- Acknowledging Bard's Origins
- History of Bard
- Learning at Bard
- Academic Calendar
- Division of the Arts
- Division of Languages and Literature
- Division of Science, Mathematics, and Computing
- Division of Social Studies
- Interdivisional Programs and Concentrations
- The Bard Conservatory of Music
- Bard Abroad
- Additional Study Opportunities and Affiliated Institutes
- Civic Engagement
- Open Society University Network
- Campus Life and Facilities
- Graduate Programs
- Educational Outreach
- Levy Economics Institute of Bard College
- The Bard Center
- Scholarships, Awards, and Prizes
- Honorary Degrees and Bard College Awards
- Boards and Administration of Bard College
- Bard College Contact Information
- Bard Campus Map and Travel Directions
Bard College Catalogue 2023-24
History of BardBard College has always been a place to think, critically and creatively.
Founding of the College: Bard was founded as St. Stephen’s College in 1860, a time of national crisis. While we have no written records of the founders’ attitude toward the Civil War, a passage from the College’s 1943 catalogue applies also to the institution’s beginnings: “While the immediate demands in education are for the training of men for the war effort, liberal education in America must be preserved as an important value in the civilization for which the War is being fought. . . Since education, like life itself, is a continuous process of growth and effort, the student has to be trained to comprehend and foster his own growth and direct his own efforts.” This philosophy molded the College during its early years and continues to inform its academic aims.
St. Stephen’s College was established by John (1819–99) and Margaret Johnston Bard (1825–75) in association with leaders of the Episcopal Church of New York City. For its first 60 years, St. Stephen’s offered young men a classical curriculum in preparation for their entrance into the seminary. But even as a theologically oriented institution, St. Stephen’s challenged its students to be active participants in charting their own intellectual paths. In support of this venture, the Bards donated part of their riverside estate, Annandale, to the College, along with the Chapel of the Holy Innocents, which is still in use.
Early Years: With the appointment in 1919 of Dr. Bernard Iddings Bell as warden, the College began to move toward a broader and more secular mission. Social and natural sciences augmented the classical curriculum, and the student body was recruited from a more diverse population. In 1928, a time of increasing financial uncertainty, St. Stephen’s became an undergraduate school of Columbia University. Over the next decade, under the leadership of Dean Donald G. Tewksbury, Bard further integrated the classical and progressive educational traditions, in the process becoming one of the first colleges in the nation to give full academic status to the study of the creative and performing arts. In 1934, the name of the College was changed to Bard in honor of its founders.
1930s–1960s: Beginning in the mid-1930s and throughout World War II and the postwar years, the College was a haven for distinguished writers, artists, intellectuals, and scientists fleeing Europe. Among these émigrés were philosopher Heinrich Bluecher and his wife, the social critic Hannah Arendt; violinist Emil Hauser, founder of the Budapest String Quartet; precisionist painter Stefan Hirsch; labor economist Adolf Sturmthal; and psychologist Werner Wolff. Bard’s international outlook was reflected in a variety of programs and initiatives, as well as in its faculty. During the war, the College welcomed an elite group of soldiers who were trained in the French and German languages and cultures, and in the late 1940s Eleanor Roosevelt was a frequent participant in Bard’s international student conferences.
Bard underwent another redefining moment in 1944, when it opened its doors to women. The decision to become coeducational required the College to end its association with Columbia, paving the way to Bard’s current status as an independent liberal arts college. The same year marked the arrival of the first female faculty members. The faculty of the postwar years included Mary McCarthy, Saul Bellow, Dorothy Dulles Bourne, Irma Brandeis, Ralph Ellison, Anthony Hecht ’44, William Humphrey, and Theodore Weiss. This partial list indicates that Bard had assumed a place of eminence in the teaching of literature and writing and was attracting leading thinkers in the social sciences. The College also continued to demonstrate its commitment to global issues of education and democracy. In 1956, Bard provided a haven for 325 Hungarian student refugees after their participation in that country’s revolt against its Stalinist government.
