Applications Now Open for Smolny Student Conference

Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences (Smolny), St. Petersburg State University April 18-21, 2019

Application deadline: December 1st, 2018

The Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences (Smolny) at St. Petersburg State University invites Bard College undergraduate students to submit applications and paper proposals to participate in the VIII Annual Smolny International Student Conference devoted to current research in a wide array of academic fields. The conference will be held April 18-21, 2018 at the Bobrinskiy Palace, 58- 60 Galernaya St, Saint Petersburg, Russia.

This year the conference program will include panel presentations, roundtable discussions, workshops, lectures by leading scholars from St. Petersburg State University, as well as film screenings, public debate and other events, offering students from different countries various opportunities for networking and collaboration.

The working languages of the Smolny Conference are English and Russian.

Topics include but are not restricted to:

Visual Arts − Music and Theatre − Natural Sciences (Cognitive Studies, Complex Systems, Computer Sciences and Artificial Intelligence, Life Sciences) − Social Sciences − Political Sciences − History − Philosophy − Language and Literature

*Please note that this is the list of fields our conference will touch on, not the list of panels. An exact list of sections and the sections for accepted presentations will be announced after the review process.

Bard College’s Center for Civic Engagement will provide limited funding to accepted students to help cover the cost of conference participation; all accepted students will be expected to contribute toward the cost of participation. Bard College applicants do not need to apply for compensation on the application form.

  • Students applying must be in good academic and social standing.
  • Students accepted must get the permission of their advisor to attend the conference.
  • Seniors accepted must get the permission of their Senior Project Advisor, in addition to their advisor, in order to attend the conference.

Please, note that the Russian Federation requires visas for passport holders of many countries, including the United States. To participate in the conference, all applying students should have a passport valid for at least 6 months beyond April 21st 2019. If an applicant does not have a passport, or if it will expire before October 20th 2019 a new passport should be applied for at the time of application, which will be delivered before February 1st, 2019. Information for US citizens on applying for passports can be found here:

The Center for Civic Engagement will work with accepted students to procure Russian visas for the conference. Some passports holders may not require Russian visas; information on visa exemptions for the Russian Federation can be found here:

More information on the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences of Saint Petersburg State University (Smolny), can be found at:


The deadline for applications is December 1st, 2018.

Applicants may only submit one abstract for consideration, either as a single author or in co- authorship. If an abstract is submitted in co-authorship both authors should be mentioned in one application. Each abstract should be linked with one of the disciplines listed above. Details of abstract requirements are listed below.

All abstracts will be subject to blind peer-review by two independent expert readers, based on the topic indicated in the application. Applicants will be notified of acceptance no later than January 15th, 2019.

Participants will have the opportunity to publish extended abstracts describing their research and its results in a printed journal, based on the results of panel presentations. Participants whose presentations achieve recognition will be given the opportunity to publish a full-scale article in the same journal, which will be indexed in the Russian Scientific Citation Database (RSCI).

The Organizing Committee reserves the right to reject those abstracts that do not follow the requirements or are submitted after December 1st, 2018.

Applicants from Bard College do not need to submit CV’s, letters of recommendation signed by a research advisor or answer the essay question for travel and accommodation compensation in the application form.

All abstracts will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  1. Scientific contribution – problem explored in research is up-to-date and is of interest to the academic community.
  2. The problem/hypothesis/research question is clearly stated.
  3. Abstract includes a description of the methodology used in the research. The methodology is suitable for the research question/hypothesis stated.
  4. Author relies on earlier research or existing theories related to the stated problem and provides necessary references to support one’s claims.
  5. Existing or expected results of the research are described. The results comply with the stated problem/hypothesis.
  6. Abstract is written in accordance with the norms of academic writing. Thoughts are expressed logically, using scholarly language.
  7. Abstract does not contain any signs of plagiarism or any other forms of academic ethics violation.


Questions concerning the conference or application should be emailed to the conference organizers.

To submit an application please click here.

You Voted. Election@Bard Was There To Help.

