The Athena Digital Design Agency Launches

Barnard College

Agency Kicks Off With Malala Fund as Inaugural Client

Barnard College’s Athena Center for Leadership today launched the Athena Digital Design Agency, an innovative, student-run web design firm that offers a new model for engaging young women in technology while providing web development services to small businesses in New York City. In an effort to address the underrepresentation of women in entrepreneurship and technology, the Athena Digital Design Agency aims to provide Barnard students with a practical, judgment-free entry point into computer programming and web design.

The Athena Digital Design Agency’s first cohort of junior developers—all Barnard students from a variety of majors—participated in a 10-week training session, learning the fundamentals of design from experts at Skillcrush, a woman-owned educational start-up that promotes women’s presence in the web design field.  Following this training period, students have the opportunity to gain paid, professional experience by joining the Athena Digital Design Agency. Beginning in Fall 2014, the agency will market low-cost web development services to small businesses through partnerships with Columbia-Harlem Small Business Development Center at the Columbia Business School and other community-based organizations.

As part of the pilot group’s training, students designed and launched a website for their first client, The Malala Fund, the foundation supporting the advocacy efforts of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist encouraging the education of women and girls around the world.

"Partnering with the Athena Digital Design Agency guaranteed a quick set up of our website and YouTube channel,” said Eason Jordan, director of operations and communications at The Malala Fund. “It was a joy to work with students that are striving for a goal parallel to that of The Malala Fund, to empower young women through education.”

“This program will not only provide a useful service to neighborhood businesses, but also help students gain the skills and confidence necessary to pursue careers in technology-related fields after college,” said Kathryn Kolbert, the director of Barnard’s Athena Center for Leadership Studies. “I thank the Malala Fund for helping us launch this wonderful project.”

“As students progress with the Athena Digital Design Agency, they will learn more advanced interactive web-development skills and back-end programming, such as Ruby on Rails, to enable them to pursue a wider variety of tech-related internships and jobs,” said Nathalie Molina Niño, co-founder of Entrepreneurs@Athena, a project of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies. “By empowering students with coding skills and providing the opportunity for hands on experience, the Athena Digital Design students will gain the confidence, ambition and ability needed to close the gender gap in technology and technology startups.”

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Sep. 30, 2014 - 2:30 PM