The 1960s marked a period of significant growth. Under the stewardship of Reamer Kline, who served for 14 years as president of the College, the number of students and faculty increased, as did campus facilities, and the curriculum was expanded, particularly in science and the visual arts. Bard also demonstrated an early commitment to civil rights. In 1962, Bard was among the first colleges to award an honorary degree to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
1975 to Present: Leon Botstein became Bard’s 14th president in 1975. Under Botstein, Bard has continued to innovate, take risks, and broaden its global outlook. He has overseen curricular innovation—including the nation’s first human rights major; the Language and Thinking Program, a presemester workshop for first-year students; and Citizen Science, a hands-on program that introduces all first-year students to natural science and the ideas of the scientific method—and the development of a new model for the liberal arts college as a central body surrounded by affiliated institutes and programs that strengthen core academic offerings. This model is flexible enough to include programs for research, graduate study, and community outreach, yet each affiliate is designed to enhance the undergraduate experience by offering students the opportunity to interact with leading artists, scientists, and scholars.
A number of these initiatives developed within the Bard Center, established in 1978 to present artistic and intellectual programs. These include the Distinguished Scientist Lecture Series, which has brought 46 Nobel laureates to Bard, and the Bard Fiction Prize, awarded to emerging writers who spend a semester in residence at the College. Other programs developed under the Bard Center auspices include the Institute for Writing and Thinking, which has had a major impact on the teaching of writing in high schools and colleges around the country and internationally; the Bard Music Festival, which debuted in 1990 and each year illuminates the work and era of a specific composer; and the literary journal Conjunctions, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2021.
Bard has been a leader in early college education since 1979, when it acquired Simon’s Rock, the nation’s first early college. The College has since partnered with public school systems across the country to establish tuition-free early college programs that allow young scholars to earn up to 60 college credits and an associate in arts degree along with their high school diploma. The first Bard High School Early College opened in 2001 in Manhattan. Bard now operates early college campuses in Queens (2008); Newark (2011); New Orleans (2011); Cleveland (2014); Baltimore (2015); Hudson Valley, New York (2016); Washington, DC (2019); and the Bronx (2023).
The College has developed a number of additional initiatives to address the educational needs of underserved communities. These include the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI), founded by Max Kenner ’01 as a student project to bring higher education into New York State prisons. The program is the subject of an Emmy-nominated documentary series, College Behind Bars, which aired on PBS in 2019. BPI expanded its reach nationally through partnerships with other colleges and universities, and internationally by providing capacity-building grants to programs in 14 nations across six continents. Building on the success of BPI, the College partnered with community-based institutions to create Bard Microcollege campuses at the Holyoke (Massachusetts) Care Center, Brooklyn Public Library, and Countee Cullen public library in Harlem. These programs, which lead to an AA degree, feature the elements of an Annandale education. The Bard Baccalaureate, another BPI project that launched in 2020, is a full-scholarship program for adult learners in the Hudson Valley region. The Clemente Course, currently in its 27th year, provides college-level instruction, for college credits, to economically disadvantaged students aged 17 and older at 30 sites around the country.
Affiliated programs also include the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts (1981); Levy Economics Institute of Bard College (1986); Center for Curatorial Studies (1990); Bard Graduate Center (1993); Bard Center for Environmental Policy (1999); Bard Globalization and International Affairs Program (2001); Master of Arts in Teaching Program (2004); Bard College Conservatory of Music (2005) and its graduate programs in vocal arts (2006), conducting (2010), and instrumental arts (2022); Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities (2006); Center for Civic Engagement (2011); Bard MBA in Sustainability (2012); Longy School of Music of Bard College (2012) in Cambridge, Massachusetts; The Orchestra Now, which awards an MA degree and offers experiential training to postgraduate musicians (2015); the US-China Music Institute (2017); and the Center for Human Rights and the Arts (2021).
Bard has continued to further its efforts to promote freedom of inquiry internationally. In 1991, under the Program in International Education (PIE), the College began bringing students from emerging democracies in Eastern and Central Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East to Bard for one semester of study. This program is one of many overseen by the Institute for International Liberal Education, which was founded in 1998 to develop long-term collaborations between Bard and other leading institutions around the world. Partner campuses include Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem, which collaborated with Bard in 2009 to create the Al-Quds Bard College for Arts and Sciences and a master of arts in teaching program; American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where Bard established a dual-degree program in 2010; Bard College Berlin: A Liberal Arts University, a partner institution since 2011; and Central European University (CEU), a graduate-level institution based in Budapest and Vienna.