The weather was dreary, but Election@Bard was out in force to help Bard students make their voices heard. Center for Civic Engagement Director Jonathan Becker was a poll watcher at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Barrytown, Bard College’s local polling station. Below are the unofficial results from the Barrytown site.

For a wider view of election results in the Hudson Valley, click here.



Cuomo (D)       608

Molinaro R       80

Hawkins (G)      28



Di Napoli (D)    648

Trichter     R          50

Dunlea (G)        14


Attorney General

James (D)          647

Wofford R       51

Sussman (G)      13



Gillibrand (D)   663

Farley R               53



Delgado (D)      661

Faso R              55

Greenfeld (G)   4


State Senate

Smyth (D)         656

Serino R           61



Family Court

Martin (D)         636

Hagstrom R       73


Surrogate Court

Mansfield (D)    642

Hayes R              69

Get Engaged: 2019 Student Action & Youth Leadership Conference

Student leaders from the Bard International Network who are actively engaged in community based work are eligible to apply for the five-day conference at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary from March 15 to 22, 2019.

All expenses are covered!

Learn more and check out last year’s conference here.

Students can also send their questions to!


Apply now!


Community Action Award Recipients 2018

CCE Community Action Award recipients receive financial support to engage with communities in unpaid or underpaid internships in communities at home and across the globe. Read about three award recipients and their experiences this summer.

My name is Chase Williams and I’m a rising senior at Bard. I’ve always imagined experiencing the life of a lawyer or judge. I enjoy the way in which the law looks at a new case and works to instill consistent protocols in all circumstances.  This summer I was an intern at the Oklahoma City Federal Western District Court under the Honorable Magistrate Judge Suzanne Mitchell. As part of the internship, I spent hours attending public trials, reading through appellate briefings, and coordinating legal functions and gatherings. I also attended a banquet about the Royal v. Murphy trial, where questions of jurisdiction and land ownership submerged Oklahomans and Native Americans in a legal feud. My internship culminated with attendance at a naturalization ceremony where members of many nationalities came together to become legally recognized citizens of the United States of America.

My name is Nadia Russell and I am a rising junior studying biology and global public health. I interned at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, where I served as a field coordinator for a project called MapsCorps that maps underserved neighborhoods. The value of mapping community assets is to connect them to community health. I must say it has been an amazing, yet very challenging, experience. My expectations were really high, which was probably a dangerous position from which to begin. Non-profits, after all, often are overworked and understaffed and I had to adapt my expectations and goals in order to be at peace with my work. Working with the high schoolers I mentored was truly amazing. I had a team of four, and they were all 16 and going into their junior year of high school. Our dynamic was awesome and I was really lucky to be partnered with the students.

I was especially proud of the mini “research project” that our mappers did. We focused on knowledge of HIV prevention and care among black and Latinx women in the South Bronx. We dedicated one work day to surveying South Bronx residents about their knowledge of PrEP (a pill that can be taken to stay HIV negative even despite potential exposures) and PEP (a pill that can be taken up to 36 hours after an exposure to drastically reduce the chances of contracting HIV). As college students, we were well aware that our results were not likely to be statistically significant, but as my public health professor at Bard, Helen Epstein taught me, obsession with statistical significance when you can see a phenomenon right in front of your eyes is a big obstacle to getting things done in the public health field.

By and large, this internship taught me patience, and that progress is incremental. Having big goals is important, getting frustrated is normal, and progress isn’t always linear or easily visible. In some ways the work I did feels like a tiny drop in the bucket. In other ways, I feel as though I positively impacted the lives of teenagers, exposed many teenagers to the concepts of public health and how community assets impact the health of its residents, did a small but important bit of advocacy, and met a lot of fantastic people. This internship also exposed me to many of the challenges that the public health field faces. Ultimately I have been made a better, more informed person for participating in this project, and I look forward to exploring more ways in which I can incorporate public health into my career.

Dylan Ahunhodjaev ‘20, spent the summer as an intern at the Bard High School Early College Manhattan Summerbridge Program.

