Sian Beilock Named Dartmouth College’s First Female President

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A cognitive scientist who leads a well-known women’s college was named the first female president of Dartmouth College in its 252-year history on Thursday.

Sian Beilock, 46, president of Barnard College in New York, will assume the presidency of the Ivy League’s smallest university in July 2023.

The announcement comes as Dartmouth marks the 50th anniversary of co-education at its New Hampshire campus. The first class of new students with women enrolled in 1972.

Beilock recognized the importance of her barrier-breaking appointment.

“I’m especially excited to be the first woman” in the position, she said in a phone interview. Her multiple identities, she said, are central to her work. “President, mother, researcher – they all contribute to a person’s ability to lead. I really embrace them all.”

Founded in 1769, Dartmouth enrolled 6,300 students in the fall of 2020, including 4,200 undergraduates. Princeton University, the second smallest of the eight Ivy League schools, counted 7,900 students who fall, including 5,400 undergraduates.

Beilock succeeds Philip J. Hanlon, who will end a 10-year term as president next school year. She received a bachelor’s degree in cognitive science from the University of California at San Diego and a doctorate in kinesiology and psychology from Michigan State University.

Beilock was an executive vice-provost at the University of Chicago before becoming Barnard’s president in 2017. Her research focused on the brain science behind “choking under pressure,” with applications for performance in exams, public speaking, and athletics.

Women have served as presidents in most Ivy League schools. Yale University was led by a pioneering female acting president, Hanna Holborn Gray, in 1977-1978, but no woman has been on permanent staff yet. Like Dartmouth, Columbia University has not yet had a female president.

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