Project, the museum was started in 1980 with a simple goal: to honor and preserve the memory of Chinese-American immigrants in the United States. Since 2009 MOCA has been housed in a 14,000 square-foot space designed by noted Chinese-American architect Maya Lin on Centre Street. Its collection contains some 65,000 artifacts spanning 160 years of Chinese-American history, including photos, letters, clothing, household objects, and more. The collection reveals a vivid, often heartbreaking, picture of the widespread discrimination these immigrants faced, as well as the Chinese community’s ability to survive and thrive in the United States, in spite of the many obstacles. Over the years, Barnard students and alumnae, including many with parents who were born in Hong Kong or mainland China, have played a major role in bringing MOCA to life. Two Barnard alumnae were part of the Chinatown group that launched the museum, and MOCA’s current executive staff includes several Barnard graduates. All were photographed at the museum.

For more about MOCA and its exhibits, go to mocanyc.org.

PATRICIA PEI TANG ’67

board chair

Patricia Pei Tang comes from an esteemed Chinese family. Not only is she the half sister of famed architect I.M. Pei, her father served as head of the Central Bank of China, as well as a delegate to the Bretton Woods international monetary conference, before China’s Communist party took power in 1949. After the revolution, her parents left for New York, where Tang was born and raised. An art history major at Barnard, she went on to work for noted art collector and dealer Eugene Thaw. She made her first trip to China in the mid-1990s. The travel helped kindle a keen interest in her Chinese ancestry, prompting her to co-found a new nonprofit—the American Friends of the Shanghai Museum. The group’s mission is to raise funds and boost public awareness of the museum, which is widely regarded as one of China’s finest cultural institutions. Tang is just as enthusiastic about MOCA, and its effort to preserve the history of Chinese-American immigrants. “It’s like a jewel box,” she says of the museum’s many artifacts and exhibits. “It’s an education for everyone.”

FAY CHEW MATSUDA ’71

former executive director

Fay Chew Matsuda recalls that assembling the museum’s collection was a real race against time. “Sometimes it was literally dumpster diving,” says Matsuda, who notes that as an older generation of Chinese immigrants passed away, irreplaceable photos, news clippings, and other mementos were being tossed in the trash. “We were trying to recover history that was quickly being lost.” As the daughter of Chinese immigrants, Matsuda witnessed some of that history firsthand. Her mother was a garment worker, while her father ran a laundry, and at one point, owned a restaurant in Chinatown. And though she grew up in the East Village, she recalls that going uptown to attend Barnard on a scholarship was a whole other world. “For me, Barnard was a real eye-opener,” says Matsuda, who majored in sociology. After more than a decade at MOCA, including two tours as executive director, she is now director of the City Hall Senior Center in lower Manhattan. But Matsuda is grateful for the opportunity she had to help build MOCA. “It was about reclaiming our own history,” she says, “and telling the story we wanted to tell.”

HELEN KOH ’85

former executive director

Helen Koh had been living in Rhode Island when she got the offer to come work for MOCA. At the time, she wasn’t all that familiar with the museum. But what she learned piqued her interest. Koh took the job, serving as MOCA’s executive director from April 2012 until this past September. Koh’s background was unique at MOCA; her parents are both Korean. But she notes that the Chinese experience resonates with those who came here from other East Asian countries, given that they faced similar kinds of discrimination and many of the same challenges and problems. “A lot of what happened to the Chinese happened to other Asian Americans too,” says Koh, who was an East Asian-studies major at Barnard and previously worked at the Manhattan-based Asia Society. “MOCA is trying to help people get a better understanding of the immigrant experience,” says Koh, “and bring that part of history alive.”

JESSICA CHAO ’75

former interim director

Back in her student days at Barnard, Jessica Chao heard about what was then called the Chinatown History Project. She was intrigued enough that she decided to check it out. “I remember going downtown to attend meetings,” says Chao, whose Chinese-born parents came to the United States to go to graduate school after World War II. She and others involved in the Chinatown History Project were a loose coalition of volunteers trying to preserve the stories of Chinese-American immigrants. As it turned out, they were laying the foundation for what’s now MOCA. A dance major at Barnard, Chao is currently interim CEO for the Foundation for Child Development. But she’s remained connected to MOCA, where she recently served as interim director. “It’s really a cultural home for a lot of people,” says Chao. “It will always have a very soft spot in my heart.”

