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Dartmouth College chooses first female president

Move comes 50 years after school accepted women as students

Dartmouth announced Sian Leah Beilock as the college's new president on Thursday. Beilock will be the first woman to lead the college in the institution's 250-year history.Dartmouth

Sian Leah Beilock will become the 19th president of Dartmouth College next summer, making her the first woman chosen to lead the Ivy League institution in its 250-year history, the college said Thursday.

Beilock, a cognitive scientist who is currently the president of Barnard College in New York, was elected unanimously by Dartmouth’s board of trustees and will assume the presidency on July 1, 2023, the school said in a statement.

Beilock, 46, will succeed Philip Hanlon, who has been in the role since 2013. Beilock’s selection comes 50 years after the college began accepting female students.

Beilock described Dartmouth as “one of the nation’s most storied institutions of higher learning” and said it is “an immense honor” to join the college.

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“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,” Beilock said in the statement. “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.”

Elizabeth Cahill Lempres, chairwoman of Dartmouth’s board of trustees, said Beilock is an “outstanding communicator with a long record of impact and a skilled listener who encourages the exchange of ideas.”

“At Barnard, Sian has increased the diversity and engagement of both the student body and the faculty and complemented its strong liberal arts curriculum with enhanced programs in STEM,” Lempres wrote in a letter to the Dartmouth community.

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.

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Female students at Dartmouth, the Ivy League’s smallest university, praised the selection Thursday.

Grace Wiczek, a rising Dartmouth senior and incoming co-president of the campus Network for Women in Sports, said the push for a female president has been at the forefront of campus conversations since she first arrived.

“So it’s cool to finally see a big change like that, to have that representation,” Wiczek said, “especially given the history of Ivy League schools.”

Wiczek called Beilock’s Selection “a huge step” in promoting equity on campus but said there is still more work to be done – both from administration and among the student body.

Jessie Wang, a rising senior studying quantitative social science, called the news “a pleasant surprise.”

Wang said she’s never felt uncomfortable with the gender balance in her classes, but she’s excited to see how the campus culture may change under Beilock’s leadership.

“There’s always the institutional presence of historical old men leading the college, but it’s definitely taking a turn for the better,” she said. “I feel very hopeful for the upcoming class.”

Dartmouth, founded in 1769, enrolled 6,300 students in fall 2020, including 4,200 undergraduates.

Material from wire services was included in this report.


Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickStoico. Daniel Kool can be reached at daniel.kool@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dekool01.