Is there anything more stressful than being thirteen years old? Sure, adulthood is hard: emails need to be answered, bills need to be paid, pointless-seeming boxes need to be checked on endlessly regenerative to-do lists. The mundanity of it all tends to accumulate and harden into a near-constant state of stress. It sucks, but by 21, you sort of get the drill. Sort of.

To be 13 and entering high school for the first time is to have no notion of the drill, or of yourself, or how you will respond when these two things inevitably collide. To be 13 is to have a fluid, rapidly changing identity as the challenges and expectations of life grow more severe and less avoidable. To be 13 is to stand, Janus-faced, between the sunny world of childhood and the steely glint–sometimes menacing, sometimes inviting–of the mysterious realm of teens and being teenaged. Plus, there’s a ton more homework and stuff. It’s an existence I, personally,  would not visit on my worst enemy.

Which is why I give all available props to BHSEC Manhattan for their Summerbridge program, which guides matriculating students from statistically underperforming middle schools through a typical day at their new school. They get to meet some of their teachers, participate in some fun (or at least fun-adjacent) activities, andeat some pizza. I spent the day guiding one group of these kids from classroom to classroom, and we finished up by playing in a drum circle. I learned so much about proper djembe technique in that short session, it made me want to go back to high school and join the percussion club I used to make such merciless fun of back in the day. Being a teenager suddenly didn’t seem all that bad, knowing you could always whack a drum really hard.

Of course, the responsibilities of a good school extend beyond showing its students a good time, and making things easy on them as they fumble and grope through their formative years. Nothing about BHSEC, even in its off-season, made me think it was an easy ride, but opportunities for self-exploration and cultivation seemed to be well within reach for its students. I think that these opportunities are invaluable, and I hope that in my time at BHSEC Manhattan I was able to facilitate, in some small way, somebody’s flourishing in the coming school year.

These are a few of the 50 CCE Community Action Award recipients this year. Stay tuned for more blog posts. 

Brian Mateo Awarded Robert J. Myers Fund Fellowship

Brian Mateo, Assistant Dean of Civic Engagement and Special Assistant for Admission and Early College Outreach, has received a Robert J. Myers Fund fellowship in collaboration with Asha Castleberry, Professor of Political Studies at Fordham University and Defense Council Associate at the Truman National Security Project.

Read more

The Dream Team Part II: Taking BAB Off Campus

BAB visiting the Bard College campus in Annandale-on-Hudson.

By Najwa Jamal ’21 and Harry Johnson ’17

Brothers at Bard began as a student initiative on the Bard campus, the brainchild of Dariel Vasquez ‘17 and Harry Johnson ‘17, who missed the mentorship that accomplished men of color had provided in their own lives. Colloquially dubbed “The Dream Team” for their close personal bond and productive professional collaboration, the duo started BAB in earnest during their sophomore year as a place for Black men on campus to support each other while acclimating to life at Bard.

While early BAB activities were generally confined to the college campus, the men had their sights set on more expansive goals. With guidance from Bard’s Trustee Leader Scholar program, they quickly became mentors to other young men of color, on and off campus.. Today, Johnson and Vasquez run BAB full time, extending BAB into the nearby Kingston High School. There, BAB is building strong bonds with young men of color, helping them build their own brotherhood circle, create a positive vision for their future, and prepare for life after high school. By all accounts it is a highly successful program, with current and former mentees expressing deep gratitude for the efforts of all BAB mentors. But success didn’t come easy and was never guaranteed.

Johnson and Vasquez held their first off-campus launch at the Kingston Boys and Girls Club: “We wanted to find a space and location in the community that was central to the young men’s everyday lives,”  Vasquez said. Working with mostly junior and senior students, Johnson and Vasquez focused their efforts on “transitioning [the boys] into GED programs, credit recovery programs, and into two-year schools,” said Vasquez.

