The Courage to Be

"The Courage to Be" project explores the philosophical and religious foundations of moral and spiritual courage.  The Courage to Be project sponsors new research and fosters curricular innovations that ask: Why it is that some people have the spiritual courage to act conscientiously, where others abandon themselves to mass movements? The Project includes: Student Fellowships for young scholars working in philosophy, theology, and psychology; Lectures by internationally renowned experts in diverse fields; A new series of courses at Bard College titled, "The Practice of Courage." The program asks; how can we encourage moral action in a bureaucratic age? And how can we nurture an inner-sense of spiritual inflexibility at a time when private and inner life are besieged by distraction and conformism? 

The Courage to Be

Current Courage To Be Fellows

Current Courage To Be Fellows
This program is made possible by the generous grants from the Nathan Cummings Foundation and the Gilder Foundation, Inc. 


  • Paris Adorno Paris Adorno is a Junior Theater and Performing Arts major at Bard College from New York City. Within her major, Paris focuses on Dramaturgy, theater analysis and critique. She hopes to pursue a senior project on the intersection of power and privilege in performance through the lenses of race and gender. When not in class, Paris enjoys listening to a good podcast and cooking for friends.

  • Rachel Braver My name is Rachel Braver and I am a freshman at Bard, intending to major in Human Rights. I chose this path because I am interested in prison reform, as well as international relations. My other interest is languages, I have been studying French for years and am very excited to have started learning Arabic this year. When not studying, I like to spend time talking to my little sister, reading, drinking coffee, or spending time with friends. 


  • Sacha Medjo-Akono​ My name is Sacha Medjo-Akono and I'm a freshman at Bard, intending to major in Biology with a concentration in Mind, Brain and Behavior. I chose this path because I am very interested in the structure of the human brain and mind. My favorite thing to do is Rock climbing and some of my other hobbies include writing, making music and baking.


  • Isabella Emma Menuez Santana My name is Isabella Emma Menuez Santana and I a sophomore and intended Human Rights major with a concentration in Art History. I chose Human Rights as my major because I am an aspiring social justice attorney. When I am not in studying, I am making art, cooking, or exploring the outdoors; whether it be the magical Hudson Valley or the Southern Coast of California, where I call home.


  • Maeve Schallert Maeve Schallert is a violinist in the Conservatory of Music and intended Philosophy Major. She is not only interested in the overlap of the two majors, but also exploring new realms in music through exploration of different styles of playing (jazz and bluegrass), and philosophical thought (skepticism, ethics, the study of love). In her spare time, Maeve can be found in the woods, jamming with her pals, reading, or serving kale and eggs at Murray's.
College Seminar While we tend to value courage—Hannah Arendt even called it the highest political virtue—historically the concept has veered from the noble to the dangerous. From Antigone to suicide bombers, courage has been construed as heroic and/or dangerously solipsistic. This series of seminars asks the question: What is the practice of courageous action in the 21st century? Students are required to attend three evening lectures on Mondays from 6-8. There will also be dinner discussions with guest speakers and students from other sections of the College Seminar.
  • Free Speech - Professor Roger Berkowitz
    T Th 11:50 am - 1:10 pm
    Cross-listed: Political Studies  An introduction to debates about freedom of expression. What is 'freedom of speech'? Is there a right to say anything? Why? We will investigate who has had this right, where it has come from, and what it has had to do in particular with literature and the arts. What powers does speech have, who has the power to speak, and for what? Expand >

  • Dissent, Ethics & Politics in East Europe, the Soviet Union and beyond - Professor Helena Gibbs
    M W 3:10 pm-4:30 pm
    Václav Havel, in his seminal essay “The Power of the Powerless” (1978), defines Eastern European dissidents as “those who decided to ‘live in truth’.”  This course will examine the various conceptions and strategies of political resistance in former Soviet Bloc countries, with a focus on the specific role of intellectuals and writers. Expand >

  • American Protest : Disobedience, Dissent, & Resignation - Professor Samantha Hill
    M W 11:50 am-1:10 pm
    Cross-listed: Human Rights  What does it mean to engage in political protest? What motivates us to move into the public sphere of politics? How do we appear in public, and how does our sense of identity relate to our sense of self? Expand >

  • From Reformation to Alt Right - Prof Bruce Chilton
    Fridays 11:30-1:50
    Cross-listed: Theology  The Reformation set in motion movements in Europe and America associated with the rise of democracy, belief in the primacy of human rights, and a passion for freedom of conscience. Yet in the five centuries since Martin Luther proposed his "Ninety-Five Theses," Evangelical Christianity has also been partnered with fascist and White Supremacist movements. Expand >

2018 Dinner and Lecture Series Students enrolled in the Courage To Be College Seminar are required to attend. The Courage To Be Lecture and Dinner series brings students, scholars and experts in diverse fields together to attend to the question of the foundation of moral and spiritual courage in an age when the traditional religious grounds of such courage are said to be weak.

Our 2018 Speaker Series includes:
  • Doug Menuez
    Monday February 19th, 2018
    Doug Menuez is a documentary photographer and director based in the Hudson Valley, who has traveled extensively, frequently putting his life on the line in the name of photojournalism and telling stories. Expand >

  • Rev. Sylvia E. Sumter
    Monday March 5th, 2018
    Reverend Sylvia Sumter is a minister and educator who is currently serving as the senior minister of Unity of Washington, D.C., and has served in this position since 1991. Expand >

  • Whitney Dow
    Monday March 12th, 2018
    Whitney Dow is a documentary filmmaker, producer, director, and educator working on issues of race and identity. Expand >

Courage to be Screening Series
  • Two Towns of Jasper film screening

    Two Towns of Jasper film screening
    Wednesday March 7th at 7pm
    About the Film :
    In 1998 in Jasper, Texas, James Byrd, Jr., a black man, was chained to a pick-up truck and dragged to his death by three white men. The town was forever altered, and the nation woke up to the horror of a modern-day lynching. Expand >