The Accidental Anarchist
Crosswalk Press, 2010, $18
As a child, Bryna Wincelberg Kranzler grew weary of the stories her mother told about a grandfather raised in Poland, a man who died long before Kranzler was born. As an adult, Kranzler recognized the power of these stories, and admired the strength behind the impulsive and resourceful youth who escaped three death sentences by the time he turned 25. In the past two years, she’s turned her full attention to her grandfather’s life, adopting his witty voice as the narrator of her first published work.
The Accidental Anarchist draws heavily from translations of the 28 diaries written in Yiddish by Jacob Marateck, who chronicles his adventures as a baker, soldier, and political prisoner in early twentieth-century Poland and Russia. The result is likely to charm and captivate readers, offering a vivid window into a world that no longer exists, and riddled with so many bizarre incidents that one can’t help but think of the well-worn maxim: Truth is stranger than fiction.
“I call it biography,” says Kranzler, who researched the history of the time period, and worked from her parents’ translations of Marateck’s journals, but at times compressed similar events into one, dropped in a joke or two, and fleshed out details in order to construct a lively narrative. “I tightened up just about every sentence,” she says. “My grandfather’s style was a bit more lingering.” On the other hand, “he has a sense of humor where you least expect it,” she says, and “he always gave me the energy to continue.” Writing the book, she adds, “made me feel the loss of not knowing him.”
Told in the sardonic and immensely likeable voice of Marateck, practically every page of the book sizzles with cinematic detail and plot: There’s the story of how her grandfather, a newly enlisted soldier in the Russo-Japanese war and indignant after an unwarranted punch by a Russian officer, promptly smashes a teakettle across the officer’s face. Another story recounts how Marateck, who dons many identities in this book, from yeshiva boy to political revolutionary, reluctantly disguises himself in a dress, blonde wig, and what he calls “a pair of shoes that could only have fit a ballerina” to hide from the Russian police. Then there’s the story of how as an escaped political prisoner, he travels through Siberia with a pickpocket as a companion, a man who proudly dubs himself Warsaw’s “King of Thieves.” As if that’s not enough, the pair is rescued when Marateck, deep in Siberia, stumbles upon a now wealthy old friend, who also happens to be indebted to him for his life.
There’s the story of how her grandfather, a newly enlisted soldier in the Russo-Japanese war and indignant after an unwarranted punch by a Russian officer, promptly smashes a teakettle across the officer’s face.
At Barnard, Kranzler studied playwriting, and her first full-length dramatic work attracted the interest of a professional theatre. But after a series of tragic mishaps with the play’s production, Kranzler abandoned creative pursuits in favor of more lucrative work in marketing and public relations, earning a degree from Yale School of Management along the way. Kranzler recalls that shortly after
graduation, she received a note from her mentor and Barnard professor, the late Howard Teichmann. “Get off your probably ample fanny and write,” she remembers the note advising. She says, “I couldn’t afford to.”
In the past 15 years or so, Kranzler has returned to writing, and plans to revise an unpublished novel soon. A couple of years ago, she began work on her grandfather’s diaries, after her mother, Anita Marateck Wincelberg, gathered Kranzler and her two brothers for a talk. “I want to see this published in my lifetime,” her mother told them, referring to her father’s journals.
Wincelberg’s words echoed a dying wish made by her father. In the years after Marateck’s sudden death from a heart attack, Wincelberg, along with her husband, Shimon, a writer for television and film, worked to fulfill her father’s dream. In 1976, Kranzler’s parents published The Samurai of Vishigrod, a close translation of the first 12 notebooks. The couple had planned to publish a companion featuring the later notebooks, but Shimon passed away in 2004, before they could do so.
In 2008, Kranzler agreed to take on the project, but only if she could do it her way, “starting from scratch, editing and rewriting,” even “eliminating a number of fantastic stories,” which didn’t fit the narrative arc she designed. Kranzler says she didn’t permit Wincelberg to read the work in progress, but when the book was completed, her mother remarked, “It sounds exactly like my father.”
- by Elicia Brown ’90
Meet five women who put the leadership skills they acquired at Barnard to use by serving in the Army, Air Force, and Marines.
Adrienne Serbaroli '02
After completing her law degree at Roger Williams University, First Lieutenant Adrienne Serbaroli was looking for a nontraditional way to use her education. “As a Barnard woman, I was taught to be a leader in any field that I go into, and I wanted to serve the community by serving my country,” she says. That goal led her to the Marine Corps, where for nearly four years she has served as a Judge Advocate, assembling, preparing and litigating cases, and advising Marines on legal issues. Read more...
Katherine Diefenbach '04
No one was more surprised than Katherine Diefenbach by her career choice. “When I was college-searching with my dad, he asked me if I’d be interested in going to a military academy,” she recalls. “I said, ‘No,’ flat-out.” But 9/11 changed her mind. Diefenbach was a sophomore at Barnard when she saw the Twin Towers burn and crumble to the ground. Afterward, she felt driven to serve her country by becoming an officer in the Army. Read more...