BONNIE CHIN WASHBURN ’90

director of operations

Bonnie Chin Washburn gave up a career in banking to join MOCA three years ago, and now serves as the museum’s interim chief operating officer. The daughter of Chinese immigrants from Hong Kong, Washburn grew up in Chinatown, where her father worked at a noodle factory before starting his own laundry business. “I know how difficult the immigrant experience can be,” she says, noting that MOCA helps bring that experience to life. “These are things that you’d never learn in history books,” she adds. A mother of 6-year-old twin boys, she also likes the fact that MOCA is kid-friendly, and says she regularly brings her sons to exhibits and other activities at the museum. “I like the idea of stories being passed down from one generation to the next,” says Washburn, who also wants her sons to understand the challenges their grandparents faced. “My kids are growing up learning about that different experience.”

CHUN YEE YIP ’97

director of individual giving

Chun Yee Yip joined MOCA this past July. Born and raised in New York’s Chinatown, she likes the fact that she’s helping to keep Chinese-American history alive. “Our mission is to celebrate that history,” says Yip, whose parents were part of the wave of émigrés that fled China during the turbulent years before the revolution. “My father didn’t have a nickel in his pocket” when he arrived, she says, and adds that he wound up doing restaurant work while her mother earned money for the family as a seamstress. Her parents still live in Chinatown today. Thanks to MOCA, she says, the sacrifices that they and other Chinese immigrants made won’t be forgotten. “Their stories can be passed on to generations to come,” says Yip, who has a three-year-old daughter. “This place will keep them alive.”

WANDA CHIN ’77

museum educator

Wanda Chin works full time as chief credit officer for a nonprofit investment fund that provides financing for lowincome housing and other worthy projects. But she’s also a big supporter of MOCA, as well as a volunteer docent; for the past few years, she’s devoted some of her spare time to leading tours. “I’ve always loved the museum,” says Chin, whose parents emigrated from Canton province and ran a laundry in Queens. “We spent every Sunday in Chinatown,” she recalls, and feels a strong personal connection to MOCA and the surrounding neighborhood. “There’s a lot of personal history there,” says Chin. Not only can she hold forth on the Chinese immigrant experience in the United States, she is also an expert in New York Chinese dining, having written the book Dim Sum, How About Some? A Guide to New York’s Liveliest Chinese Dining and How to Make a Day of It.

JADE FARRAR ’16

intern

During high school in Manhattan, sophomore Jade Farrar spent a lot of time at MOCA. Indeed, as a member of the museum’s youth advisory board, she used to attend weekly Saturday meetings there. “It’s such a nice, welcoming place,” says Farrar, whose mother emigrated from Hong Kong as a child and grew up in a walk-up apartment on Eldridge Street in Chinatown. “MOCA helps keep me in touch with my Chinese roots.” She is still deciding on a major at Barnard, but despite a busy class schedule, she’s found time to intern at MOCA, where, among other things, Farrar has been helping to organize the museum’s fall gala and also boost its social media profile on Facebook and Twitter. She was glad to see the enthusiastic reception for MOCA’s recent exhibit on contemporary Chinese fashion designers. And she’s proud to note she has a personal connection to the exhibit: Her aunt, Melinda Eng, is one of the featured designers.

—Susan Hansen

—Photographs by Dustin Askland

(From Barnard Magazine, Fall 2013)

She likes being on the top of mountains. It’s the vista that inspires her, the feeling of being able to see the world laid out before her, stretching toward the horizon. The sense of clarity is refreshing, perhaps because for so many years Dusa McDuff had a hard time seeing the way forward. Now McDuff is one of the most renowned mathematicians in the field of symplectic geometry and topology.

As she describes it, symplectic geometry is, like other kinds of geometry, the study of space. Yet, unlike the Euclidian geometry taught in high school, symplectic geometry is very abstract. Rather than measuring a single quantity, such as the length of an object, symplectic geometry studies the interactions of pairs of quantities via the measurement of two-dimensional areas. McDuff, with mathematician Dietmar Salamon, is the co-author of two textbooks that are classic references in the field: Introduction to Symplectic Topology (1998, 2nd edition) and J-Holomorphic Curves and Symplectic Topology (2012, 2nd edition). McDuff has also received numerous awards and honors.

