President Sian Leah Beilock

Leadership

Meet President Sian Leah Beilock

A cognitive scientist by training, President Beilock is focused on developing Barnard as a singular institution.

She is raising the College’s eminence in math, science, and technology to parallel its renown in the arts and humanities. Building on Barnard’s unique relationship with Columbia University, President Beilock is increasing options for students to transition directly from the College into a range of master’s programs at Columbia, including international relations, public health, computer science, and engineering. She is also working to bridge the gap between college and life after college through the innovative Beyond Barnard office; to amplify the importance of health and wellness through the opening of the Francine A. LeFrak Foundation Center for Well-Being; and to ensure that Barnard continues to attract a highly diverse student body that is deeply engaged with all that the College and the City of New York have to offer.

President Beilock's Research

President Beilock's human performance lab studies how performance anxiety can be exacerbated or alleviated, and the strategies we can use to ensure success under pressure. Her research sits at the intersection of cognitive science and education. 

2017 TED Talk

In her 2017 TED Talk, which has been viewed over 2 million times, President Beilock reveals what happens in our brains and bodies when we choke under stressful situations, while sharing tools backed by cognitive science to help ensure success. 

I see Barnard as a place where we can help ensure that young women are getting the academic preparedness as well as the mindset to go out and pursue their passion, whatever that is. And so being in an atmosphere where I can help think about how we do that for the next generation is exciting to me.

President Sian Beilock
Image

Biography

A cognitive scientist by training, President Beilock is focused on developing Barnard as a singular institution.

She is raising the College’s eminence in math, science, and technology to parallel its renown in the arts and humanities. Building on Barnard’s unique relationship with Columbia University, President Beilock is increasing options for students to transition directly from the College into a range of master’s programs at Columbia, including international relations, public health, computer science, and engineering. She is also working to bridge the gap between college and life after college through the innovative Beyond Barnard office; to amplify the importance of health and wellness through the opening of the Francine A. LeFrak Foundation Center for Well-Being; and to ensure that Barnard continues to attract a highly diverse student body that is deeply engaged with all that the College and the City of New York have to offer.

Prior to her appointment as President, Beilock spent twelve years at the University of Chicago. As the Stella M. Rowley Professor of Psychology and a member of the Committee on Education, she specialized in how children and adults learn and perform at their best, especially under stress. In her role as a member of UChicago's senior leadership, she served as the Executive Vice Provost and an Officer of the University.

In her research, Beilock focuses specifically on success in math and science for women and girls, and how performance anxiety can either be exacerbated or alleviated by teachers, parents, and peers. She explores the brain and body factors that influence skill learning and performance, as well as how simple psychological strategies can be used to ensure success in high-stakes situations ranging from test-taking and public speaking to athletics. She has published more than 100 papers and has received funding from the National Science Foundation (including a CAREER award), the Department of Education, and several foundations. 

Beilock won the 2017 Troland Award from the National Academy of Sciences. In addition, she is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Psychological Association, and a member of the National Academy of Kinesiology. Early in her career, she received awards from the Association for Psychological Science, American Psychological Foundation, the Psychonomic Society, and the Society of Experimental Psychologists.

President Beilock is the author of two books that have been published in more than a dozen languages—the critically acclaimed Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal about Getting It Right When You Have To (2010) and How the Body Knows Its Mind: The Surprising Power of the Physical Environment to Influence How You Think and Feel (2015). Her 2017 TED talk has been viewed over 2.5 million times. 

President Beilock earned her Bachelor of Science in cognitive science from the University of California, San Diego, and doctorates of philosophy in both kinesiology and psychology from Michigan State University.