Bonnie O'Leary '45
When Japanese troops bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, Bonnie O’Leary wanted to drop out of the University of Texas and join the service. But O’Leary’s father, who had been a USMC colonel, told her to finish college first. She completed her degree at Barnard, then began working in New York as an actress and assistant television director for ABC’s Pulitzer Prize Playhouse. Read more...
Irene Berman Overholts '07
For Irene Berman Overholts, joining the military felt like the natural thing to do. She grew up in Hawaii, where the U.S. military is a major presence, and her grandfather had served as a Marine. After graduating with a degree in history, she received a commission in the Air Force, for which she applied during her senior year. Read more...
Natalie Lopez-Barnard '10
Many recent graduates struggle to find a sense of direction after college. But 22-year-old Natalie Lopez-Barnard, a commissioned ROTC second lieutenant, already has her immediate future mapped out. Lopez-Barnard entered the Army ROTC’s training program at Fordham University while studying psychology at Barnard and finished both programs about the same time. Read more...
Professor Mona El-Ghobashy considers the events leading to Hosni Mubarak's ouster.
The Egyptian uprising that led to President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster didn’t start out that way, says Mona El-Ghobashy, Barnard professor of political science. It began as a routine protest, like so many others over the past 10 years. Egyptians had been inspired by angry Tunisians, who had forced President Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali to resign on January 14; they decided to hold their own national protest as a show of solidarity.
They chose Police Day, January 25, a national Egyptian holiday usually set aside to honor the police. But this year, protesters used the occasion to denounce police brutality and demand economic and political reforms, such as a minimum national wage and presidential term limits. When turnout exceeded expectations, police lost control of the crowds and brutally tried to clamp down. Another protest was scheduled for three days later. “And it was the extraordinary events of that day that transformed a unexceptional protest into a massive popular uprising,” adds El-Ghobashy.
Egyptians have much to be angry about, she says. Under Mubarak, they’d been deprived of political representation at all levels. The government and its cronies controlled everything and even interfered in university student-union elections to make sure pro-government factions won. So it was no surprise that protestors demanded elections at every level, from village chiefs all the way to presidential elections. Pundits and journalists have given a lot of credit to tech-savvy youth who used Facebook and Twitter to organize the uprising. El-Ghobashy concedes that social media and people like Google executive Wael Ghonim, who helped start a Facebook page to mobilize outrage over the police killing of a young man, are important pieces of the story. But what truly transformed the January 25 protest into an uprising were the pitched street battles between protesters and police, much like the street skirmishes that swept Europe in 1848. “If you watch the many videos posted on YouTube of the street skirmishes, you can see the ways protesters used barricades, and reined in both police violence and hotheaded protesters with cries ‘Silmiyya! Silmiyya!’ [Peaceful! Peaceful!],” El-Ghobashy says. “But when police beat demonstrators and lobbed tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition into the crowds, they fought back, using stones.”Now Egyptians face the daunting task of building a new democratic government, and they’re turning out in record numbers to do it. Just over 40 percent of Egyptians voted on March 19 in a referendum on constitutional amendments. In the past, Egypt’s presidents had held sham referendums with no more than five percent turnout. “This time the referendum was real, with no rigging or police interference,” says El-Ghobashy.
More than three-fourths (77.2 percent) of voters approved the amendments, which liberalize rules for presidential elections. They took away the president’s most egregious powers, and restored judicial supervision of elections. Voters set a timetable for upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections, and later the election by parliament of a 100-member constituent assembly to write an entirely new constitution.
The biggest challenge still facing Egypt, El-Ghobashy warns, is police interference. In the past, Egypt’s Interior Ministry, the domestic security arm, managed all Egyptian elections. The ministry controlled everything, from printing voter rolls to managing polling stations, and it rigged election procedures and outcomes at every step of the process. The referendum voters just approved puts Egypt’s independent judiciary in charge of elections. But it remains to be seen how that will translate on the ground during election day. El-Ghobashy does believe the military is serious about its promise to stay in power for only six months. “They don’t want to lose the aura they’ve gained for refusing to fire on protesters and for nudging Mubarak out of power,” she says. “The longer they stay, the more they’ll be exposed to the rough and tumble of day-to-day politics.”
Despite its support, the military is wary of the protest movement. The military- backed cabinet issued a law in March criminalizing some forms of protests and strikes, and imposing prison sentences and fines of up to $84,060. The military has also abused and tortured protesters.