McDuff fell in love with numbers growing up in post-World War II Edinburgh. “I loved doing sums,” she says. Turning her interest into a satisfying career path wasn’t as easy. “I come from a sort of intellectual family and was always brought up to have a career. The only career I ever imagined doing was something academic.” Though she had an idea of where she wanted to go, getting there was hardly simple—in part because McDuff knew few other female mathematicians. “I knew there were some women mathematicians. And my father, a professor of genetics at the University of Edinburgh, had had female scientists in his lab, so I knew it was possible to be a scientist and a woman,” she recalls. “But I had no immediate role models, and no immediate friends.” She adds, “I had great ambitions, but I thought of myself as different. …It took a lot of effort to become a mathematician.”

Another challenge: She was named Dusa, after her maternal grandmother, who left big shoes to fill. Amber “Dusa” Reeves was a feminist writer who scandalized society by having an affair with H.G. Wells. “It was a daring thing to do, and it wasn’t what was expected of her,” McDuff says. “Following her, I felt I couldn’t just be ordinary.”

However, McDuff’s academic direction, and the ultimate accomplishments it led to, hardly turned out to be ordinary. She pursued her doctorate and post-doctorate at the University of Cambridge, where she solved a well-known problem, becoming the first person to prove the existence of infinitely many type II sub one factors, a problem related to the mathematical structures called von Neumann algebras. Her doctoral thesis on the subject appeared in the prestigious Annals of Mathematics. “That gave me the confidence that I could do mathematics on an international level,” McDuff says.

Yet McDuff felt adrift with her work. Two significant experiences abroad, one in Russia and one in the U.S., changed her course. In the fall of 1969, during the last year of her PhD work, she accompanied her husband to Russia, where she met the charismatic and influential mathematician Israel Gelfand. “He was the first person who captured my imagination as a mathematician,” she says. With his help, she immersed herself in the abstract, conceptual side of mathematics and realized that the discipline could be both creative and beautiful. “Gelfand used to read me poetry and call that teaching me mathematics,” she says. “He thought it was all part of the same experience.”

Returning to the U.K., McDuff completed her PhD in 1971 and began teaching at The University of York, all the while pursuing her new study of topology, a form of geometry concerned with the properties of space. “Most people do their thesis and build from there: The research grows in some sort of organic way,” she says. “But I switched directions completely when I went to Moscow.”

Though she was making a name for herself professionally, the personal road wasn’t easy. She found herself in her mid-20s, supporting her husband (a translator of poetry) and a young child, while working full time. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, there were very few provisions made for female students, and virtually no support for married women with young children. The best-paying fellowships were reserved for men.

Her new academic trajectory eventually led her to take a year off from her position at York and assume a visiting position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1974, a position specifically reserved for a woman.

Over time, McDuff’s horizons widened, and she realized it was crucial to be more proactive about promoting her career. She also moved more toward the study of symplectic geometry.

In recognition of her work, she received the first ever Ruth Lyttle Satter Prize (Ruth Lyttle ’44) from the American Mathematical Society in 1991. Three years later, she was named a Fellow of the Royal Society.

After teaching at The University of York, The University of Warwick, MIT, and Stony Brook University, McDuff joined the Barnard faculty in 2007 as Helen Lyttle Kimmel Chair (Helen Lyttle ’42) and professor of mathematics. Now, McDuff teaches classes ranging from basic calculus to advanced courses in topology and geometry. Though her own research tends toward the abstract, McDuff urges students to study both the theoretical and the concrete. “I had a student who nearly dropped the mathematics major before discovering that she loved statistics,” McDuff says. “Mathematics as a way of thought is very broad, and it can be useful in many different circumstances. There are a lot of people who have strong math talent who don’t like traditional, proof-based, abstract mathematics.”

Supporting their passion is a practical matter. McDuff is working to diversify Barnard’s mathematics offerings to encourage students to explore topics such as statistics and computer science. This semester, the department launched a new computer-science workshop, giving students a strong foundation for future programming classes. Equally important is inspiring students to interact with one another, she says. In October, McDuff and the math department organized an evening party, in the computer-science help room, a space where Barnard students interested in the field can meet each other, in addition to getting help with their questions. The event honored mathematician Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron and a countess, who was born in 1815. A pioneer in computer science, Lovelace is sometimes described as the first computer programmer.

