President Sian Leah Beilock discusses how collaboration is the key to addressing the critical issues we face today, from global pandemics to climate change.
This fall, we welcomed students back for a full return to campus. Awaiting them are boundless opportunities for learning and exploration: in the lab and studio, in the classroom and in the field, in Morningside Heights and in the many neighborhoods that make up New York City. And with each new experience, they’ll build on the extraordinary work they’ve done leading up to this point.
Over this past year and a half, as we’ve navigated the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, we’ve not only persevered but thrived. Our students, faculty, and staff have demonstrated ingenuity when solving complex problems, nimbly adapted to different modes of learning, embraced a diversity of thought and ideas, and shown kindness to each other during a historically difficult time. While this has certainly made us stronger in many ways, it has also made me reflect on what it means to be equipped for a new semester of teaching and scholarship. It starts with shining a spotlight on personal well-being. For us to nourish our intellectual growth, we must also nurture our mental and emotional health. These are the pillars that create an enduring foundation for our students to live healthy, fulfilled lives in and out of the classroom.
As an institution we’ve launched a multilayered program to ensure that all of our students have access to the resources, knowledge, and support for well-being they need to flourish during their four years on campus and long after they graduate. Our new Francine A. LeFrak Foundation Center for Well-Being serves as a centralized hub and an umbrella organization for our Feel Well, Do Well @ Barnard wellness initiatives, which address all facets of health and wellness, from emotional and mental to physical and financial.
For this reason, I am excited to welcome Marina Catallozzi, M.D., MSCE, as Barnard’s first Vice President of Health and Wellness and Chief Health Officer. In this critical leadership role, Dr. Catallozzi oversees the Francine A. LeFrak Foundation Center for Well-Being as well as Primary Care Health Services and the Rosemary Furman Counseling Center. She’ll also lead the charge in coordinating the College’s response to infectious disease threats and work to enhance undergraduate medical research opportunities for Barnard students. With her extensive experience as a professor, researcher, and adolescent medicine specialist, she will help further our health and wellness mission, in addition to the important programming we launched over two years ago with Feel Well, Do Well.
As I close out this letter, I’ve been thinking about Olympic champion Simone Biles. This summer, she made the difficult decision to withdraw from the women’s gymnastics finals at the Tokyo Olympics as a result of mental health concerns. She’s not alone. Tennis player Naomi Osaka and swimmer Michael Phelps are among the elite athletes who have recently opened up about the stresses and intense pressures they struggle with. Though it has taken far too long for wellness and mental health to come to the forefront of the cultural discourse, I am encouraged that it finally has. As Biles said in an interview: “It’s not how I wanted it to go, but I think we’ve opened bigger doors and bigger conversations.”
I am hopeful that the members of our community will continue to feel empowered and encouraged to have these conversations, to focus on their well-being, and to reach out and support one another. That is how our community, and our society, will flourish.