President Sian Leah Beilock reflects on her time leading Barnard College
A year ago, when we first launched Feel Well, Do Well @ Barnard, a new College-wide initiative focused on health and wellness, I shared with the Barnard community my own wellness ritual: a walk through Riverside Park. Even if brief, it gives me a moment to relax, organize my thoughts, and prepare for the day ahead. As a cognitive scientist, I frequently think about the relationship between the mind and body and how factors such as anxiety and stress can impact performance in ways big and small. This year has been one of historic challenges and has illuminated why it’s so vital to provide resources, tools, and techniques to support the well-being of our students, faculty, staff, and alumnae.
Feel Well, Do Well @ Barnard was born out of the understanding that the health of our students is essential to their ability to thrive in and out of the classroom. And although this endeavor started prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it laid an important groundwork that has guided our approach to health and safety during this unprecedented time.
While the pandemic has amplified the importance of health and wellness, we have long been dedicated to building resources that bolster the well-being of our community. For the College, it is a sustained, ongoing commitment. And thanks to the generous gift from the Francine A. LeFrak Foundation, we are excited to be moving forward with the creation of the Francine A. LeFrak Foundation Center for Well-Being. In this issue [see page 8], you can read more about the new center, which provides both a centralized hub and an umbrella organization for our many Feel Well, Do Well @ Barnard wellness initiatives and supports a 360-degree perspective of personal well-being: physical, mental, and financial. This last pillar, focusing on financial fluency and health, may be a little unexpected, but it is an integral part of well-being that is critical to a woman’s success.
Since the fall, we’ve launched a number of key programs to meet the needs of our students. We set up a skilled Pandemic Response Team that has implemented a comprehensive and data-driven approach to testing, contact tracing, and isolation/quarantine. These experts are equipped to respond nimbly to changing circumstances, ensuring that our community remains safe, healthy, and informed.
With these protocols in place, we’ve been able to gradually and successfully open up parts of the campus this fall — including research labs and studio and study spaces — to students, staff, and faculty. With the extensive measures we’ve taken, we plan to welcome more students back to campus for the Spring 2021 semester. The College will take all necessary precautions to assure a safe start to the term, including staggered move-ins, COVID-19 health and safety training, and participation in a regular testing program.
Our faculty and staff have worked hard to design a flexible and engaging academic experience for students living on and off campus. Professors will offer courses in a variety of formats, ranging from completely virtual to a combination of virtual/in-person to mostly in-person. It is our priority that students feel comfortable and empowered to do their best work.
In these past few months, as I’ve made my way to my office in Milbank, I’ve been heartened to see some students back on campus studying in the Quad or meeting with faculty in the Diana Center in a socially distanced manner. It is proof of the strength and conviction of the Barnard community that we’ve not only upheld our academic mission but created a safe environment that continues to foster intellectual growth during these challenging times.