Fellows and Visiting Scholars

The Athena Distinguished Fellowship Program is open to renowned leaders from the most senior levels of the private and public sectors, including leaders in business, law, medicine, government or NGOs. Beginning in fall 2013, the Center will select a class of Fellows who have attained recognized positions of leadership within their careers and communities and have demonstrated a commitment to the advancement of women leaders within the U.S. and across the globe.  Often Fellows are at an inflection point in their lives or careers—looking toward the broader role they might take on in passing down their experience and expertise to emerging women leaders. Fellowships range from nine months to two years.  

Candidates commit to sharing their expertise and experience with emerging women leaders at Barnard and beyond and advocating for women’s leadership within their circles of influence and the local, national and international causes in which they participate. 

Learn More.


Jimmie Briggs has earned a reputation as one of the most respected human rights advocates in the field of journalism over the past two decades. Briggs received the Barnard Medal of Distinction in May, 2013. A graduate of Morehouse College, he has produced seminal reporting on the lives of war-affected youth and children soldiers, as well as survivors of sexual violence. His book, Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers Go To War, won accolades in 2005. Briggs has served as an adjunct professor of investigative journalism at the New School for Social Research, and was a George A. Miller Visiting Professor in the department of African-American studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His upcoming book, Blood Work, questions manhood, masculinity, and tranformation in the 21st century. Most recently, Briggs founded the Man Up Campaign, a global initiative for mobilizing young people to stop violence against women and girls through the arts, sports, and technology. For his work with the Man Up Campaign and the issue of violence against women, Briggs was selected as the winner of the 2010 GQ magazine's "Better Men Better World" search, as well as being chosen one of "21 Leaders for the 21st Century" by Women's eNews.

2011 Nobel Peace Laureate and Liberian peace activist,  Leymah Gbowee has joined Barnard College as its inaugural Distinguished Fellow in Social Justice.  Gbowee, will also serve as a Fellow in Residence at the Athena Center for Leadership Studies and a Barnard Center for Research on Women Transnational Fellow.  She will be teaching and guest-lecturing in Barnard’s Africana studies program.  A trained social worker and women’s rights advocate, Gbowee is founder and president of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa, founder of the Liberia Reconciliation Initiative, and co-founder and former executive director of Women Peace and Security Network Africa (WIPSEN-A). She is also a founding member and former Liberia coordinator of Women in Peacebuilding Network/West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WIPNET/WANEP). Gbowee’s leadership of the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, which brought together Christian and Muslim women in a nonviolent movement that played a pivotal role in ending Liberia’s civil war in 2003, is chronicled in her memoir, Mighty Be Our Powers, and in the documentary, Pray the Devil Back to Hell. In addition, Gbowee is the Newsweek Daily Beast's Africa columnist. She serves on the boards of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, Gbowee Peace Foundation and the PeaceJam Foundation, and she is a member of the African Women Leaders Network for Reproductive Health and Family Planning. She holds a master of arts degree in conflict transformation from Eastern Mennonite University (Harrisonburg, VA), and a doctor of laws (LLD) honoriscausa from Rhodes University in South Africa and University of Alberta in Canada. Gbowee was honored as a flag-bearer for the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. She is based in Monrovia, Liberia, and has six children.

In Spring 2013, John Gerzema became the first Athena Center Fellow.  He will support the Center in offering talks, workshops and insights to promote the advancement of women’s leadership around the world.
A pioneer in the use of data to identify social change and help companies anticipate and adapt to new interests and demands, he is the co-author of The Athena Doctrine: How Women (And The Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future, which reached #2 on the New York Times Best-Seller List within weeks of its release.  A best-selling author, columnist, speaker and social strategist, his books, research and interviews have appeared on “best of” lists at Fast Company, Inc., and The Week Magazine and in such publications as The Harvard Business 
Review, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, The New York TimesCNBC, NPR, and Forbes. As Chief Insights Officer at Young & Rubicam he oversees the world’s largest database of brands and consumer behavior and studies social change and its impact on business, society and the economy. John’s TED talk featured at ‘TedXWomen’ is an overview of his book, which was released April 2013 and is available on Amazon.        

