The Athena Fellows Program
At the Athena Center for Leadership, we dream of a better future and we build it, in community, by taking on the intractable challenges of the present.
The Athena Fellows Program is open to students who have a challenge in mind. (Not sure what you want to take on? Check out SPARK or come talk to us!)
Note that in your application, we’re not requiring you to submit a fully baked project, or a solution, or even an idea for how you’d solve it — just a *challenge* that you’re interested in. What is it that you, personally, want to take on, and why?
Each semester, we accept up to 10 Fellows. Fellows commit their Fridays (the full work day) to their projects and receive a stipend, just as you would for an internship.
All Barnard students in good academic standing are eligible to apply after their first semester at Barnard.
Apply for Fall 2021 (Applications will go live soon!)
Application deadline: August 1, 2021
The Athena Fellows Program is one of multiple communities of practice we offer at Athena. Communities of practice are groups of people who meet regularly to get better at something — here, changemaking. Read more about the other Communities of Practice we offer here.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Athena Fellows Program
GREAT question. Glad you asked.
In a better future, we live in an equitable society, on a healthy planet.
This is gender justice work, because we know, all too well, what happens when women and nonbinary individuals aren't at the table.
This is racial justice work. We cannot tackle the intractable challenges we face without reckoning with the racism that keeps so many of them intractable. Nor can we, when developing solutions, ignore the implications for communities of color.
This is climate justice work. Every time you make a decision, you'll consider whether there's a more sustainable choice you can make.
We launch a new cohort of Athena Fellows every semester. If you are selected for the program, you should plan to spend every Friday in it, for the duration of the semester.
As much as you put into it. You will have opportunities to brainstorm and collaborate with experts in a community setting. You will receive mentorship and support to develop and implement an idea. You will participate in peer learning sessions and training to advance your problem-solving and changemaking competencies.
You will also receive a stipend.
$1500. You are welcome to use it for project expenses, but are not required to.
Great question. Athena is a supportive space, not a class — so your work will be self-directed and not graded, but don’t worry, you’ll receive plenty of guidance as you take it on.
Our weekly gatherings will be a mix of training time and work time, aimed at helping you better understand the challenge (with the additional help of a faculty advisor), narrow it down, develop a plan for tackling it collaboratively and responsibly, and put that plan into action... all with plenty of space to reflect and change course as needed.
Say you’re interested in housing. That’s a really big topic, so we help you narrow it down by mapping the systems and the players, and selecting a point of intervention that excites you. You take some time to understand the landscape — who is doing interesting work in this space? What gaps exist? All of this requires a lot of listening, which we prepare you to do.
Once you've reframed your challenge, you'll start to work through it, with the guidance of the Athena team. You'll undoubtedly need to know more about the challenge area - that's where a faculty advisor you identify will be especially helpful. Also helpful is BLAIS. In the case of this topic, the Undesign The Redline series they created is so useful!
Week by week, you'll learn important skills and apply them to your work - often the same day, because the days are intended to set you up for immediate application of those skills.
By the end, you'll have completed a project. What form will it take? It really depends. You might have done a mapping project, with help from the ERC. Maybe you've collected some oral histories - the Oral History Archive was a great help for you! Or perhaps you've created a provocation - some form of media that challenges conventional thinking. Maybe you came up with an idea for a company, and this time and space was what you needed to validate it.
In all cases, you have worked closely with others in the Fellowship (Fellows with similar areas of interest, maybe) and likely an organization as well. In all cases, you'll have taken advantage of the many resources at Barnard to accomplish that and done something meaningful in collaboration with others. Most of all, in all cases, you'll have found a place for yourself in a social change ecosystem, understood just how your work fits into something bigger, and produced something that you learned from and can share with others.
Your presence and engagement every Friday, for the duration of the semester. Fellows meet for the full work day.
An openness to collaboration. The change we need won’t come from a single approach or a single person, but at Athena, we don’t force you to do group projects. We do create the conditions for collaborations to emerge and flourish.
Unfortunately, no. We ask that Fellows commit the full day on Fridays — just as you might for a meaningful internship experience.
Fortunately, we launch a new cohort of Fellows every semester so you have many more opportunities to apply!
It’s possible you're not where you want to be with your project by the end of the semester — that’s fine! No matter where you are with it, you’ll be a part of our community of Fellows and can access the Athena Center at any time. We’ll be here to offer continued guidance. And, no matter where you are with it at the end of the semester, we’ll help you shape it into something that you can share with prospective employers.
This program will challenge you to consider the intractable challenges we face and to ask yourself, What can I do, where I am? What work already exists? To what can I add my unique skills and knowledge? With the help of your peers and an expert facilitator, you’ll work through these questions to figure out how you will lead positive change — and actually do that. At Athena, leadership is a practice, not a position or a destination. By developing your practice while still a student, you’ll be better equipped to sustain it in your post-Barnard life.