A public-interest attorney, journalist, and visionary in the not-for-profit world, Kathryn Kolbert brings to Barnard an extraordinary depth of experience in collaborative leadership, educational programming, and civil-rights advocacy. She has been recognized by The National Law Journal as one of the "100 Most Influential Lawyers in America,” and by The American Lawyer as one of 45 public- interest lawyers “whose vision and commitment are changing lives." In 1992, Kolbert argued the landmark case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey before the U.S. Supreme Court and has been credited with saving Roe v. Wade with what Jeffrey Toobin has called "one of the most audacious litigation strategies in Supreme Court history.”
Before joining Barnard in 2009, Kolbert was the President and CEO of People for the American Way and People for the American Way Foundation, two of the nation’s premier civil rights organizations. During her tenure, People For the American Way's Political Action Committee was cited by the National Journal as the most successful advocacy group of the 2008 election cycle.
For ten years, Kolbert oversaw a program on law and American life at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center. She was the executive producer of Justice Talking, an award-winning radio program distributed by NPR, and also directed an educational website called JusticeLearning.org, which received a Webby Award in 2005. Before she became a journalist, Kolbert enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a public interest attorney specializing in women’s reproductive rights. From 1992 to 1997, she directed domestic litigation and public policy programs for the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, where she was a co-founder and vice president. She has also served as the State Coordinating Counsel of the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project in New York and as a Staff Attorney with the Women's Law Project and Community Legal Services in Philadelphia.
At Barnard, Kolbert is the Constance Hess Williams Director of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies, an interdisciplinary center devoted to the theory and practice of women's leadership.