About The Athena Doctrine:  John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio’s proprietary survey of 64,000 people around the world asked people to identify traits as either feminine or masculine and then asked what traits are most important for both leadership and success.  He found that those traits identified as traditionally feminine are now more popular than the macho paradigm of the past and that the most innovative among us are breaking away from traditional structures to be more flexible, collaborative and nurturing.   He found that both men and women from Medellin to Nairobi are adopting this “feminine” style, which emphasizes cooperation, long-term thinking, and flexibility, in turn making their lives, and the world, better. LEARN MORE
A feminist leader and social entreprenur, Marie C. Wilson has created and led women's organizations for the past forty years. She is Founder and President Emerita of both The White House Project and the Ms. Foundation for Women. She was a co-creator of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day ® and author of Closing the Leadership Gap: Add Women, Change Everything. Wilson has been profiled extensively in the national media, including in The New York Times Public Lives column and in O Magazine. She has appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, and BBC, and she has spoken on National Public Radio. Wilson has received four honorary doctorates including, most recently, a doctor of divinity from the Episcopal Seminary in Boston.  



Each year the Athena Center brings to campus an academic expert in women’s leadership or woman leader for a short-term visit.  While on campus, they meet with students and center staff and share their expertise with others in the Barnard community.


2013:  Dr. Ludger Helms, Professor of Political Science and the Chair of Comparative Politics at the University of Innsbruck, Austria

An expert on issues of political leadership and democratic governance and the author of many books and articles including his recent book, Comparative Political Leadership (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), Dr. Helms has held previous or visiting positions at Harvard, Berkeley, Heidelberg, Tokyo and the London School of Economics and Political Science. During his time with the Athena Center, Dr. Helms guest lectured in Women and Leadership and in the Athena Senior Seminar and met with Barnard staff and administrators.  Dr. Helms and his wife were also delighted to attend the Athena Film Festival during their time with the Center.


2012:   Charlayne Hunter-Gault, award-winning journalist and author

Charlayne Hunter-Gault is an award-winning journalist with more than 40 years in the industry. She is the author of In My Place, a memoir of the civil rights movement fashioned around her experiences as the first black woman to attend the University of Georgia. Her latest book is New News Out of Africa: Uncovering the African Renaissance.
As a global journalist, Hunter-Gault has returned to NPR as a Special Correspondent after spending six years as CNN's Johannesburg Bureau Chief and Correspondent. Before that, she worked as NPR's chief correspondent in Africa.
Hunter-Gault had joined NPR in 1997 after 20 years with PBS, where she worked as a national correspondent for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. She began her journalism career as a reporter for The New Yorker, before working as a local news anchor for WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. and as the Harlem bureau chief for The New York Times.
Her numerous honors include two Emmy awards and two Peabody awards – one for her work on Apartheid's People, a NewsHour series about South African life during apartheid, and the other for general coverage of Africa in 1998. Hunter-Gault also was the recipient of the 1986 Journalist of the Year Award from the National Association of Black Journalists, the 1990 Sidney Hillman Award, the American Women in Radio and Television award, the Good Housekeeping Broadcast Personality of the Year Award, and a 2004 National Association of Black Journalists Award for her CNN series on Zimbabwe. She has also received awards from Amnesty International for her Human Rights reporting, especially her PBS Series, Rights and Wrongs, a human rights television magazine. In August 2005, she was inducted in the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame. She is a sought after public speaker, holds more than two dozen honorary degrees, is on the board of The Committee to Protect Journalists and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
While at Barnard, Ms. Hunter-Gault attended classes with students and delivered a Power TalkLEARN MORE

2011:    Frances X. Frei, the UPS Foundation Professor of Service Management at Harvard Business School 

Frances Frei is a Professor in the Technology and Operations Management Unit at Harvard Business School and the Senior Associate Dean, Director of Faculty Planning and Recruiting.  She is the best-selling author of Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business (Harvard Business Review Press). Her research examines how organizations can build service models that reliably deliver excellence.  Her work has been published in top-tier journals such as Management Science and Harvard Business Review.  In addition, she has published dozens of case studies across a variety of industries, including financial services, government, retail, software, telecommunications, and hospitality.  These cases include Zipcar, eBay, Southwest Airlines, Tiffany’s, Houston Rockets, Commerce Bank, Progressive Insurance, Orient Express Hotels and Zappos, among others.  While visiting at Athena, Professor Frei joined students in classes, worked with Center staff and delivered a Power Talk  entitled, Reverence: Leading Organizations with Excellence and Integrity. LEARN MORE