In True New Hampshire spirit - Diversity or Die!

June 22, 2023

You can definitely argue that the hat is overkill – and a little too enthusiastically announcing that it’s been nearly 40 years since I graduated college. But there is a method to my madness here. This wasn’t any reunion, this was a gathering where alumni welcomed the first woman president since the college was founded in 1769.

Sian Leah Beilock is an irrefutable powerhouse. Previously the President of Barnard, she is also an acclaimed cognitive scientist, and an admittedly former (very) competitive athlete. From her speech delivered live to hundreds and thousands who Zoomed in, she is locked and loaded to kick some inclusion ass!

As soon as Ms. Beilock opened with the fact that her number one priority at the college would be mental health, I pulled out my notes app. Given that this is what Laughter On Call has made its priority for the past 5 years, I knew I would hear some ideas worth sharing. According to Beilock one of the key ways of achieving this goal is by doubling down on diversity. And not just in the let’s-all-hold-hands and create a “safe space,” way. This woman is serious about change – and out of the gate she’s directing the whole community to step up. “What we need is not just to create safe spaces, but to create brave ones, where people are encouraged to challenge each other.” Her mission is clear, regardless of department or tenure, “to establish a culture of belonging where all people feel they can be at the table.”

The “table” reference reminded me of Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” treatise. Coaching women to make sure we pull a seat up to the table in conference rooms and board meetings. I find Sian’s table wildly more inspiring. She means all people, not just the women who buy her book and start “circles,” or whatever you were supposed to do as long as you had a nanny or two to watch the kids.

Sian wants a campus alive with voices from all cultures, all economic levels and all gender identities speaking their minds at this table. I like it. I like it a lot. Witnessing her no-nonsense determination coupled with a story where she laughed about nearly failing out of an engineering class at UC San Diego, I couldn’t help thinking, this is not your father’s Dartmouth.

Maybe I drank the “Green Kool -aid” this trip – school color is green – but there are worse things than becoming an acolyte of a woman whose message is so on point. You don’t have to dig deep to find mistakes Dartmouth has made in its 254 year history, but to walk in to that auditorium during Pride month and actually see rainbow flags hanging on the walls and experience a gutsy, cognitive scientist female at the podium laying out how it’s going to be for a community that shapes at least some of the world’s future leaders was striking. Oh the times they are a changin’ and this college on the hill will not be left behind.