Democratic change, however, appears inevitable. Not only have Egyptians begun asserting rights they were deprived of under the old authoritarian rulers, the cabinet has issued a law lifting restrictions on forming political parties. Now new and old political friends and enemies, including members of Mubarak’s ruling party, are busy forming political parties and starting their election campaigns. That so many different voices and opinions are coming together to create a new government gives El-Ghobashy cause for optimism. “This is a very good thing,” she says. “This gives voters more choices, and allows previously unrepresented groups like workers, Copts, and Sinai Bedouins to represent their collective interests, and gives free rein to the full dynamism of Egyptian politics that had been forcibly suppressed by Mubarak’s regime.”
- by Amy Miller
-Illustration by Ellen Weinstein
Six current Barnard students were selected to travel to the symposium during their spring break. The day before, they and more than 100 high school students from the area around Johannesburg gathered at the prestigious African Leadership Academy to take part in Barnard’s 2011 Young Women’s Leadership Workshop. The Barnard student representatives led small groups that explored what it means to be a leader in one’s own community; and they initiated discussions and activities that examined ways to become women leaders in Africa and beyond. Read about three of the Barnard student’s experiences:
Members of Barnard's Architecture Faculty on Home-Building for Sustainability
What does it mean to build green? Is eco-architecture a term people truly grasp? A sensitivity and duty toward the preservation of landscape and natural resources has become a widely understood value. As more businesses and homeowners are looking to build with an aim at sustainability, professionals like Barnard and Columbia architecture professors Joeb Moore and Nicole Robertson are helping them do so.
Whether it is an individual installing solar panels or a municipality trying to conserve energy in its town hall, becoming more “green” is a hallmark of an environmentally and cost-minded society. Robertson, who with her partner Richard Garber runs GRO Architects in Manhattan, observes more people are beginning to understand the term “green” and how integral it is to lifestyle choices that become embedded in the design of the built environment. Corporations and government agencies are also getting on board. “It’s not just the counterculture, not just academics who are interested,” remarks Moore, whose firm, Joeb Moore + Partners Architects in Greenwich, Connecticut, has completed a number of green projects. Thalassa Curtis ’92, an associate principal at Moore’s firm, concurs, “With cities across the country adopting green building standards (such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED) for municipal buildings, green building is increasingly the norm for larger buildings.” Many towns require new construction to comply with national energy performance recommendations.
In the experiences of Moore and Robertson, clients seeking environmentally friendly projects want to build the best building at the optimum price, both in the short term and over the life of the building, with efficient and cost-effective elements. “At a minimum, this means building systems are efficient as a budget permits, windows, walls, and roofs are super insulated, and storm water is managed onsite. Other features we see are geothermal systems, locally sourced and recycled materials, and green roofs,” says Curtis. Many do not want unnecessarily large homes that consume more energy.
A testament to the “smaller is better” philosophy, Robertson’s recent and noteworthy PREttyFAB house stands in a tiny lot in the Bergen-Lafayette neighborhood of Jersey City, New Jersey. After the property owner approached the New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) to find an architect who could design a “green” concrete home (the budget was $250,000 or less), he was referred to Robertson’s firm. She and Garber were immediately intrigued by the challenge. PREttyFAB’s primary green feature is the overall geometry of the massing strategy based on the specifics of the site. Being a small urban plot, the first parameter was the orientation of the house. Once set, Robertson and Garber established “due south” as the leading point of the triangular roof that was clad in photovoltaic panels and rotated vertically 30 degrees in order to optimize solar collection. The house also uses pre- fabricated insulated concrete panels that increase the house’s energy performance beyond that required by the residential building code. Natural ventilation also plays a key role; Robertson located windows at each level of the house so that the first floor windows can be opened and air will flow out loft-level windows. Ceiling fans help facilitate air flow of both warm and cool air. The floors are all radiant-heated; objects are warmed as opposed to air. PREttyFAB’s owner has agreed to show his energy bills to Robertson’s firm to see how the design lends itself to savings.
Robertson sees PREttyFAB as a prototype, and hopes it is the first of many. “We really saw this house as an opportunity to explore sustainable and affordable alternatives to the typical stick-built frame single- and two- family homes you see throughout theresidential districts of Jersey City,” she says. And the name? PREttyFAB refers to the architects’ intention for its existence as a prototype, one that could be customized; the name also incorporates the “pre-fab” nature of the concrete panels that make up the shell of the house.
Two homes in Connecticut illustrate green design for a more suburban and rural experience. In New Canaan, Moore created the first modern house at the town’s center, a few minutes’ walk from downtown shops, restaurants, and the commuter rail station. Called the Town-House, the home has insulation systems designed to comply with the current energy-saving standards. There are solar panels on the roof. Water from the roof is collected and used to sprinkle the lawn. The project was also about reengagement with the town, which can be seen as part of the trend of people moving closer to revitalized main streets.