Johnson and Vasquez formed close, personal bonds with their mentees. Vasquez remembers Andre Baylor and Jonathan Hernandez as two potent examples of the intimate relationships they were able to cultivate. “The conversations we were having with them were really personal” Vasquez said. These kinds of relationships became more common as BAB grew. But Johnson and Vasquez wanted more; they strove to provide equal resources to other students at the school. They attended a Men of Color Conference in New York City, organized trips for students to the Bard campus, and other events. “We took them to [Washington] D.C.,” said Vasquez, “letting them stay overnight on a college campus… going to different campuses and museums, having guest speakers… who were doing work on [capitol] hill.” Through it all, they continually returned to the idea that they needed to improve the reach of BAB and push its boundaries. “We saw what we could enhance and what we could actually improve,” Vasquez said.

During their junior year, Johnson and Vasquez worked to strengthen the bonds they created with mentees and with teachers and administrators at Kingston High School.  “The way in which we were approaching, programmatically and personally, these relationships grew and become more structured,” Vasquez said. They noticed the emergence of a BAB alumni network on and off campus. Former students were returning to hold workshops and speak of positive life choices at BAB events.

During the fall of their senior year, Kingston High School asked BAB to partner with the Kingston City School District on a grant application to the New York State Department of Education for a “My Brother’s Keeper Grant,” designed to provide wrap-around services for young men of color. The following March, Johnson and Vasquez learned that the project would be funded. The grant meant more opportunities to provide mentor activities, tutoring, restorative justice initiatives, and trips to colleges and events.  “Literally everything we wanted to do we were able to do,” said Vasquez.

The funding partnership with Kingston also meant Vasquez would run BAB full-time as the program coordinator.  “When I became full time… my relationships with parents, students, and teachers strengthened. The grant… has allowed us to grow horizontally, but also grow deeper.” said Vasquez.

When Johnson returned from his year abroad as a Watson fellow, he knew where he wanted to be. With the growth of BAB, the dream team is together again and both Vasquez and Johnson are back on campus, working towards long-term sustainability and growing the footprint of BAB in Kingston and beyond. And neither has any intention of leaving. Quite the opposite, in fact. “If last year was our growth spurt, this year is about zooming out and digging deep,” said Vasquez. “ [We are] putting systems in place to move from a student-led project to an organization.” And the future looks brighter every day.

Follow the dream of Brothers at Bard – Part III in the December newsletter…because a new day is dawning.

Did you miss Brothers at Bard Part I? Read it here.

The Bard Program in International Education, Fall 2018

The fall semester is well underway and students from the Program in International Education (PIE) have been active getting to know the local area, volunteering with CCE programs, and visiting New York City. Bard is host to 40 students from Smolny, Al-Quds Bard, Bard College Berlin, the American University of Central Asia, and tuition-exchange partners in Germany, the Netherlands, and France. Ten of these students are spending the term at the Bard Globalization and International Affairs (BGIA) program, where they have the opportunity to get to know the six visiting graduate students from Central European University.

Of the students residing in Annandale, several have taken advantage of the Bard CCE  “one-off” volunteer opportunities, including at the Red Hook Food Pantry. “I did not think much while signing up for the event,” said Maiia Liberman, who is visiting from Smolny College in St. Petersburg, Russia. “However, [I] realized in the process how great and important the initiative of the food pantry actually is, and how difficult is it to run one on your own.” She said, “even though the work we did wasn’t exhausting and tiring, there still was a pleasing visible difference afterward. [I] can’t wait for more opportunities to volunteer during the free time this semester.”

The Animal Sanctuary was also popular among the students. They spent a beautiful fall afternoon caring for kittens, helping groom horses, and learning about local efforts to rescue endangered wildlife and farm animals.

Students traveled together to New York City for a day of shopping and sightseeing. They went on walking tours of Times Square, Grand Central Station, Wall Street, and the 9/11 Memorial. They even drifted across New York Harbor  on the Staten Island Ferry. In their free time, many students explored Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, and iconic New York City neighborhoods.


Student Projects Take the Spotlight

By Najwa Jamal ’21

Large, gleaming posters lined the walls of the RKC lobby as I absorbed the community engagement efforts that practically beamed out of each project. It was October 18th and I was spending the evening at the Trustee Leader Ssholar and Student-Led Project Poster Presentation. I wandered past each poster, then wandered past again to fully soak in the passion and hard work that radiated from the students as they presented their work. This, I thought, is student activism and spirit, a powerful, hopeful sentiment to carry around at Bard. As a student here myself, I felt the immediate awareness that I am in an environment that fosters creativity and ambition.

