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The Athena Scholars Program might have been part of what drew you to Barnard in the first place, but how much do you know about actually becoming a Scholar? Spectrum’s got you covered with all of the information you need to know so you can make an informed decision of whether to apply.

What is the Athena Scholars Program?

The Athena Scholars Program is part of Barnard’s Athena Center, which “provides opportunities for Barnard women to explore what it means to lead, to collaborate, to inspire, and to excel,”according to its website. The program focuses on gender and leadership studies, among other requirements, to develop leadership skills among interested Barnard students.

The Athena Center also organizes some of Barnard’s most memorable events, like the Athena Film Festival, and contains other programs, such as the Athena Digital Design program, which offers coding classes.

How do I join?

We’ve got some good news for you! All Barnard students are eligible to become Scholars! To find out more about the process, contact Sarit Abramowicz, the administrative director of student programs through her email address

What are the requirements?

Although it does not count as a minor, the Athena Scholars Program has a substantial number of requirements. The first requirement is the “Women and Leadership” course, which focuses on different social obstacles that lead to the gendering of leadership across different fields of work and under different racial, economic, and regional scopes.

In addition to this course, seniors have to complete a senior seminar, where seniors are expected to develop a Senior Social Action Project throughout the semester and report back to their peers. For example, Scholars Safia Lakhani, BC ’19, and Amulya Kandikonda, BC '19, developed “CarePath,” a website aimed at “increasing healthcare literacy amongst college students,” according to the Athena Center website.

The next requirement involves taking three elective courses across different majors that qualify as Athena electives. Options for these courses include classes ranging from chemistry to economics to dance, so you’ll have ample choices to ensure you take classes you enjoy. Naturally, most of the electives that fulfill this requirement are courses that revolve around women and their role in whichever field the course is in.

Another requirement is taking six Leadership Labs, one- to two-hour-long workshops offered throughout the semester revolving around various topics like managing your finances, negotiation, and podcasts. Some examples of labs being offered this semester include “Improv 101,” “Courageous Conversations,” and “The Art of the Conversation.” As you might tell, they cover very different topics, so you also have the choice to pick something you actually enjoy.

Finally, the last requirement is the Practicum, which can be completed through an internship, research, or shadowing during the semester or summer while participating in a 10-week online discussion throughout the experience.

How is the experience from a student’s perspective?

After asking her how she found out about the program, Hannah Seibold, BC ’22, wrote that she heard about the program from her experience being a tour guide, and after looking into it, really connected with its mission.

“I liked the idea that it was founded on … female empowerment and educating people first about challenges that they’ll face before going out in the real world,” Seibold wrote.

Julia Coccaro, BC ’22, wrote of her appreciation of Athena’s provision of both resources and challenges.

“They fund and provide numerous opportunities for career development, while simultaneously maintaining requirements that force you to be proactive,” Coccaro wrote.

When asked how the Athena program contributes to her overall experience at Barnard, Seibold wrote that it “exemplifies all the advantages that an all-female education can give a Barnard student.”

Similarly, Hannah Regele, BC ’21, commented that the Athena Center is a “nice cohort in the greater Columbia community to bring Barnard students together.”

Coccaro also completed the Practicum and felt that the experience enhanced the internship she had over the summer.

“I underestimated the importance of reflecting on the various parts of an internship, let alone the impact of comparing that experience with others in varying work environments … I plan to reflect similarly on future work experiences,” Coccaro wrote.

Overall, all seem to be content with their experiences as Athena Scholars and to really take advantage of the various opportunities the Athena program provides them.

Staff writer Lina Bennani Karim can be contacted at Follow Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.

Athena Barnard Program Scholars
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