Bridge House, located in Kent, which Moore describes as “classic New England rolling countryside,” integrates the natural topography of the site to create a feeling of exterior living space; every space in the Kent house is oriented toward open fields and a hill. Moore explains, “The building pops out of the ground and sits across the landscape so there is a reflective correspondence between indoor and outdoor living and dining spaces. You feel like you’re camping.” Both the Kent and New Canaan houses include green features for environmental sustainability, such as wood from sustainable regrowth forests. While the Town-House is focused on the social sustainability of returning to closer- knit town centers, Bridge House utilizes a strategy where architecture and landscape are dependent on each other.
Both urban and suburban projects incorporate similar elements: green roofs, recycled materials, high- efficiency appliances to name a few.But sustainability also incorporates location. An urban dwelling may make more use of community resources, such as transportation (Robertson’s client does not own a car, preferring to ride his bicycle and take public rail); a suburban project may offer more options to rely on natural resources, such as a geothermal heating and cooling.
Green buildings work more efficiently, but are aesthetics sacrificed in making a house eco-friendly? Moore remarks, “If you like historic homes, yes, part of the aesthetic will be sacrificed for new, sustainable, systems.” The cultural reaction to the energy efficient home from the ’70s was negative, but systems and technology have become less cumbersome, such as solar panels that are now thinner and less obtrusive. Recycled materials and found objects form part of the aesthetic, but these are emerging aspects of “green” building. Robertson sees this type of construction and design based on performance objectives, not on preconceived ideas of style or taste. For economy, the PREttyFAB house was stripped down to its essential components; aesthetics were rooted in functionality. “It is a highly pragmatic aesthetic,” says Robertson. “[The house] is very, very green.”
Green building has naturally found its way into the Barnard curriculum.
Karen Fairbanks, professor and chair of Barnard’s architecture department, emphasizes that Barnard is committed to teaching students an awareness of environmental issues as they relate to design. Required design studios introduce concepts of sustainability through projects using recycled materials and based on the understanding of climates and micro- climates. This semester the department offered a Special Topics course, “Known Unknowns: Architectural Research and Climate Risks,” looking at climate- related risk in a contemporary city. The College has embarked on its own green architectural projects, including the Diana Center, the first LEED-certified buildingon campus. Fairbanks has been involved in discussions about how Barnard is meeting the New York City mayor’s PlaNY2030 challenge for city institutions to reduce their carbon emissions by 30 percent.
Moore and Robertson do not use their professional projects as classroom case studies, but they do bring issues from their practices to their teaching. This semester Robertson’s students tackled the “real-life” green issue of recycling. She explains, “The students began by looking at recyclable objects, and through research into their fabrication and recycling processes of these objects, extracted diagrammatic techniques that were then used to transform their objects into new spatial and temporal organizations.” Students’ final (hypothetical) projects involve designing a recycling “pod” to serve as an information outreach point for the Department of Sanitation. The assignment was inspired by Robertson’s response to a request for proposals for a marine transfer station in New York City, a facility for recyclables before they are put on barges and shipped to outside facilities. In another course, Robertson and colleagues David Smiley and Peter Zuspan challenged students to design an urban green market and a bike stop along many of the new bike routes in Manhattan. “If we do anything, we take students to visit sights. Instead of lecturing, we like to take them out and embed them in the environment, in the building. New York is the great learning center,” says Moore.
“I think major buildings that push green objectives are super inspiring, and we’re seeing more and more of them,” says Robertson. Housing can also be an incubator for new ideas; the small can inform the large. However, Moore warns about the “green toupee.” This means a building looks eco-friendly, but under scrutiny is conventional in its environmental performance.
For those unable to commission anentirely green home or building, there are basic actions to take with existing spaces. “Anyone will tell you to start with insulation and heating and cooling equipment. Robertson advocates natural ventilation and facilitating airflow with ceiling fans. Selecting environmentally friendly materials is an easy way to be eco- conscious; more companies are making accessible and affordable sustainable products. Moore suggests a common sense approach of practical, low-tech responses to how energy is consumed in a building, and climate awareness. He acknowledges the mindset of wanting everything to be bigger, better, and mass-produced, but stresses smaller homes. City-dwelling is an inherently “green” decision; in denser environments, materials are four to five times more efficient because of the smaller living spaces, which reduces energy consumption.
Still developing, the field of green architecture will continue to spur new and creative ideas—ideas that will surely be influenced by the next generation of architects and designers. Barnard students show great enthusiasm for this type of architecture. Students’ perspectives on architecture have shifted away from formalism to greater interest in preservation, sustainability, and technology, and the Barnard-Columbia program emphasizes architecture as a social as well as fine art. Students are receptive to and interested in an architecture and design process “that incorporates a larger picture of both the environment and social costs of design and construction,” observes Moore. This union of social activism and environmentalism inspires students to see the interconnected world in which we live. Moore continues, “It is no longer a local or global question—the two are intimately linked and must be thought of together and simultaneously, without contradiction.” Thus, the meaning of green is as much about the environment as it is about the people who share it.