While still few, the number of female mathematicians has grown significantly during McDuff’s career; she can imagine even more—given the right support and camaraderie. “If you’re a young woman who’s very talented in math, you end up being isolated,” McDuff says. “There still aren’t enough senior faculty members or graduate students to serve as mentors.” That’s why McDuff divides her time between working as a faculty advisor to math-minded students at Barnard and helping run an annual summer program for women in mathematics through the Institute for Advanced Study and Princeton University.

“In mathematics, you have to work incredibly hard, and most of the time you feel as though you don’t understand,” she says. “You just keep working, though, and gradually things become clearer. Most of the time, you’re in a fog. But sometimes, it’s instant, and you just see.”

—R. Monroe

—Photography by Mike McGregor 

 

Jane Shahmanesh ’80, chose to attend Barnard for one reason: to study with Peter Juviler. A dedicated political science professor, Juviler had been a faculty member at Barnard since 1964, and established himself in the Cold-War era as a champion of individual human rights and freedoms. After a boyfriend at Columbia raved about a Modern Political Movements class he had taken with Juviler and co-professor Dennis Dalton, Shahmanesh knew she had to take the class as well. Although previously dreaming of leaving her hometown of Brooklyn for some far-off campus, she reconsidered: The opportunity to study with Juviler convinced her to stay in New York and attend Barnard. “I wanted to know him,” says Shahmanesh.

In his blazers and sporting a cropped beard, Juviler looked the part of an old school professor conjured up by central casting. His manners, too, seemed of another time. “He was a gentleman, he was genteel,” recalls Shahmanesh, adding that Juviler was respectful to everyone, and took a real interest in his students. “No matter what dumb things probably came out of your mouth, he made you feel like you were the most interesting person in the world.” She took every course that Juviler taught at the time, and he was her advisor from day one. When she had a falling out with her family that threatened her Barnard tuition money, Juviler helped her to line up loans.

Shahmanesh kept in touch with the professor for more than 30 years after graduation, thinking of him as a mentor and a friend—one who was supportive and non-judgmental even when Shahmanesh eventually embarked upon what became a successful career in corporate law. He later helped her find a way to make more of a contribution to human rights and to get re-involved in the Barnard community.

When Professor Emeritus Juviler passed away in May of this year, she felt a profound loss and determined to do something appropriate to honor his memory. Together with Juviler’s family, she established the Peter Juviler Fund, a scholarship to help future generations of Barnard students study human rights at home and abroad.

It was study abroad that helped form Juviler’s work. After completing his graduate studies at Columbia, he conducted post-graduate research at Moscow State University from 1959 to 1960, and would travel there regularly throughout his career. In 1983, he became the first U.S. scholar to give human rights lectures to the USSR Academy of Sciences and Moscow State University Faculty of Law. In the post-Cold-War period, Juviler analyzed human rights achievements, closely watching as issues of minority rights and ethnic tolerance arose in the post-Cold-War states. During his career he co-edited several books and was the author of two, Freedom’s Ordeal: The Struggle for Human Rights and Democracy in Post-Soviet States, and Revolutionary Law and Order: Politics and Social Change in the USSR. He also wrote a great many articles, commentaries, and book reviews. Shahmanesh notes his writings on human rights issues remain relevant. “Every single one of Peter’s works still holds up. It’s remarkable. He was so ahead of his time.”

Just as accomplished was his work at Barnard, where he helped grow the human rights major. He eventually co-founded and became director of the program at Barnard. He was also co-director of the Center for the Study of Human Rights and co-chair of the University Seminar on Human Rights at Columbia.

What was truly remarkable, however, was his work with students. In fact, while Juviler’s bond with Shahmanesh was real, it was not unique. She recalls long lines outside his office during the hours he scheduled for student consultations that often went on into the evening. On a memorial board at barnard.edu, friends, colleagues, and students shared memories of Juviler, with several people referring to him as a role model, mentor, or inspiration.

