Above: Katherine Duff, left, and Hope Delaney ’22CC at Women’s Sprints.

Washington native Katherine Duff is a computer science major, a member of Women’s Crew, and a Barnard Writing Fellow. Rowers like Duff benefit from a unique partnership with Columbia University, in which Barnard athletes compete in NCAA Division I athletics. This arrangement, which was established in 1983 through the Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium, makes Barnard the only women’s college whose students compete in D-I tournaments, via the Ivy League Athletic Conference

Duff successfully balances the rigor of her Barnard academics, her extracurriculars, and the demanding schedule of her sport with the help of her peers, who she said push her to take on new challenges and opportunities on campus. For National Women’s Health and Fitness Day (September 29), learn more about Duff in this “Barnard’s Got Game” Q&A.

You’re majoring in computer science? 

Yes. Being able to study computer science (CS) at a liberal arts institution for women is a unique experience, and I’ve loved the camaraderie and energy surrounding the creation of a Barnard CS department. I chose computer science because I love how challenging the subject can be and how essential the skills I learn are to a diverse variety of fields.

What are your post-graduation plans?

I am interested in fields that combine education and technology, and I am planning on being a software engineer.

What inspired you to become a rower? 

While I was very familiar with crew due to the Seattle area’s large rowing culture, I [didn’t try] it until I arrived at Barnard. However, athletics were a key part of my identity growing up — I swam year-round for 10 years and then later switched to playing water polo. About two weeks into my first semester here, I realized I was missing the dedication and commitment that being a part of a team requires. I was lucky, because it turned out my RA, Chloe Keating ’19, was captain of the crew team, and she encouraged me to walk on. I spent that first fall semester learning to row with other novices, and I fell in love with the sport and the other people on the team. I officially joined the team right before winter break, and I got the opportunity to race during the spring season.

Crew boat of women students.
The Columbia V4+ (a style of boat with four rowers and a coxswain) at the Ivy League Championships, May 2019. Duff is the third rower from the front of the boat.

What do you enjoy doing outside of crew and classes? How do you balance academics and athletics?

I’m a Writing Fellow, and I’ve found my job to be incredibly rewarding and meaningful. The Barnard students I meet with are knowledgeable, passionate, and dedicated, and it’s truly special to learn about a variety of subjects directly from my peers.

Balancing academics, athletics, and my job as a Writing Fellow can be intense at times, but I’ve learned to be diligent about making a weekly plan and sticking to it. Being proactive about managing my work and avoiding scheduling conflicts has helped to ensure that I can be present and fully engaged in everything that I do.

How does being a student-athlete inform your college experience? 

Being an athlete brings focus to my college experience. The dedication of my teammates and the sacrifices that they make to pursue both athletic and academic success is inspiring. My teammates expect excellence from each other, and these expectations have pushed me to take on new challenges and explore new opportunities on campus that I might not have without their encouragement and support.

I also think that it is really special to be a Barnard athlete. I’m part of two very tight-knit communities that are focused on developing and empowering young women, and the people I’ve met through each [community] have provided me with a lot of mentorship and support — especially the four Barnard seniors on the rowing team. I really look up to them, and I think that seeing their accomplishments has motivated me to try and follow in their footsteps.


For more resources, visit the Francine A. LeFrak Foundation Center for Well-Being, Barnard’s new centralized hub for all wellness-related initiatives across campus. The Francine LeFrak Center supports the entire College community with a 360-degree perspective of personal well-being: physical, mental, and financial.

Francine Lefrak Foundation Center for Well-being


text saying "Year of Science" surrounded by various scientific paraphernalia, such as beakers, gears, and nuclear symbols