- by Stephanie Shestakow '98
Type A enthusiasm energizes Barnard’s new board chair
At the end of the academic year 2009-2010, Jolyne Caruso-FitzGerald ’81 was elected chair of the board trustees of Barnard College—a position to which she’s always aspired, describing the College as the foundation from which she launched her career and formed lifelong friendships. A member of the board since 2000, it has been not quite one year since she took her seat at the head of the conference table. In a recent interview she discussed a range of topics including her unexpected career, the key initiatives she supports to spur the growth and recognition of her cherished alma mater, and her thoughts about the importance of women’s leadership to future generations.
From her vantage point, in a spacious new suite of offices in the Empire State building with the artwork not yet on the walls, Caruso-FitzGerald surveys almost 360-degree views of the Manhattan skyline and beyond. The offices are home to The Alberleen Group, which she, as its CEO and founder, describes as an “incubator for investment banking teams.” When asked for some clarification, she notes that it’s akin to “angel investing,” something she has been involved with on a volunteer basis as a member of Golden Seeds, a nonprofit organization that provides funds to entrepreneurial women.
Caruso-FitzGerald’s foray into Wall Street was something of a surprise, falling on one side of the debate about undergraduate college majors and, ultimately, whether they matter or not. The oldest of three sisters and a brother, she enjoyed writing at Massapequa High School on Long Island. (The school cited her for “extraordinary achievement” in her career in 2006.) She looked forward with much anticipation to the start of her first year at Barnard—she had visited the campus with her best friend, Nancy Pivnick Freeman ’81, whose older sister, Susan Pivnick ’78, was then a student. From that point, there never seemed to be another college to compete for her interest.
But at the end of her senior year in high school, while her friends enjoyed languid days at the beach before heading off to their new roles as college students, Caruso- FitzGerald headed for an office. Her father, who had forged a career in the financial world, got her a summer job at the brokerage Bear Stearns in 1977. She found that she loved the work—so much so, she continued at the firm on Fridays even as she attended Barnard. Caruso-FitzGerald studied English and creative writing, and served as an editor on the Barnard Bulletin, but ultimately her growing love of business won out.
Her timing could not have been better. After graduation, she went downtown full time at the start of a major bull market and found herself to be the only woman on the trading floor coming out of a recession. Keen to excel and aware that she lacked a degree in economics or an MBA, often seen as necessary today, Caruso-FitzGerald put forth a lot of extra effort. Sparked by her self-described “Type A” personality and perfectionist streak, she was determined to succeed among the men she worked with.At Bear Stearns, Caruso-FitzGerald rose to the position of managing director of equities, but was also known for her warm manner and ease when relating to colleagues.
In 1992, she joined JP Morgan and eventually became head of equities in the Americas and chair of JP Morgan Securities. While at Morgan, she gave birth to her two children, Christian in 1995, and two years later, Gabrielle, who aspires to go to Barnard just as her mother did. Caruso-FitzGerald admits her perfectionism reared its head with the raising of the children. Her husband, lawyer Shawn FitzGerald (“We were a ‘Columbia couple’,” she says) realized some changes had to be made after his wife was dissatisfied with three nannies in succession. “Ahead of the curve,” says Caruso-FitzGerald when describing his willingness to remain home with the children, but allows that he did use his home office to pursue investment andfilm production interests. Caruso-FitzGerald left Morgan in 2001 to cofound her own company, Andor Capital, which grew to a $10 billion hedge fund. Four years later, Lehman Bros. beckoned; she was appointed managing director and head of global absolute return strategies, also serving on the management committee. After leaving Lehman in 2006, she took a time-out, and turned her focus to her alma mater.
Caruso-FitzGerald joined chair emerita and trustee emerita Helene F. Kaplan ’53—a defining role model for the Wall Streeter—as cochair of the search committee for a new president of Barnard after Judith Shapiro announced her retirement. Both women expressed great enthusiasm for Debora Spar, who became Barnard’s 11th leader and seventh president in 2008. In her inaugural speech, Spar spoke of three major initiatives she wished to develop for the College; Caruso-FitzGerald outlines her commitment to their success.
The first of the three is the continued growth and strengthening of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies, which the board chair describes as
a “signature program” for Barnard. Devoted to enhancing, understanding, and developing women’s leadership roles in both the nonprofit and private sectors as well as in government, the center, under the direction of Kathryn Kolbert, has established a varied curriculum that considers the qualities distinguishing leadership as well as practical management and financial issues. Caruso-FitzGerald believes the center will have broad appeal—to both women and men—that can be used to stimulate and grow fund-raising efforts.
