Newly named president Sian Beilock, 46, will be first woman to lead at Dartmouth

Barnard College's leader for the past five years says she is 'deeply moved by what lies ahead' for the Ivy League school.
By: | July 21, 2022
Photo courtesy of Dartmouth College

Dartmouth College will have a new president starting next July, a 46-year-old scientist and higher education administrator who will become the first-ever woman in 250 years to lead the prestigious Ivy League school.

Sian Leah Beilock, the current president of Barnard College in New York City, will replace Philip Hanlon at the Hanover, N.H., institution, receiving unanimous approval from the Board of Trustees. She will become one of the youngest serving leaders in higher education and is also in line to be the youngest in the Ivy League. Columbia and Harvard are still in the process of searching for replacements for the retiring Lee Bollinger and Lawrence Bacow, respectively.

As recently as 2005, Beilock was a psychology professor at Miami University in Ohio, but she quickly ascended to become executive vice provost at the University of Chicago before being named to the top spot at the acclaimed Barnard in 2017. During the past five years, she has helped boost diversity on campus while raising its STEM profile, both in research and instruction. She expressed excitement about leading this small powerhouse college that is just inside the Top 100 in the world.

“It is an immense honor to join Dartmouth, one of the nation’s most storied institutions of higher learning, and I am even more deeply moved by what lies ahead,” Beilock said. “I am grateful to the Board of Trustees for their confidence and to all those who have welcomed me so warmly during the search process and shared their profound dedication to the institution. It is clear to me that Dartmouth’s tight-knit learning community, together with world-class research and scholarship, is an enormously powerful vehicle for the creation of outstanding ideas with real impact.”

While not having the breadth of experience of long-serving candidates at other institutions, Beilock’s scientific prowess—she has 120 peer-reviewed works—and her strength in successfully leading Barnard across a range of areas during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as student outcomes and capital campaigns, won the hearts of trustees. “That growth has been especially remarkable under Sian’s leadership, advancing our core mission and values through a historically challenging time,” Barnard Board of Trustees chair Cheryl Glicker Milstein said in a statement.

Her appointment comes after a “rigorous and inclusive” six-month process where 18 members of the Dartmouth community–from alumni to students and faculty–were asked for their input in finding a replacement for Hanlon, who has led the college for the past nine years and through the pandemic. He will remain on through June next year, leaving a legacy that includes significant increases in Dartmouth’s research spending, the doubling of its endowment to $8.5 billion, and a heavy focus the past few years on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.


More from UB: Harvard’s Bacow retiring


“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve Dartmouth, an institution that did so much to transform my life when I was a student here in the 1970s,” Hanlon said upon announcing his plans in January. “I could not be prouder of the strides we have made toward this vision [attracting talent while tackling the world’s challenges], and as it has become reality, the time is right to pass the torch.”

That torch will go to Beilock, who is considered one of the foremost scientists on not “choking under pressure,” which is how the brain responds in times of crisis or during competition. She also has been a strong ally for girls and women in STEM, something she championed at Barnard and likely will be keen to develop further at Dartmouth. Among her accolades are a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation and the National Academy of Sciences Troland Research Award for her work in looking at performance under stress. A graduate of the University of California San Diego who earned a doctorate from Michigan State, she is a member of the National Academy of Kinesiology and the Council on Foreign Relations and a fellow for the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Psychological Association.

“Sian is a leader with the aspirational vision to build our research enterprise, further our tradition of excellence in undergraduate education, and expand our global impact; she embraces the teacher-scholar model and brings experience from a world-class R1 institution as well as a distinctive liberal arts college,” said Elizabeth Cahill Lempres, senior partner emeritus at McKinsey & Company and chair of Dartmouth’s board of trustees. “Sian’s election in this, our 50th year of co-education at Dartmouth, was enthusiastic and unanimous. We are thrilled to welcome her to the Dartmouth family.”


Ivy League leaders

Here are the current presidents in the Ivy League and their ages. At 46, Sian Beilock will be the youngest to take over at Dartmouth and, depending on who replaces outgoing leaders at Harvard and Columbia, possibly in the Ivy League:

Pennsylvania: Liz Magill, 57

Princeton: Christopher Eisgruber, 60

Brown: Christina Paxson, 62

Cornell: Martha Pollack, 63

Yale: Peter Salovey, 64

Dartmouth: Philip Hanlon, 67

Harvard: Lawrence Bacow, 70

Columbia: Lee Bollinger, 76