The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Sian Beilock is first woman named president of Dartmouth College

Sian Beilock, president of Barnard College, will become Dartmouth College's president in July 2023. (Tim Ryan Smith)
Placeholder while article actions load
correction

The headline on an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Sian Beilock will become the first woman to lead Dartmouth College. The school was in fact led by a female interim president, Carol Folt, in 2012-13. Beilock is the first woman to be named to the full title of Dartmouth president. This story has been updated.

A cognitive scientist who leads a well-known women’s college was named Thursday to become the first female president of Dartmouth College in its 252-year history.

Sian Beilock, 46, president of Barnard College in New York, will assume the presidency of the Ivy League’s smallest university in July 2023.

The announcement comes as Dartmouth is marking the 50th anniversary of coeducation on its New Hampshire campus. The first class of new undergraduates to include women matriculated in 1972. The school was led by a female interim president, Carol Folt, in the 2012-13 academic year. But school trustees had never elected a woman to hold the full title of president of Dartmouth until they chose Beilock.

Beilock acknowledged the significance of her barrier-breaking appointment.

“I’m especially excited to be the first woman” elected to the position, she said in a telephone interview. Her multiple identities, she said, are “front and center” in her work. “President, mother, researcher — they all contribute to one’s ability to lead. I really embrace them all.”

Dartmouth, founded in 1769, enrolled 6,300 students in fall 2020, including 4,200 undergraduates. Princeton University, the second-smallest of the eight Ivy League schools, had 7,900 students that fall, including 5,400 undergraduates.

Beilock will succeed Philip J. Hanlon, who is ending a 10-year run as president after the next school year. She earned a bachelor’s degree in cognitive science from the University of California at San Diego and doctorates in kinesiology and psychology from Michigan State University.

Beilock was executive vice provost at the University of Chicago before becoming Barnard’s president in 2017. Her research has focused on the brain science behind “choking under pressure,” with applications for performance in test taking, public speaking and athletics.

Women have served as president at most of the Ivy League schools. Yale University was led by a pioneering female acting president, Hanna Holborn Gray, in 1977-1978, but it has not had a woman hold the job in a permanent capacity. Columbia University has not yet had a female president.

Loading...