Raising the visibility of the College is another goal of both Spar and Caruso-FitzGerald. The excellence of Barnard’s liberal-arts education supported by an outstanding faculty; its relationship with a major university and the uniqueness of that relationship; and its location in a world capital are enormous strengths with which to lure topnotch students from around the world. Caruso-FitzGerald is quick to cite Barnard’s other advantages, such as the faculty/student ratio, class sizes, and unique majors. These advantages, she believes, only enhance the intellectualcuriosity, rigor of thought, and self- confidence of students. Concluding her assessment of the plusses of a Barnard education, she quotes her predecessor as board chair, author Anna Quindlen ’74, who memorably proclaimed at a recent Commencement, “I majored in unafraid.” Caruso-FitzGerald’s own career exemplifies these beliefs.
Finally and fittingly, the board chair is passionate about growing the endowment. Compared to its 31 peers that comprise the Consortium on Higher Education, Barnard’s endowment is the smallest. The reasons are often cited: Almost 40 percent of the student body commuted until the early 1980s and the magnetic attraction of New York City life led to fewer on-campus bonds formed among students; the erroneous belief of many alumnae that Barnard shares Columbia’s endowment; and many Barnard-Columbia couples give more to Columbia. Caruso-FitzGerald stresses the great need for more outreach to build closer relationships with alumnae, but also adds that there is a need to uncover those institutions capable of giving financial support to Barnard’s unique programs, such as the Athena Center.
Caruso-FitzGerald herself has been contributing both time and financial support to Barnard since she graduated. She first began as a volunteer for the alumnae association; worked on her five- and 10-year reunions, and joined the board of trustees when she was 40. In describing why she aspired to the position of board chair, she notes that since joining, she has served on six major committees: budget and finance, development, compensation, governance, investment, and executive. Her experiences as a volunteer, intimate knowledge of the workings of the College, and her willingness to expend time tackling issues with board members on an individual basis offer the makings of an exemplary chair. Taken together with her managerial skills and ability to motivate people, her tenure seems destined to usher in a period of great upward movement in the academic and financial trajectories of the beloved institution she is so proud to represent.
- by Annette Kahn
- photograph by Mark Mahaney
New hires add new courses to the Philosophy curriculum.
Can creativity be measured or taught? What about its significance in relation to achieving happiness in life? How do we perceive colors and locations? How do we experience creative works? These are the types of questions being asked by two new assistant professors in Barnard’s philosophy department. With an interdisciplinary approach, John Morrison and Elliot Paul are using a mix of psychology and philosophy to help students explore big-picture topics like the nature of creativity and perception.
Within a department known for offering students a wide sampling of philosophical views, Morrison and Paul fit right in.
“They both have a foot in the history of philosophy and a foot in modern philosophy,” says Professor Frederick Neuhouser, chair of the department. But they also bring relatively unique skill sets. Morrison, who began teaching at Barnard in 2009, specializes in questions of perception and the way in which we visually represent colors, shapes, and places. He is also working on a project about seventeenth-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza, and his major work Ethics. Paul, who will begin teaching in the fall after completing a fellowship at New York University, focuses on the philosophy of creativity, its roots as well as its roll in our happiness and our moral choices. He also delves into the seventeenth century when focusing on the theory of knowledge put forth by René Descartes.
The two professors also share an interest in the ways philosophy and psychology meet. Paul relies heavily on empirical psychological studies (those based on collected data) when considering issues of creativity. Morrison draws on cognitive psychology when considering our visual perceptions.
Years ago, before Barnard was a possibility, Paul and Morrison met through a mutual acquaintance at the University of Pittsburgh, where Morrison began his PhD, and they have remained friends. In 2009, both men earned PhDs inphilosophy—Morrison from New York University, Paul from Yale. That year, the nation’s unemployment rate soared to a 25-year high, averaging 9.3 percent. As they entered the uncertain job market, they shared their anxieties and potential prospects, and soon realized they were competing for one ideal spot— at Barnard.
From a pool of some 200 qualified candidates, Neuhouser and other members of the department selected 30 strong candidates, then winnowed them down to 12 to meet in person at the annual philosophy convention on campus. Six were chosen for in-depth interviews. At every step, Paul and Morrison compared notes. With similar interests and a respect for each other’s work, they were more mutual cheerleaders than opposing teams. “That was a really anxious time for everyone on the market. But we were both rooting for each other, of course,” says Paul. “We both knew it was a job the other really wanted, so there was some hesitation,” Morrison says. “One person would tell the other he had made the cut not knowing whether the other person had made it too.” There was a surprise development. In attempting to decide between the two favorite candidates, the team in the philosophy department reached out to the psychology department. “We talked to the psychologists and they were impressed with both,” says Neuhouser. With the support of the psychology faculty, they made a successful case for hiring two professors instead of one. Paul and Morrison were thrilled. Not only was it the best outcome for the friendship, it allows both to stay in New York. Paul lives in Greenwich Village and is a Bersoff Faculty Fellow at NYU. Morrison and his wife are raising their young son inBrooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood. In the fall, Morrison will team with Joshua New, assistant professor of psychology, for an interdisciplinary course called “Psychology and Philosophy of Human Experience.”
