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Columbia Spectator Staff

Professor Kathryn Kolbert, director of the newly launched Athena Center for Leadership Studies, addressed Barnard's Student Government Association Monday night to discuss the program's progress. While the Athena Center was officially launched this fall, some of its development is still in the works, and word on elements of the program has remained somewhat quiet. The Center is separated into four parts, each with a different type of requirement. For a student to be marked an Athena Scholar on her transcript, she must complete specialized academic courses, mentoring opportunities, an independent leadership project, and the Athena Leadership Lab workshop series. In April, Barnard President Debora Spar circulated a proposal to modify the former Barnard Leadership Initiative, an interdisciplinary program that joins curricular and co-curricular opportunities to offer women leadership skills. The program was overseen by the faculty committee for the BLI, with economics professor Alan Dye as director. Spar's proposal suggested offering courses emphasizing different components of women's leadership, an extracurricular component with diverse internships, and a capstone seminar taught by the director. The academic portion of the Athena Center is open to anyone at Barnard and consists of a five-course requirement, including a class titled Women and Leadership and Kolbert's senior seminar. Kolbert is now in the process of polling faculty for courses in their own departments to increase the number and breadth of classes offered under the program's umbrella. The mentoring component—to be fulfilled as an extracurricular activity or internship—can be completed during the academic year or in the Athena Summer Fellowship Program, which will begin in the summer of 2010. Ten spots will be available this coming summer, which Kolbert hopes to eventually increase to 20. She is now working with the Office of Career Development to put up applications on the Athena Web site. Students will also be required to complete an independent project demonstrating the leadership skills learned in "anything that moves your heart," according to Kolbert. Because there are so many leadership-directed student groups on campus, this part of the program will be done off-campus. In her senior seminar, Kolbert hopes to have students work together to combine the leadership talents they have learned. Lastly, in the Athena Leadership Lab, students will attend at least three workshops and small practicum courses in which female leaders will be brought to speak on campus. "I've been long interested in women's leadership, both because I was very much a part of the national women's movement and worked for a great number of years to improve the status of women through that work," Kolbert told Spectator earlier this semester. "I've always been interested in how we can change society and what women can contribute." She added, "The Athena Center has an opportunity to become the premier center on leadership in the country." Daphne Larose, BC '10 and senior representative to the Board of Trustees, asked how race would figure into the program. Kolbert acknowledged that gender was just one factor of leadership and noted that racial, cultural, and ethnic identities all help define what makes a leader. Bo Yun Park, BC '12 and sophomore class president, brought up the Emerging Leaders Program for first-years, which is already in place. Kolbert said that the Athena Center will be included under a similar umbrella of programs but that she cannot oversee all leadership groups on campus. Kolbert also emphasized her desire to work with Barnard students and propose answers to their questions. She plans to create a student advisory committee with the help of the senior class, parallel to an already existing committee of alumnae and a prospective group of female leaders around the country, both of which will advise the program. Students have been invited on a retreat to a camping site with Kolbert and Athena staff in April where they will discuss more ways to show leadership initiatives on campus.

Barnard Leadership Initiative Barnard Feminism