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. 


  • MISBAH AWAN My name is Misbah Awan and I am currently a third-year BEOP scholar at Bard College aspiring to graduate with a Psychology degree under the Division of Social Studies in order to further myself into the path of becoming a Special Education teacher. In my down time, I like to listen to podcasts about Islamic-centered topics in regards to spirituality, explore different unknown areas, hang around with a tight circle of friends, read books on liberation movements or personal memoirs, and participate in a self-care routine. Over the summer, I usually travel and intern at the same time. Given all this, I continue to count my blessings. I am very active on campus and would love to make meaningful connections with people who build towards their vision. You can contact me via email at for any questions or concerns. 

  • LIVY MARIE Livy Marie Donahue is a Senior Art History and German Studies joint major. Having recently returned from a semester abroad in Munich, Germany, Livy is working on her senior thesis on German Expressionist artist Käthe Kollwitz and her representations of motherhood and grief in Post-World War I Germany. Aside from working at the Arendt Center, Livy is a co-leader of CodeRed, an on-campus public health project, and a Writing Fellow at the Learning Commons. 
    When not in class, Livy enjoys being outside, eating well, and spending time with friends. 

  • ANGELA WOODACK Angela Woodack is a sophomore at Bard College who is planning to moderate as a joint-major into Theatre and Performance as well as Political Studies in Spring 2019. Her pairing of the contrasting majors is chiefly due to an interest in bolstering the rights of playwrights, directors, and theatrical technicians while seeking stronger equality for LGBT artists. In addition to her studies and recent involvement with the Hannah Arendt Center, she frequently works with the technical crew at the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. Her extracurricular pursuits include reading, writing and providing dramaturgical research for her own plays, going on adventures with her friends, and confiding in her older sister.

  • EMILY WALSHIN Emily Walshin is a junior and global and international studies major here at Bard, with an area focus in the Middle East. This past semester she participated in the Bard Globalization and International Affairs Program (BGIA) in New York City, and is now excited to be back on campus! Around Bard, you can find her as PC of Oberholzer, a TA at the Bard Children’s Center, and a tutor for the TLS project CultureConnect. Amidst the whirlwind of being a Bard student, she loves to read and live with intention. 


    I am a junior Film Production and German Studies double major from Vienna, Austria. Though I am pursuing majors in predominantly creative fields, my interests expand beyond the borders of language and art. Human rights and social justice issues are deeply important to me as well and I hope to one day find or create a career for myself that amalgamates both the political and the creative. When I am not in the library studying, cooking for my friends or on a bike ride I can be found journaling, drawing or doing graphic design work.

    Isabella Emma Menuez Santana is a Junior Human Rights major with a disciplinary focus in political studies. Her primary academic interests include phenomenology, political theory, law, and art history. Her sophomore year she worked as a Courage To Be Student Fellow, but this year has taken on the role as a Program Fellow. As a Program Fellow, Isabella helps to mentors the Courage To Be fellows and works to bridge the gap between various projects at the Hannah Arendt Center. 
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.
  • The Courage to Judge - Prof Samantha Hill
    If we are in a world, as many fear, where truth no longer matters and cultural criticism is dictated by Internet mobs, how are we to judge? With the phenomenal appearance of totalitarianism in the middle of the 20th century, Hannah Arendt famously argued that the traditional moral categories of good and bad have lost their relevance. The inability to discern fact from fiction, and make critical judgments paves the ground for the emergence of fascist propaganda and rhetoric.  Expand >

  • (Super) Heroic Politics - Prof Elizabeth Barringer
    A fascination with heroes has been a constant feature of Western political thought stretching back to classical times. Yet their role in political orders is complex, varied, and dynamic—and frequently not aligned with the common good, or with democratic conceptions of politics. Our task in this course is to look at recent superhero movies as a continuation of this long tradition of heroic politics and to critically examine their potential for (or against) democratic practices: what kinds of political relationships do these stories imagine or support? Expand >

  • Introduction to Christianity in Revolutions
    Prof Bruce Chilton

    Christianity has both promoted and resisted revolutions during the course of its history. The aim of this course is to understand why and how that process has unfolded. The method of the seminar is to understand how Christianity developed through systemic changes, and to read selected authors against the background of that evolution. This course is part of the Courage To Be College Seminar Series; students are required to attend three lectures in the in Courage to Be Lecture Series sponsored by the Hannah Arendt Center.

  • Theorizing Facebook: Technology, Society, and Social Networks
    Prof Laura Ford

    In this course, we will seek to understand social media, as social and moral phenomena. Each week we will “theorize” social media from a different perspective, seeking new sociological insights into social media-related “spaces,” and into the ways that morality, ethics, and politics are enacted within such spaces. Expand >

2019 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 2019 Speaker Series includes:
  • Rana Abdelhamid
    6:00 PM, February 25th, 2019
    Rana Abdelhamid is an acclaimed activist and organizer. She is the founder of MALIKAH, IM(WISE), and Hijabis of New York. She is also a board member at Amnesty International. 

  • Deo Niyizonkiza
    6 P.M March 4th 2019
    Deo Niyizonkiza is the founder and chief executive officer of Village Health Works, a grassroots, non-profit organization providing quality healthcare to communities in rural Burundi. He is also the author of Strength in What Remains.

  • Karen Scharff
    6 PM April 15th, 2019
    Karen Scharff has forty years of experience in grassroots organizing, social movement building, and political activism. She is the former director of Citizen Action of NY, a statewide grassroots organization that empowers New Yorkers to fight for social, racial and economic justice and a founder of the NY Working Families Party and the Alliance for Quality Education.