One project in particular caught my attention. Sister to Sister, a guidance and mentorship program for girls in Kingston, grades 5-12, led by Sakinah Bennett ‘21 and Skylar Walker ‘21.

Sister to Sister was actually first called Connect Arts and Hearts, and was conceived as a mentorship-through-the-arts program. “Dancing was our big thing,” Walker said. But then they witnessed the group in action, “They’re always interrupting us while we try to talk,” said Bennett, “or they’re putting each other down,” she added.  “[The girls] needed that space to talk about what was going on in their lives… and to seek advice.”

“[They] needed more mentorship,” said Walker. So Bennett and Walked decided to switch gears.

The women changed Connect Arts and Hearts to Sister to Sister. Although arts and development could work hand-in-hand to guide these girls, there was clearly a more pressing need for an all-encompassing support group.

Recognizing the power of support and encouragement, Bennett and Walker have created workshops for the girls based on self-love and building self-esteem. They offer educational guidance and even help the girls with preparation for college. And this is just the start of what Bennett and Walker want to accomplish through the Sister to Sister project.  “We are trying to build an actual sisterhood,” said Walker.

Walker and Bennett share a passion to bridge the gap between the needs of a community and the efforts of volunteers. And with guidance from the TLS office and assistance from the Bard network on and off campus, they’re well on their way to building the sisterhood they’re dreaming of.


The 2018 Hannah Arendt Center Fall Conference

Last month, the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College hosted its 11th annual conference entitled “Citizenship and Civil Disobedience.” In response to the outbreak of civil disobedience today, and in anticipation of the 2018 midterm elections, close to 400 people gathered in Bard’s Olin Hall to explore the power of dissent to unify America during this fractious political time.

The conference was opened by Dean of Students Dierdre d’Albert. Roger Berkowitz, Academic Director and founder of the Arendt Center, began the conversation by discussing the Civil War and the historical roots of civil disobedience in America. Professor Theda Skocpol from Harvard University laid out her research on the rise of the Tea Party and the anti-Trump movement. She was followed by a roundtable discussion with local political activists. Marion Detjen from Bard College Berlin talked about the rise of the AfD in Germany, and Seon-Wook Kim offered a portrait of the people’s peaceful candlelight protest in South Korea. Several Bard students who participated in a seminar with Chiara Ricciardone and Occupy Wall Street co-founder Micah White, presented their visions for how to change the world today. Mark Bray and Yale’s David Bromwich debated the virtues of violent and non-violent protest, and Sarah Jaffe discussed the relationship between social media and the teachers’ strikes across the United States. Chantal Mouffe discussed the need to reclaim a populism for the left. Finally, a vigorous roundtable discussion was held on race and civil disobedience, with Kenyon Adams, Thomas Chatterton Williams, and Amy Schiller. The two-day conference drew to a close with the performance of Adams’s Prayers of the People, a secular liturgical performance of Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

Watch the conference webcast here.

Traditional Chinese Sound Engages and Reverberates at Bard

By Maeve Lazor
Transcribed and translated by Maeve Lazor and Liu Chang

Liu Chang, a native of Shandong, China, came to Bard on a scholarship to play an instrument, foreign to America, during a time of our country’s increasing political divides. Though it was not her first intent to use the erhu, a two-stringed Chinese violin, as a vehicle of civic engagement, Chang discovered herself slowly engaging the American Bard community playing the instrument, softening hard edges and trumping predisposed notions of Chinese music. The act of playing her music in a foreign country is, in itself, an act of civic engagement. The seven thousand mile journey she has undertaken is proof that she is serious about changing the American attitude towards the erhu.

At her mother’s encouragement, Chang picked up the instrument when she was just four years old. Now 19, she practices over three hours each day—nine when she has a recital. Like many conservatory students, Chang carries her instrument almost everywhere. It is her first time in the United States and she is eager to get to know the other Chinese students selected to participate in the Chinese traditional music program, a first-of-its-kind joint venture between the Bard College Conservatory of Music and the US-China Musical Institute in Beijing. Chang is one of only four international Chinese students, all on scholarships, selected to study at Bard beginning this fall.