“On Tuesdays, Professor New will look at the science behind some aspect of human experience. On Thursdays I will look at the philosophical implications,” Morrison says. Considering aesthetics, for example, “Professor New will talk about why it is we evolve to see some things are beautiful and some things aren’t. I will do a bit about the nature of beauty and the facts of how we experience beauty, how it differs from other kinds of experience,” he says. It’s a novel approach that should make for an interesting course.
But, for Morrison, one of the most gratifying experiences at Barnard has been teaching “Introduction to Logic,” a large course that isn’t a philosophy credit but instead counts as quantitative and deductive reasoning credit, a general education requirement. It gives him a chance to convince students to reconsider their notions about math. “Most people, particularly lots of women, are discouraged from doing mathematics and they tend to assume they are really bad at it. I think students in my ‘Introduction to Logic’ class tend to discover that not only do they love it but they are really good at it. They go on to take more advanced math, philosophy classes, logic classes.” He himself was introduced to philosophy by a teacher, at a debate summer camp in the ninth grade, and has been a dedicated student of philosophy since—taking as many courses as he could in high school and local colleges, then getting a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and philosophy from Williams College.
Paul’s career path to philosophy wasn’t as certain. “In college, my favorite courses were always in philosophy, but it took me a long time and several wrong turns before I could commit to it,” he says. “I switched majors four times.” The son of a single mother who immigrated to Canada from the Caribbean, Paul is the first member of his family to get a higher education. He graduated from the University of Toronto with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. “When I got there I met these people who had done something called a ‘PhD’ and thenbecame professors. But for a couple of years it never occurred to me that maybe I could do that too,” Paul says.
His enthusiasm for the profession is palpable. Paul is looking forward to teaching a first-year writing seminar in the fall. “The topic will be creativity, and our approach will be interdisciplinary, drawing on sources from literature, psychology, and philosophy,” he says. Students will keep a journal and examine their own creative process, while reading personal accounts of the process of great artists and thinkers like Mozart and Tchaikovsky. The class will examine concepts such as “flow,” and what it means to engage fully in something you love to do. Students will be asked to come up with their own methods for defining and measuring creativity. They will examine the creative personality and whether it leads to madness, and consider theories by philosophers such as Immanuel Kant’s argument that creativity is innate and cannot be learned. Last fall, Paul hosted a conference on the philosophy of creativity that explored similar themes.
“I’m particularly interested in the role that creativity plays in the moral domain,” says Paul. “One aim of this work is to change the way philosophers think about moral wisdom: it’s not just about choosing the correct option from a given set of possibilities. Sometimes it involves revealing possibilities that were previously unseen. Sometimes thinking morally means thinking creatively.”
Professor Neuhouser is delighted by the new staff, and with the prospect of adding more. “We are going to search open field, and try to just get the most interesting exciting people we can get,” Neuhouser says. Course enrollments and majors in philosophy at Barnard and Columbia have been rising during the past 10 years, he says. The new and energized staff will only help to expand the appeal.
- by Melissa Phipps
- photograph by Kate Ryan '09
Frequently, women who have achieved some measure of success in the United States are asked—in public and private, at conferences and cocktail parties—the identically worded question: How do you do it?
Often, there is an odd emphasis on the second word—how do you do it?—as if to underscore the oddity of doing “it” at all, or to insinuate that any woman doing “it” (whatever that “it” may be) either has a magical bag of tricks at her disposal, or is actually forsaking some other great responsibility in pursuit of the miraculous “it.” I hate the query and the connotation, and tend to avoid it at all costs.
There is, therefore, no good reason why I chose to pose it myself in Johannesburg during Barnard’s third annual global symposium, Women Changing Africa. Blame it, perhaps, on jet lag after the 17-hour flight.
Or on the combination of awe and trepidation that our panelists inspired: Mamphela Ramphele, physician, activist, managing director of the World Bank, and partner of Steven Biko until his death in police custody; Gill Marcus, member of the African National Congress since her teens, deputy minister of finance under Nelson Mandela, and indomitable governor of the South Africa Reserve Bank; Aloisea Inyumba, survivor of Rwanda’s horrific genocide, first minister of gender for her country, and member of Parliament. And on and on. The director of South Africa’s World Cup and of its ballet theatre. The fearless editor of its crusading weekly newspaper and a leader on its Supreme Court.
What kind of question could possibly pull these women together and prompt them to engage in the conversation that 450 attendees from across the continent had come to hear? What would engage them without distracting? So I went for the easy. The softball; the trite.
“How,” I asked this incredible array of women, “did you do it?”
What I heard blew me away. For not a single woman told a tale of her personal struggles or worries. There was no discussion of child care or misogynistic bosses or meddling mothers-in-law. Instead, all of these women preached the simple gospel of struggle; the need they felt to fight.
“We just knew inside us that there was a nudge to make things happen and to change things for the better,” said Senator Inyumba.