Bard’s faculty has also grown in range and distinction, and today boasts nine recipients of MacArthur fellowships: poet Ann Lauterbach; artists Jeffrey Gibson, An-My Lê, and Judy Pfaff; journalists Mark Danner and Alma Guillermoprieto; and novelists Valeria Luiselli, Norman Manea (emeritus), and Dinaw Mengestu. Other distinguished and award-winning faculty members include writers Nuruddin Farah, Neil Gaiman, Masha Gessen, Hua Hsu, Daniel Mendelsohn, Bradford Morrow, Jenny Offill, Joseph O’Neill, Francine Prose, Mona Simpson, and Thomas Chatterton Williams; composers Joan Tower and George Tsontakis; anthropologist John Ryle; sociologist Karen Barkey; art historian Kobena Mercer; photographers Gilles Peress, Stephen Shore, and Walid Raad; filmmaker Kelly Reichardt; journalist Ian Buruma; mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe; computer scientist Valerie Barr, and Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer Elizabeth Frank. Academy and Grammy Award–winning composer and conductor Tan Dun leads the Conservatory of Music as dean.
Noted writers and artists who spent time at Bard in recent years include the late Chinua Achebe, widely revered as the founding father of African fiction; John Ashbery, considered one of America’s most influential 20th-century poets; Nobel laureates Orhan Pamuk, José Saramago, and Mario Vargas Llosa; choreographer Bill T. Jones; and soprano Dawn Upshaw, who developed Bard’s graduate program in vocal arts.
Bard alumni/ae have also been an influential force in the arts and in the physical, social, and political sciences. A short list includes actors Blythe Danner ’65, Adrian Grenier ’98, Gaby Hoffmann ’04, Patrick Vaill ’07, and Pauline Chalamet ’14; comedians Chevy Chase ’68, Christopher Guest ’70, Ali Wentworth ’88, and Adam Conover ’04; filmmaker Gia Coppola ’09 and film editor Jinmo Yang ’03; screenwriter, actor, and producer Raphael Bob-Waksberg ’06; playwrights Sherman Yellen ’53, Nick Jones ’01, and Thomas Bradshaw ’02; dancer Arthur Aviles ’87; classical singer Julia Bullock VAP ’11; visual artists Tschabalala Self ’12 and Xaviera Simmons ’05; fashion designer Brandon Blackwood ’13; sculptor Rita McBride ’82; musicians Donald Fagen ’69 and Walter Becker ’71 (founders of Steely Dan), Billy Steinberg ’72, and Adam Yauch ’86 (a founder of the Beastie Boys); scientist László Z. Bitó ’60, who was instrumental in developing a drug used to combat glaucoma; Fredric S. Maxik ’86, a leader in environmentally innovative lighting technologies; environmental writer Elizabeth Royte ’81; financial entrepreneur and investor Mostafiz ShahMohammed ’97; poet and translator Pierre Joris ’69; and journalists William Sherman ’68, Matt Taibbi ’92, and Ronan Farrow ’04, 2018 Pulitzer Prize winner for public service.
The campus itself expanded in 2016, when Bard purchased Montgomery Place, a neighboring 380-acre property that features a 19th-century mansion, coach house, greenhouse, farm, gardens, walking trails, and outbuildings. To date, activities at Montgomery Place have included lectures, exhibitions, guided walks by Bard horticultural staff, SummerScape galas and events, and a salon series presented with Hudson River Heritage. Several undergraduate courses have been inspired by the history of the property.
Recent Initiatives: In 2015, SummerScape originated a bold new staging of Oklahoma! that opened on Broadway in April 2019 and won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. In spring 2023, it won two Olivier Awards, the United Kingdom’s most prestigious theater award, for Best Revival of a Musical and Best Actor in a Musical. The US-China Music Institute, a partnership between the Bard College Conservatory and the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, launched in 2017, offering a degree program in Chinese instruments; a graduate program in Chinese music and culture began in 2022.