The mission of the five-year, dual-degree program is to promote the understanding and appreciation of contemporary Chinese music and to provide a musical and cultural exchange between the US and China. Traditional Chinese instruments being taught include the guzheng, pipa, and erhu.

In a recent conversation with Bard’s Center for Civic Engagement, Chang contemplated the meaning of the program’s slogan, “Bringing Chinese Music to the World.”

There are problems with Westerners’ understanding of Chinese music, said Chang, speaking in Mandarin.  “A lot of Westerners think the erhu doesn’t sound good, that the sound is scratchy,” she said, “but in our rehearsals I am able to show everyone how nice it really sounds… I want to show more people… that it is a really beautiful instrument.”

Chang described feeling outnumbered as a Chinese traditional music student. “There are very few students who study traditional Chinese folk music [at Bard], so when we practice after rehearsal there are only a few of us to practice with.” However, she is happiest playing in ensemble together with all her classmates. “I feel that there, all my efforts are worthwhile.”

“Bringing Chinese Music to the World” is the slogan of the program Chang attends, yet despite the acceptance she feels from her new Bard classmates she still senses a divide between students who play the erhu, guzheng, or pipa and the rest of the Conservatory. “I hope I can practice more together with my classmates who study Western music, and I want people to realize that it’s finally possible for instruments like [the] Erhu to be played with [Western] instruments like violin or piano. There are so many instruments that can be incorporated into our practice. ”

By welcoming audiences into Chang’s own world of music, she is lightening the perception of otherness as well as beginning to carve a path for Chinese students at Bard who play instruments that are underestimated by American ears. “Two strings,” she said, “can play foreign songs, too.”


Letting the Students Lead the Way

On a sunny October morning, a group of men and women from Bard’s international partner institutions gathered in the global classroom of Central European University-New York on the Bard College campus to share their work, strengthen their collective efforts, and learn from each other. As coordinators for student-led initiatives on their respective campuses, each is helping to support students as they engage with communities near and far.  Their method: let the students lead the way.

On the Bard Annandale campus, the Trustee Leader Scholar (TLS) program places students front and center as they propose, design, and implement civic engagement projects based on their own passionate interests. Key to this is students’ ownership of the work. Using TLS as a model, the international network now has coordinators at each partner institution who are building a culture of student-led engagement. During the week-long meeting, coordinators shared updates about the work of each campus and considered the tools and resources needed to help build a community of engagement on campus.

Jonathan Becker, vice president of academic affairs and director of the Center for Civic Engagement at Bard, spoke optimistically about the current state and future potential of the network. “It is going better than outstanding,” he said, as he evoked the wonder of technological capabilities that allow students at great distance to participate in classes delivered simultaneously.  In all, Becker espoused a sort of decentralized, global college experience, through which students can grow, learn, and engage in relation to the environment where they find themselves;  no matter if that’s the Hudson Valley or St. Petersburg, Russia. Notable above all else, however, was the spirit of openness and growth reflected in Becker’s comment. The network is still young; the relationships among institutions are still forming, and the coordinators are still learning how to be most effective in their roles. Becker entreated the cohort to look to Bard for resources – documents, trainings, and guidelines – that will help them strengthen the network for years to come.

The Bard international network of partner institutions brings the power of a liberal arts and sciences education to faculty and students at Al-Quds Bard College of Arts and Sciences (AQB) in the West Bank, American University of Central Asia (AUCA) in Kyrgyzstan, Bard College Berlin (BCB) in Germany, Central European University (CEU) in Hungary, and Smolny College in Russia. The network plays a vital role in building and promoting civically engaged institutions by linking students, staff, faculty, and administrators in a series of overlapping activities that foster the exchange of ideas, mutual learning, best practices, and cooperation.  


The Dream Team Part I: BAB Beginnings

Dariel Vasquez ’17 and Harry Johnson ’17

“You both must feel like your living a dream?

