On Tuesday, April 18, Deputy News Editor Emma Burris spoke with President Beilock to reflect on her time at Barnard.
This week, I sat down with President Beilock to discuss the scope of her career as she nears the end of her presidency. In the midst of her busy end-of-semester schedule, she found the time to briefly talk with Bwog to recap the highlights of her tenure here.
Sian Leah Beilock took office in 2017, previously serving as professor of Psychology and Executive Vice Provost at University of Chicago. As Barnard’s eighth president, Beilock has emphasized student involvement in the sciences, such as by organizing the Barnard Year of Science from 2021–2022. Throughout her presidency, the number of applicants to Barnard have increased by over 50%. Greater fundraising has led to the new construction of the LeFrak Foundation Center for Well-Being and the Roy and Diana Vagelos Science Center. Financial aid has increased in tandem with the creation of the Access Barnard and Beyond Barnard offices.
In July 2022, Beilock announced that she would be stepping down as Barnard president. In the fall, she will serve as Dartmouth’s first female president. She will be succeeded by president-elect Laura A. Rosenbury.
Bwog interviewed Beilock at the start of her presidency in 2017—it’s only fitting that we talk to her again at the end. Below is a transcript of the interview, which has been edited for clarity.
Emma Burris: We wanted to ask you some questions to reflect on your time at Barnard. Our first question is: looking back on your tenure as president, what are you most proud of having accomplished?
Sian Beilock: I’m really proud of the students that we’ve been able to bring in and to see students like you and what they’ve done and where they’ve gone. But at the highest level, I think we talk about Barnard differently than we did 6 years ago. In terms of whether it’s the power of the faculty and the research they do, the quality of the students, the role that Barnard plays in the city and in our Ivy-plus peers. I’m really proud of the reputation that we’re building.
EB: Throughout your presidency, you’ve overseen a variety of STEM-focused initiatives, including Barnard’s Year of Science. How do you feel you’ve succeeded in increasing STEM opportunities for students?
SB: Barnard has always been a place known for its great arts and humanities and social sciences. And it also has great science. So what I’ve been able to do is really help elevate that narrative. It’s the liberal arts, not the liberal arts and sciences. Sciences are part of liberal arts. Over 40% of our students are now STEM majors. We have great numbers going to medical school and into PhDs. Our faculty are doing amazing research and I think it’s really telling a story of Barnard being a place where young women interested in art history or chemistry can come to succeed. Or both!
EB: What do you hope to see for Barnard after you’ve left?
SB: Barnard is such a special place. Really a tight-knit community that helps bring forward women and underrepresented voices along with the connections to Columbia. I hope to see those grow and I hope to see the success of Barnard not only for students who are here, but lifelong continue for many years to come.
EB: What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned from your time at Barnard?
SB: I was president through the pandemic and all sorts of challenges. I’ve learned a lot about the power of community. When Barnard students and faculty and staff and alums and parents come together, there’s really nothing that we can’t take on. It’s been wonderful to be a part of this community and understand that power. It gives me hope for how you guys are going to go out and change the world.
EB: Thank you. What advice would you give to the next Barnard president, Laura A. Rosenbury?
SB: Really to get to know the community. It’s such a special and singular place. All the work I did early on meeting with the faculty, staff, students helped me understand all the gems that were there at Barnard and where we could come together to create even better initiatives and outcomes. That’s the biggest piece of advice—spend a lot of time listening and learning.
EB: That’s a good piece of advice. Lastly, we have: what will you miss the most about Barnard and the greater Morningside Heights community?
SB: Being around this community, there’s just sort of an excitement about what’s happening at Barnard, what’s happening in the city and beyond, and really a feeling that your students are having an impact on-campus and off. It’s something that I know is special about Barnard and Columbia and being in New York City and I’ll miss that.
After speaking to Beilock, it was evident that she felt proud of the community she helped cultivate during her time at Barnard. She spoke highly of the caliber of the students, sounding hopeful for their passion and dedication to continue after she leaves. Even though the interview was held over Zoom, Beilock was still very friendly and seemed eager to speak to us. She managed to transcend the boundaries of the screen and make the interview seem personal, laughing and asking genuine questions about my activities as a student. Ultimately, her warm presence and radiance of familiarity on campus will be missed.
President Beilock via Bwog Archives