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Barnard receives $800,000 Mellon grant for digital design initiative

  • GOING DIGITAL | Barnard received an $800,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund an academic initiative geared toward digital photography, design, and visual storytelling.

Updated, 7/15, 12:25 p.m.

Barnard received an $800,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund an academic initiative geared toward digital photography, design, and visual storytelling.

The initiative, Barnard Teaches: Real Place + Digital Access, will bring local cultural and scientific institutions to collaborate with Barnard and Columbia undergraduates, the College announced on Wednesday.

“With world-renowned museums, libraries, and other places of culture importance, Barnard’s New York City location has always been a tremendous asset to our students’ academic experience,” Barnard College President Debora Spar said in a press release.

Spar noted the increasing importance of digital technology in students’ lives, calling Barnard Teaches an opportunity for students and faculty to engage in this “transformative moment for scholarly work.”

Barnard Teaches will include digital design training at the International Center of Photography, Barnard’s institutional partner for this initiative.

The first Barnard Teaches course will be offered in Spring 2015. Barnard Teaches will add a minimum of four courses, which will each include collaboration with at least one partner institution and one major digital component, over the next five years.

“These courses will also serve as prototypes for incorporating local cultural resources into the liberal arts experience,” Barnard Provost Linda Bell said in the release.

Bell told Spectator that it is too early to determine the specific enrollment details for Barnard Teaches, and added that the final list of partner institutions will be announced at a later date.

The initiative will also include a competition for summer internships for Barnard students at partnering institutions and a new Digital Fellows Program that will allow students to conduct peer tutoring in digital technology and design. Barnard currently has similar peer tutoring programs for writing fellows and speaking fellows.

Spar told Barnard’s Student Government Association’s representative council in April that a computational science center will be a main component of the forthcoming teaching and learning center in an effort to increase computer science at Barnard.

Barnard has been gradually introducing programs for students to engage in computer science since last fall, when Barnard's Athena Center for Leadership Studies launched Barnard Codes—since rebranded as the Athena Digital Design Center—a student-run program to provide resources and instruction for students to learn coding and explore the field of computer science.

When Bell spoke to Barnard’s SGA in February about her long-term goals for a significant curriculum review, she said she would identify “points of intersection” to bridge the divide between students interested in STEM majors and other focused on the arts and humanities.

“We need to create ways for faculty to work together to create programs for students to cross boundaries,” Bell said in February. | @EmmaAudreyGoss

Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to the Athena Digital Design Center by its former name, Barnard Codes. The program was rebranded last winter. Spectator regrets the error.


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Anonymous posted on

Why not use 800k on financial aid packages?

Anonymous posted on

Because this was a grant from the Mellon Foundation specifically for this purpose. They would not have received the grant otherwise.

CU_Alum posted on

Grants come with conditions. When a college accepts a grant, it agrees to those conditions. They almost always specify how the money can be used. Barnard has a legal duty to honor its agreement. If it used the money for any other purpose, it would forfeit the grant -- and would have a hard time attracting other grants or donations, since it would become known as a school that does not honor its agreements.