President Sian Leah Beilock reflects on her time leading Barnard College
The Convocation ceremony has always been a tradition I’ve looked forward to. But this one was particularly bittersweet, as it marks my last as president of Barnard. Walking down the aisle of Riverside Church, I experienced once again that special warmth and vibrancy that I first felt in 2017 as I began my tenure at the College. Back at the podium this fall, I had the chance to look out at the students, faculty, and staff who’ve made my five years here so very extraordinary. It was a full-circle moment and one that brought me back to my first convocation, where, joined by my mother and daughter Sarah, I first addressed and was welcomed by the Barnard community. Back then, like I do now, I felt inspired by all the remarkable young women in the pews in front of me and energized by the College’s mission and rich academic legacy.
At the time, I also had the opportunity to introduce our keynote speaker, Carol Dweck ’67, a leading psychologist, professor, and admired colleague of mine. Carol, who is renowned for her groundbreaking research in the field of motivation, discussed her work on the “growth mindset,” which she explained to the audience means that “everyone can develop their abilities through dedication, good strategies, and lots and lots of mentoring.”
During my time here at Barnard, I’ve witnessed firsthand the efficacy of the “growth mindset.” Our committed faculty and staff continuously work hard to ensure that all our students have the resources and guidance they need to — in Dweck’s words — be inspired to “reach beyond what they would otherwise reach for.” In doing so, we, as an institution, have benefited, enabling us to reach new heights in our scholarship and research, our health and wellness programming, our community outreach and career development offerings, and so much more.
We’ve done all this in the face of a global pandemic, turning formidable challenges into opportunities for learning and growth. We’ve contributed knowledge to tackle big problems, and we’ve been responsive to the vicissitudes of our fast and ever-changing world to best meet the needs of our community.
This brings me to the Supreme Court’s recent decision to eliminate the constitutional right to legal abortion, which has, as history and research has shown, dire consequences for women’s futures. As many of our very own experts explain in “The Impact of Overturning Roe v. Wade,” this ruling will have profoundly negative effects, from lowering graduation rates to hindering employment opportunities. It is expected that it will disproportionately harm people of color and those with limited incomes.
At Barnard, we want to do everything we can to bolster our students’ health and wellness. That is why we announced on October 6 that we will expand student options by ensuring that our campus providers are prepared and trained in the provision of medication abortion by fall 2023. In addition, we will continue to partner with national and international abortion experts at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC), who also offer services via telehealth. Together, and under the leadership of Marina Catallozzi, M.D., MSCE, our Vice President of Health and Wellness and Chief Health Officer, we will provide students with the best possible care.
This is an important step that underscores our institution’s steadfast commitment to our community’s health and well-being. It is one that I am proud to support in my final year as Barnard’s president.