Laura Rosenbury, 53, a distinguished scholar and currently the first woman dean at the University of Florida’s (UF) Levin College of Law, was enthusiastically elected by the Barnard College Board of Trustees to become the College’s ninth president in its 134-year history. Rosenbury will assume the new role on July 1, 2023.
Rosenbury — a leading women and gender legal theorist with expertise that spans reproductive rights, children’s rights, and sexual harassment and abuse — will succeed Sian Leah Beilock, who led Barnard from 2017 and is stepping down to become Dartmouth College’s first woman president.
“It is an honor to be able to pass the baton to Laura Rosenbury, who has been a champion for women’s legal rights throughout her career as an attorney and as an academic,” said President Beilock. “I am thrilled to welcome her into this amazing community of students, faculty, alums, and staff and am confident that the College will continue to soar under her leadership.”
In addition to being the first woman at UF Law to hold the permanent position as dean, Rosenbury also served as Levin, Mabie & Levin Professor of Law, teaching feminist legal theory, employment discrimination, children and law, and family law.
“We believe we found the most outstanding candidate to become the ninth President of Barnard College. Laura’s appointment is a culmination of a life and career dedicated to empowering women,” said Cheryl Glicker Milstein ’82, P’14, chair of Barnard’s Board of Trustees. “She is a committed leader and scholar whose values and passions align with Barnard’s mission. Our students will have the incredible privilege of being led and inspired by her.”
Every step on her journey — from an undergraduate education steeped in humanities, arts, and sciences, to a law career focused on advocating for women and families, to her leadership as a professor and dean dedicated to expanding opportunities for all students — has prepared her uniquely for this institution.
Search Committee co-chairs Ina Drew P’13 and Ann Sacher ’84 said Rosenbury’s appointment resulted from a comprehensive, community-wide process that launched last summer with a series of listening sessions to gain input from Barnard students, faculty, staff, alumnae, and parents. A 16-member Search Committee then began the rigorous search, which also considered hundreds of anonymous submissions to a community-wide survey, with the support of the leading global executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates.
“I could not be prouder of the process that led to Laura’s selection as our next president,” said Drew, who is also vice chair of the Board of Trustees. “It was not just her incredible biography and remarkable scholarship that led to the enthusiastic decision but also her character and belief in the mission of our liberal arts college. Her devotion to an arts and science education, thoughtful and strategic approach to leadership, and striking emotional intelligence demonstrated that Barnard and Laura Rosenbury are a perfect match.”
Sacher added, “We are a premier liberal arts and women’s college, and throughout Laura’s career she has consistently been at the forefront of championing both women’s interests and higher education. Her expertise spans some of the most pressing women’s and gender issues of our time, so we’re fortunate to have her at the helm ensuring students leave our campus prepared to meet the moment.”
“It’s an honor to be named Barnard College’s next president, and I look forward to carrying forth its legacy as the leading academic institution for the advancement of women,” Rosenbury said. “It was immediately clear how committed and close-knit the Barnard community is, and I’m deeply grateful to the Board of Trustees and Search Committee for entrusting me to continue its undeniable trajectory as a global frontrunner in preparing women to make their mark on the world.”
Rosenbury has exemplified her commitment to setting and attaining high goals, both academically, where she discovered a love for women’s and gender studies, and professionally. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in women’s studies from Harvard-Radcliffe College and was primary editor for the Harvard Law Review when she attended Harvard Law.
“I grew up in rural Indiana, and until my freshman year of college I had never even heard of women’s history,” said Rosenbury. “Higher education is where I learned to see and understand the world in a new way and was given the space to identify where my passions lie. It’s incredibly special to be joining a community devoted specifically to helping the next generation of women do the same.”
Following law school, Rosenbury was a litigation associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York City and clerked for Judge Carol Bagley Amon of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York and Judge Dennis Jacobs of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. During this time, an opportunity arose for Rosenbury to teach her first class ever as an adjunct professor, Feminist Legal Theory, at Fordham University School of Law, effectively launching her career as an educator and then as an administrator. “It was that experience, while I was practicing law during the day and teaching at night, that made me realize that I might like to become a professor full time,” Rosenbury said of her academic pivot.
In 2002, she became a professor of law for eight years at Washington University in St. Louis School of Law and was elected vice dean in 2010. After she was named dean of UF Law in 2015, Rosenbury successfully raised the university’s national and international profile. She spearheaded a strategy that led to record levels of private donations and a 200% increase in applications, propelling the school into one of the top 25 law schools in the nation.
“Dean Rosenbury has been intentional about strengthening equity outcomes and successfully cultivated a welcoming environment where all students, regardless of their background, can experience a deep sense of belonging and freely express their views,” said Joe Glover, provost at University of Florida. “It’s impressive what UF Law has been able to accomplish to continue making its community more diverse and inclusive under her leadership.”
Rosenbury has been a visiting professor at the law schools of Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Chicago. Her work has been published in Yale Law Journal, Michigan Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and Cornell Law Review on such topics as feminist legal theory, parental rights, child law, and the intersection of relationships and the law.
Rosenbury is a co-author of Feminist Jurisprudence: Cases and Materials and is frequently invited to speak at conferences, regional meetings, and trainings on issues of diversity, implicit bias, gender and leadership, and sexual harassment.
“I want to go where she’s going,” said Alexa Easter ’23, student representative on the Selection Committee, in reference to Rosenbury.