The Open Society University Network (OSUN), created with support from George Soros’s Open Society Foundations (OSF), debuted in 2020 with the goal of integrating teaching and research across higher education institutions worldwide. The network is anchored by Bard and Central European University, and includes dozens of educational and research institutions both nationally and internationally. Bard students and faculty can connect and collaborate with their peers across the network through a variety of online courses. Also in 2020, Bard introduced a stand-alone undergraduate program in architecture; a suite of interdisciplinary Common Courses that engage with themes of the contemporary moment, such as epidemics and society, and local, national, and global citizenship; and the President’s Commission on Racial Equity and Justice, charged with assessing the College’s past, analyzing its present practices, and producing a plan for the future.
In response to the 2021 collapse of the Afghan government, the College, with support from OSF, evacuated hundreds of Afghan students, alumni/ae, and scholars to safety. Nearly 400 students are now enrolled at Bard Network institutions in Central Asia, Europe, and the United States, including 70 at the Annandale campus. The College has also initiated a scholarship program to support displaced Ukrainian and Russian students; 14 first-year and four transfer students from Ukraine and eight Russian transfer students are expected in fall 2023.
The 2021–22 academic year saw the launch of several new graduate programs and undergraduate initiatives, including the MA in Human Rights and the Arts; MA in Global Studies, which begins at CEU’s Vienna campus and continues with study at Bard’s Globalization and International Affairs Program in New York City; a bachelor of music program in vocal performance, offered through the Conservatory of Music; and a summer program in decorative arts, design history, and material culture at the Bard Graduate Center.
In 2022, Bard received a $1.49 million Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant in support of its Rethinking Place: Bard-on-Mahicantuck project, which includes a proposal for a Native American and Indigenous Studies approach to a revitalized American Studies curriculum, the hiring of postdoctoral teaching fellows with Native and Indigenous Studies (NAIS) expertise, a Native Artist Residency, and public events such as conferences and lectures. A landmark endowment from the Gochman Family Foundation provides support for new NAIS programming, faculty appointments, and scholarships, transforming undergraduate and graduate studies across the Bard Network.
In 2023, the College established Bard NYC, a portfolio of experiential study away opportunities for students to live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and combine coursework with professional internships and cocurricular programming; the Office of Undergraduate Research, a central resource for students interested in research opportunities, seeking out a mentor, and connecting to funding; and the Center for Ethics and Writing in partnership with Bard Early College High Schools, community colleges, and nonprofit organizations. New initiatives also include the Gagarin Center for the Study of Civil Society and Human Rights at Bard College, which allows Russian scholars forced to leave Russia to pursue research and educational activities, and the Russian Independent Media Archive (RIMA), a project of the Gagarin Center and PEN America.
Bard College received a transformational $500 million endowment grant from philanthropist and longtime Bard supporter George Soros in 2021. This challenge grant—among the largest ever made to higher education in the United States—has facilitated and strengthened Bard’s educational and social initiatives, established the College’s most substantial endowment ever, and set the stage for a $1 billion endowment drive. In response to Mr. Soros’s generous grant, the College will soon announce the successful completion of meeting the endowment match, and a comprehensive campaign to renovate and build several new facilities and raise annual operating support.
Looking Ahead: A new Bard High School Early College campus in the Bronx opens this fall, in collaboration with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Thanks to a grant from the Korea Foundation, Bard is building toward a new Korean Studies Program, beginning with courses in Korean literature and culture as well as language classes. Data Analytics becomes an interdivisional concentration. The Revisiting Science Initiative has engaged a panel of prominent scientists to look at and determine future goals for the study of science at Bard. The College has embarked on 11 projects as part of its Capital Campaign. Among them, construction is set to begin in the fall on 300 suite-style residences on North Campus that will be geared toward juniors and seniors, and a performing arts studio designed by acclaimed artist Maya Lin is scheduled to break ground in the spring. Other plans include a new science building, an addition to the library, a nature lab addition to Fisher Annex, expansion of the Garcia-Renart House to accommodate the Architecture Program; a US-China Music Pavilion; and a wellness center/field house.