“There is a fight,” insisted Judge Yvonne Mokgoro, “a fight that needs to be fought ... and each and every one of us is nothing but a change agent.”
“We had to say,” recalled Dr. Ramphele, “this is what we inherited. What are we going to leave behind?”
Their comments mesmerized the audience, and particularly the 80 African high school students who had joined us for the day. As soon as I opened the floor for questions, a young girl leaped to the microphone and voiced what was clearly on everyone’s minds. “How,” she asked the panelists, “can we be like you? What should we be fighting for?”
Note, not “how do I balance my work and my life?” But much more powerfully, “what should my life be about?”
It is a question we hear much less frequently in the United States, where the political foundations of society feel fixed and more secure. We have freedoms: speech and religion; civil rights and women’s rights; and equality of opportunity, at least in theory. No young American woman is likely to witness the genocidal tides that surrounded Sen. Inyumba during her youth. None is likely to suffer what Dr. Ramphele did, watching the father of her children beaten to death by political opponents. We enjoy freedoms at the bequest of those who fought for them. These are blessings, but they are also, in some small ways, curses, because they leave our brightest and most passionate young people looking for causes, and for fights to justify their lives.
This search became the refrain of the afternoon; a refrain made all the more poignant because it was aired not by American students but by Africans; by Rwandan and Tunisian and Ugandan young women striving to shape their lives as purposefully as they could. And what they heard left no room for hesitation.
“Make sure,” counseled Ramphele, “that your life becomes one more light for the generations coming after you.”
“Fight,” advised Mokgoro, “with courage, and the courage of your convictions, for what is right.”
Not how to juggle, in other words, but how to fight.
Not how to live, but for what.
In the United States, Canada, most of western Europe, and other “developed” parts of the world, we have been showered with relative fortune over the past 50 years, fortune enough to shrink many of our struggles down to personal size. In Africa, by contrast, a century of tragedy has conditioned the continent’s people—at least the good ones, and smart ones, and the righteous—to shape their lives around the broader pursuits of justice, survival and social change. Such pursuits are harder to identify from the comforts of Morningside Heights, and harder, ironically perhaps, to engage. But as our African colleagues so powerfully reminded us, the larger struggles are still out there. And even as we master the “its” that consume our own lives, we need to carve some space for the bigger, broader fights.
- Photograph by Steve DeCanio
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” I was not expecting to be greeted by the words of Margaret Mead ’23 when I entered the African Leadership Academy; yet, there they were, on the wall beneath an enormous photo of one of the academy’s founders. Mead’s statement serves as an inspiration for the academy and its students. The school’s mission is to transform Africa into a prosperous continent by developing and supporting its future leaders; a dedicated student body and outstanding faculty set out to achieve this end. Every student enrolled at the ALA must greet any unfamiliar face they encounter on campus with a formal greeting. When I walked through the doors, a young lady smiled warmly, looked directly into my eyes, and said, “Hello, my name is Miranda Nyathi, and I am from South Africa.”
In a small classroom where every chair, pencil, and piece of paper are paid for by individual and corporate donations, I came face to face with the next generation of African leaders. The 15 young women that I met at the ALA sat in a circle, representing five high schools and 10 African countries, and showed me that leadership skills are useless without a cause where they can be applied. When I asked if they had any projects they wished to work on, each young woman replied with a detailed, prepared course of action for a project in her community. One student described a financial plan to start a center for battered women; another wanted to lead courses on entrepreneurship for single mothers.
The students that I met on March 14 were the most socially aware teenagers I have ever encountered. If I came back from South Africa with anything productive, it’s a word to American teens: Put down your cell phones and pick up a newspaper.
- Reni Calister ’11
Reni was one of six students selected to travel to South Africa to attend the Barnard’s Third Annual Global Symposium and assist with a leadership workshop for high school students from around Johannesburg.
By the time we reached Johannesburg on March 12th, we had developed a strong presentation which we hoped would convey our messages about leadership: that every young woman has the potential to be a leader and that, as high school students, they do not need to wait to take action.
Though we had prepared and reviewed for hours, when the time came to actually deliver the workshop, I was incredibly nervous. I need not have worried. Each of the students spoke about her desire to create positive change. One student spoke about creating a resource clinic for teenage pregnancies, another about creating a more sustainable environment in her school. Another spoke passionately about a desire to show the world the true Africa: a land full of history, promise, and future. I have since heard from a few of the students, who have updated me on their plans for implementing their projects and are speaking with each other about future collaborations. For me, that was the greatest reward I could have asked for: knowing that our workshops facilitated the opportunity for these extraordinary young women to come together and work towards building a better future.
- Hayley Milliman ’12
Hayley was one of six students selected to travel to South Africa to attend the Barnard’s Third Annual Global Symposium and assist with a leadership workshop for high school students from around Johannesburg.