Sian Leah Beilock became the 8th president of Barnard College at Columbia University in July, 2017.
A cognitive scientist by training, she is focused on further 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 our unique relationship with Columbia University, President Beilock is increasing options for students to transition directly from Barnard into a range of master’s programs at Columbia, including international relations, public health, and engineering. She is also working to bridge the gap between college and life after college through the innovative Beyond Barnard office, and she is dedicated to ensuring that Barnard continues to attract a highly diverse student body 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 the senior leadership, she served as the Vice Provost for Academic Initiatives, and 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 recent TED talk has been viewed nearly 2 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.