Dear Members of the Barnard Community,

Welcome to the new academic year! I hope you all had a chance to recharge a bit this summer and that you share my excitement as this extraordinary community of students, teachers, and scholars gathers once again. 

I want to offer a special welcome to the Class of 2026 and to other students, faculty, and staff who are joining us for the first time. You will find yourself surrounded by countless opportunities to grow, to create, to experiment and experience, to test your own ideas and discover new ones — but almost inevitably, the greatest treasure you will find here at Barnard is in one another and this community of care, which has only deepened through the challenges of recent years.

This is a time of historic momentum for Barnard, and we continue to build on the College’s excellence through a variety of initiatives. We are currently finalizing plans for the Roy and Diana Vagelos Science Center, funded by the largest gift in the College’s history. This project, which involves the renovation and expansion of Altschul Hall, will help build on the momentum of Barnard’s 2021-22 Year of Science by establishing a state-of-the-art science facility for our students and faculty. The R&D Science Center will also provide science learning resources to the larger Harlem and Morningside Heights community that Barnard is a part of. 

At the same time, we continue to highlight the College’s eminence across the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Recent faculty hires — such as Jhumpa Lahiri ’89, one of the most critically acclaimed authors of the 21st century, who joins us as the Millicent C. McIntosh Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing, and BJ Casey, a world leader in the field of developmental neuroscience and now the College’s Christina L. Williams Professor of Neuroscience — underscore Barnard’s investment in the arts and sciences. These scholars and more join our outstanding and accomplished faculty, who are dedicated to teaching while pursuing impactful, cutting-edge research.

Barnard is also committed to the well-being of our community, which is a central tenet of the College’s mission focused on “rigorous academic standards” and “giving students the support they need to meet those standards.” The forthcoming opening of the Francine A. LeFrak Foundation Center for Well-Being, a centralized hub for physical, mental, and financial health, will provide physical gathering space, support, and resources that allow our community to practice well-being in ways each of us finds beneficial — whether it’s a workshop on how to think about financially planning for retirement, a meditation group, or a FITbear class. And with the appointment of Barnard’s first Chief Health Officer, Dr. Marina Catallozzi, we now have the infrastructure in place to support our community at a new level. Over the coming academic year, we will conduct a community needs assessment, which will inform how we meet the wellness goals of students, faculty, and staff.

To ensure equitable access to a Barnard education, we continue to aggressively raise funds for new financial aid so that students have the resources they need to take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity, regardless of circumstances and socioeconomic background. We are also committed to enhancing a culture that welcomes each of you, celebrates your contributions to Barnard, and grows through the distinctive experience, identity, and perspectives you bring. Research shows that the best ideas emerge when we bring diverse ideas to bear on important questions. Feeling able to challenge preconceptions and take chances in our thinking pushes us collectively to new heights. Visit our DEI website to learn more about our commitment to this kind of learning community and the work that flows from it, led by the Vice President of Inclusion and Engaged Learning and Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Jennifer Rosales.

We will get a chance to reflect on those values together - as faculty, students, staff, alums and parents - at our Convocation ceremony, which marks the beginning of the academic year, on Monday, September 12, at 4:30 p.m. We will hear a keynote address from alumna, journalist, and screenwriter Ayana Byrd ’95, author of the award-winning social histories Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America and Naked: Black Women Bare All About Their Hair, Skin, Hips, Lips and Other Parts. Please join us for this joyful and thoughtful celebration of the College’s legacy and its future.

As I wrote to you last month, this will be my final year at Barnard. I am deeply grateful that we have this time together, and I am determined to build on this great momentum and make the most of the year ahead. I will always feel a part of this community, and I am committed to advancing our priorities and the mission of this truly singular institution.

With admiration,

President Sian Leah Beilock