In researching donor opportunities for the Peter Juviler Fund, Shahmanesh was granted access to the professor’s records, where she found information on more than 3,000 students going back to the mid-’60s. There were papers, exams, and letters of recommendation. With a good deal of research on Google and LinkedIn, she was able to make contact with a portion of these former students. A large percentage of them had gone on to have careers in public service, public affairs, nonprofits, non-governmental organizations, and law. “These are people who are well known, who have made a major impact. If you looked at this list, you’d fall off your chair,” she says. “I think it’s because of the way this man touched them.”

With an initial endowment goal of $100,000, Shahmanesh continues to try to reach alumnae on the list to seek support for the fund. She believes many of the professor’s former students will jump at the chance to contribute in order to give something back to Juviler’s memory and support the continuation of his work.

“He taught seminars where the vast majority of students were women, and he made every single person there feel confident enough to stand up and say what she believed,” Shahmanesh recalls. “He made me never afraid to ask a question. He changed my life.”

To read tributes or learn how to support the fund: barnard.edu/tribute/juviler

To learn more about Peter Juviler: barnard.edu/news/remembering-peter-juviler-professor-emeritus

—Melissa Phipps
—Photograph by Juliana Sohn

Last Image by Sarah Charlesworth '69 Half Ball, Fuji Crystal Archive Print with lacquer frame, 41 1/2x32 inches, Edition of 8. Courtesy: Susan Inglett Gallery, NYC

 

Disabled by multiple sclerosis and using a wheelchair, I knew it was far too difficult for me to travel to New York City from my home in Washington, D.C., for the milestone reunion for the Class of 1973. Instead, I took a virtual trip to my 40th reunion, aided by 21st century technology and the forward thinking of a dear friend and classmate, Sherry Katz-Bearnot.

I was always known as a klutz, falling on smooth surfaces and not being able to get up. But, in 2007, a doctor realized I had classic multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms, ordered an MRI, and put me on the path to managing a disease that has no cure and only gets worse. In the last six years, my physical condition has steadily worsened despite physical therapy and a drug to slow the progress of the disease. Once able to use a walker and to drive, I now use a wheelchair and have a full time health-care aide. I just bought a handicap-accessible van for my husband to drive.

Many difficulties prevented my “in person” attendance at Reunion. Simply driving to New York would have been exhausting. Also, I must sleep in a hospital bed, which no hotel has. My husband would have had to push my wheelchair around campus.

But it was very important for me to be at our 40th reunion in some way because it’s such a landmark year: Careers are winding down; many of us are already retired or starting new chapters in our lives; some already are grandparents. I still have wonderful memories about Barnard and how it gave me the tools to forge my way in the world.

Three months before Reunion, Sherry visited me in McLean, Va. When I expressed my regret that I couldn’t go, she replied, “Yes, you can. You can Skype.” I use Skype all the time in my work as a freelance writer with my own company, Words by Judi Hasson, for which I write about many different issues, including technology and disability. Why not use Skype for Reunion?

I think Sherry and I may have made Barnard history as the first classmates to attend Reunion together in such a manner. With Sherry walking around campus with her iPad, I got a virtual tour of Barnard; I saw new parts of the campus and the old brick of the 20th century one. I talked to Barnard pals, old friends I’m in touch with all the time, others whom I hadn’t seen in years. I was overwhelmed to actually see my classmates and “feel” like I was really there, all thanks to the benefits of early-21st century technology.

I went to the Friday-night reunion dinner where I heard the clinking glasses and Barnard President Debora Spar speak about Barnard today and where the College wants to go in the future. I “met” President Spar as Sherry Skyped me through the dining room. I even appeared in the class picture as Jessica Raimi held the iPad with my “live” picture clearly visible. Pretty amazing for someone who was not physically there, and a real thrill for me.

Although I am still in touch with many Barnard friends through calls, visits, and Facebook, the last time I was at a reunion was in 2003; physically, then, I was far from who I am today. But this year, my classmates were really excited to see me as much as I was to see and talk to them.

—Judi Hasson
—Illustration by Alex Eben Meyer

There was nothing subtle about the messages conveyed on more than 200,000 posters produced by the U.S. government during the Second World War. As an example:

“I GAVE A MAN! Will you give at least 10% of your pay in War Bonds?”

