Bold, beautiful businesswomen are coming to Barnard this fall. Barnard’s Athena Center for Leadership Studies is adding a management track to its Athena Mastermind program this semester.
The Athena Mastermind program started as a student-proposed project last year to support student entrepreneurs by connecting them with experienced female entrepreneurs in New York.
Now, the program will include two groups: one group of entrepreneurs and a separate group of mid- to senior-level managers at established organizations.
Nathalie Molina Niño, director of the Mastermind program, said the management track was organized in order to increase the number of women working in entrepreneurial and management fields.
“I’m impatient,” Molina Niño said, adding, “I think the next Mark Zuckerberg should be a woman.”
Students in the program will meet with their mentors for monthly dinners.
“At the end, we would all leave with a goal,” former mentor Avani Patel, Business ’12 and CEO of TrendSeeder, said.
The management program, which will be led by Miranda Stamps, BC ’00 and vice president of product development at Pearson Learning, will help students confront the challenges of being a woman in a leadership position—especially the loneliness that can be associated with that role, Molina Niño said.
The management group will remain separate from the entrepreneur group because they deal with different issues, but the leaders hope to maintain a family-like dynamic in both groups. An event in December will allow all Mastermind participants to mingle.
The Mastermind program distinguishes itself from Columbia’s other entrepreneurship programs in that “it isn’t for ‘wantrepreneurs,’” Molina Niño said. Students who apply for the entrepreneurship program must already have a start-up.
“It’s less about exclusivity, and more about doing it right,” she said.
The inaugural entrepreneur group last year included four students, and the application for this year’s groups closed this week. Molina Niño said she would like to expand the number of participants.
“Women mentoring women should never be exclusive,” she said. “If it works, we want to spread it.”
Last year’s participants said they particularly benefited from developing relationships with others in the group, among both students and mentors.
“I loved getting to know everyone,” Eva Sasson, BC ’14, said. “We started off only talking about our lives professionally, but then as weeks and months went by, we got to know each other on a personal level.”
The group was composed of participants from a wide range of industries, backgrounds, and personalities.
“I look to create a group of people who would never have been in the room together otherwise,” Molina Niño said.
Student participants said they appreciated the group’s diversity.
“It gives you a glimpse into something that’s not your everyday but can still help you,” Patel said.
Thanks to the program, some of the students have already found success. Sasson, who started her own mobile app company at age 19, was hired as a consultant to teach entrepreneurship at the Entrepreneurs-in-Training summer camp, an experience she described as amazing.
Although last year’s program held its last official meeting in July, the women continue to gather for monthly dinners and plan to stay in touch.
“If any of the women in the group ever needed something and contacted me, I would do whatever I could to help them,” Sasson said. “There’s a special energy that college kids have ... Getting to have meaningful conversations with adults who are in a different place in their lives can be really refreshing.”