Harry: Well it may sound crazy, but I think the biggest lesson I learned from the last year is that I’ve been living my dream for some time now.

Dariel: *Chuckles* I think I’d say the same…

Armed with resources and drive, and dubbed the “Dream Team,”  Harry Johnson ‘17 and Dariel Vasquez ‘17 see no bounds to the potential of Brothers at Bard (BAB), their student led passion project that has gracefully been transformed into a comprehensive mentorship program providing  access to positive male role models of color in spaces where they are limited and often non-existent. Using their respective backgrounds and experiences to build off of each other, Vasquez and Johnson are back together; nurturing and growing BAB into a thriving program that is a blend of creativity and strategy and embodies an ingenuitive approach to inequity and inequality. Although they set out on vastly different adventures over the last year, not many have had a first year post-grad like Johnson and Vasquez.

Harry Johnson spent the last year traveling as a fellow for the prestigious Thomas J. Watson Foundation; exploring the in’s and out’s of grassroots social enterprises that use sports as a means to further international development efforts. Dariel Vasquez stayed at Annandale to build Brothers at Bard in partnership with the grant funded  ‘My Brothers Keeper’ initiative at Kingston High School and gauging BAB’s potential to evolve into a fully functioning community initiative. While both have much to share about the last year of their life, it’s what they’ve decided to do with year two post-grad that speaks volumes. Vasquez and Johnson aren’t just back on the same side of the world, they are back on the same team and primed for another journey.

Their dream and vision: to redefine what it means to provide guidance and support to young men of color through strategic partnership alignment of college, community and corporate thought leaders as a means to tap into the unique potential and positionality that collegiate men of color from underserved communities have to serve as mentors and role models for their younger peers.

You would think the two grew up together the way they seem to finish each other’s sentences or laugh at jokes that weren’t said out loud, but the two actually come from very different backgrounds. Vasquez grew up in Harlem, New York  and Johnson spent his early years in Jamaica, Queens before moving to the small town of Smyrna, Delaware at the age of 14. “ You want me to compare Delaware to NYC?” asks Johnson. “There is really no comparison. On the first day of school kids were telling the teachers they wanted to be farmers when they grew up.” It wasn’t until they received HEOP and BOP scholarships through what is now the Office of Access and Equity, that their worlds collided.

Despite their different upbringing, the transition to life at Bard brought them closer than they ever could have imagined. The two describe experiencing a unique blend of academic, cultural, social, and financial shock that placed them in a peculiar position at the age of 18. “A lot of people try to understand and describe the experience of coming to a place like Bard as a young man of color as ‘world shattering,’ but that doesn’t get to the root of the experience,” says Johnson, “ it may even sell it short.” Both men found that being in a liberal arts environment exposed them to new ways of seeing and interpreting their positionality as young men of color, all the while struggling to learn how to live between two drastically different worlds.

As Johnson and Vasquez grew closer through their shared experience, their connection to the college waned until it reached a breaking point where Johnson was ready to leave Bard and retreat to a college that felt more comfortable. The two remember this period vividly, recalling a conversation they had one night during January of their first year. Johnson says, “I told him I was leaving… I had no idea that he would convince me to stay.”  By this point, Vasquez had already laid the groundwork for a new project that would create a space for Black men to share their feelings’ while acclimating to Bard. Brothers at Bard began that night.

Vasquez and Johnson have created a strong brotherhood circle on campus, building upon Vasquez’s own experience as a mentee in brotherhood groups in NYC. They saw the need. Felt the need. Responded to the need.  Personal agency is the base principle behind all BAB efforts. ‘There can be inclusion through an ownership of problems, and local ownership in the hands of students forms agency, an agency that create and reverberates through a community,’ Vasquez and Johnson elaborated. ‘It’s the dream to be able to solve or fix your own problems,’ Dariel noted. There is a unique strength in being an engaged student — manifesting the dream of control and agency over the most personal and strenuous issues.

Follow the dream of Brothers at Bard – Part II in the November newsletter…because from pressure comes diamonds.

by Najwa Jamal ’21 and Harry Johnson ’17