Americans responded overwhelmingly. Of the nearly $300 billion that the war cost the U.S., about $200 billion was raised through bonds.

During World War II, propaganda, through the efforts of the Office of War Information (OWI), rallied Americans not only to buy war bonds, but to save such materials as metal and rubber, to produce their own food (“grow your own, can your own”) to work with the Red Cross Nursing Service, and, especially, to keep quiet. The slogan on one poster, “We Caught Hell!—someone must have talked,” encompasses much of OWI’s efforts at that time—to prevent careless leaking of information to spies.

The OWI, set up by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in June 1942, focused on controlling the message of the war. Government posters effectively delivered on that mission. Once produced, they were displayed and distributed across the country, in post offices, railroad stations, restaurants, retail stores, and schools.

David Orzeck, MD, was a patriot and a practicing doctor in Brooklyn. During World War II he got an assignment from the Office of Indian Affairs to go to the Makah Indian reservation in Washington state to address that community’s medical needs. “The country meant a lot to him, I could see how these posters appealed to him,” says Orzeck’s daughter Lida. Her father was a collector by nature, she recalls, and of the items he was drawn to, government war posters were near or at the top of the list; he amassed a collection of about 800 WWI- and WWII-era works. And he meticulously maintained the items as they had been distributed, Orzeck says, carefully storing them in brown paper, tying them in twine, and arranging them in batches.

And so they remained for decades. Orzeck, a busy entrepreneur who is the co-founder and CEO of lingerie and sleepware company Hanky Panky, was unaware of the precise nature of the collection until the early ’90s. Though she acquired the posters in the early ’70s when her parents moved from Brooklyn to North Miami Beach, the bundles remained unopened. “I have some of my dad’s collecting genes,” she says. “As I moved from apartment to apartment, they came with me. In 1985, I moved to a sizeable house in White Plains; there they went into a storage closet.”

In 1991, Orzeck decided to examine the packages she had given little thought to. She soon became determined to research and learn about the works, assess their value, archive and store many of the posters properly, and understand more about her father’s interest in them. But since David Orzeck had passed away in 1983, questions about why and how he came to collect them would go unanswered. “I don’t know how he had pieces from World War I,” says Orzeck. “He was a teenager then. This wasn’t a kid who was interested in art, I’m sure of it. That’s the question I’m so sorry I didn’t get an answer to.”

That year, 1991, was the starting point of a process that led, most recently, to her decision to donate 52 works from the collection to Barnard College Archives and Special Collections. In 2012, Orzeck, working closely with curator Steven Berger, decided to disseminate them, selling some, donating others, identifying a philanthropy to benefit from the sales proceeds, and more. There was no question about a gift to Barnard. Her alma mater is “one of her greatest loves,” says Berger, who is also a close family friend.

Orzeck and Berger made sure to donate works that would resonate at the College. With men off fighting the war, women were largely on their own on the home front, so the messages were aimed predominantly at female audiences, notes Lisa Norberg, dean of the Barnard Library and Academic Information Services. As Berger notes, while it wasn’t exactly a time of full parity for women and men, the propaganda in the posters displays messages of equality—not just gender equality but racial, too.

Much of that equality stemmed from the job opportunities created during World War II. The war created a chance for women to go to work—especially at industrial jobs—and the war posters drove women into America’s factories. (Think Rosie the Riveter.) The messages were effective. The number of working women increased from 14,600,000 in 1941 to 19,370,000 in 1944, according to Allan M. Winkler, a distinguished professor of history at Miami University in Ohio, in his 2007 essay, “The World War II Home Front.”

That is one aspect of women’s and American history now available for Barnard students, faculty, and others to explore through the new poster collection. “We hope to broaden the definition of the archives in the life of the College,” Norberg says. “We’ve expanded that to include more special collections, and we’re seen increasingly as a repository of more primary sources for use in class.”

Norberg expects the Orzeck gift will likely be used in a range of classes, from art and art history—established artists, from Norman Rockwell to Allen Saalburg created the works—to women’s studies and American history. And, as part of a larger body of research complementing other existing collections and the archive’s offerings, the posters will contribute to making Barnard more of a research destination for visiting students and scholars. That’s a main goal for the archives going forward, explains archivist Shannon O’Neill. “I see our growing expansion of what we collect as something really exciting.”

Seven World War II posters given to the College in memory of Dr. David Orzeck by his daughter are on exhibit in Milbank Hall outside the president’s office.

—By Dimitra Kessenides '89
—Posters courtesy of Barnard Archives
—Photographs by Dorothy Hong

 

 

This year, for the third time, I am doing the college tour. That is, like hundreds of thousands of families across the United States—and, increasingly, the world—I am loading the car with snacks and takeout coffee, arguing over whose music will dominate the sound system, and dragging an occasionally petulant teenager toward the college of her dreams. The only problem is that we don’t know where that college is, exactly, and her dreams have a tendency to change.

Searching for a college—and applying to college—has never been easy. But I suspect that it has become increasingly more fraught over the past few decades, as more and more kids (that’s the good news) are scrambling for a relatively stable number of places (that’s the stressful part) against a dizzying backdrop of ratings, rankings, and massively heightened expectations (that’s what makes you crazy). For me, of course, the search process is compounded by my day job: as I’m shuffling dutifully behind my daughter, deferring, as all good mothers should, to her questions and concerns, I am biting my tongue to keep from asking the tour guide what I really want to know: What percent of your students are on financial aid? What’s the six-year graduation rate? And how do girls fare in your computer-science classes?

My dual personality during these visits has no doubt caused a certain amount of frustration for my children. But it’s also given me some perspective on the massive round of anxiety that inevitably accompanies the college search.

Here is what I’ve learned. First, try as best you can to ignore all of the rankings—whether they be media-driven, value-based, or crowd-sourced. Because while any ranking system captures some elements of a school’s unique culture and environment, the metrics they employ are by their very nature static and self-reinforcing. Well-endowed schools score consistently high on everything connected to resources; schools with historically strong reputations see those reputations echoed over the decades. Your kids don’t care at the end of the day about an abstract entity’s grading system, and you shouldn't either.

Second, take your school guidance counselor’s advice with a grain of salt. Most guidance counselors are wise and well-intentioned professionals. They can do a fabulous job of helping your child navigate through the morass of forms and programs and options. But remember that the counselors’ interests are not necessarily the same as your kid’s. They need to get lots of students accepted at a wide range of schools. So they may be inclined to push toward “safer” options for your child, or for schools that don't put him or her in direct competition with other students from the same class. So meet with the counselors, listen to their advice, but be sure your child feels ownership over his or her own preferences.

Third, be aggressive with regard to financial aid. Most schools now offer a rich array of scholarships, loans, and work-study programs. At Barnard, fully 54 percent of our first-year students are receiving financial aid this year; for those receiving a grant directly from Barnard, the average annual amount is $41,560. For talented low-income students, the cost of attending an elite college (once financial aid is applied) is actually often less than the cost of a state or community college. To calculate, or at least estimate, just how generous a school’s financial aid program might be, families can use the financial-aid calculators that are now available at all college Web sites. (You can see Barnard's at npc.collegeboard.org/student/app/barnard.) These are powerful devices that give a quick but accurate picture of what it will actually cost for a child from a particular family to attend a particular school. Use them, and don’t be afraid to ask for assistance.

Finally, the best way of evaluating the fit between your kid and a specific college may well be what we call in my household the “tingle test.” It comes from the time when we dragged our son to a school he didn’t really want to see, a school that happened to be on our driving route that day. He got onto campus, and grudgingly agreed to take the tour. Thirty minutes later, my 6’2”, usually solemn boy was grinning madly. “Mom,” he said, “I feel tingly all over. This is the place for me.” And so it was. He applied early, was accepted, and has been blissfully happy ever since.

Not every child will get the tingles. But most, I’ve discovered, do. They walk onto that one campus and it hits them: this is where they were meant to be. Maybe it’s the signs they see plastered around campus with activities that excite them, or the subtle clues that emanate from the students who somehow look as they imagine themselves to be. But when the tingle hits, I suggest, go for it. It’s probably where your child was destined to be.

This year, during Barnard's orientation, I was struck by hearing more families than I ever recall describing their own first moments on campus. “We just knew,” said one dad, “that Barnard was for her.” “She wasn’t really interested at first,” said another. “But she got onto campus, and BAM. It was over.”

I know. They got the tingles.