Welcome, Laura Rosenbury

Barnard College’s president speaks on abortion, affirmative action, and her first few months on campus.

Photography By Dorothy Hong

Laura Rosenbury, the newly minted President of Barnard College, is in her listening phase.

Rosenbury, who previously served as dean at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law, is eager to learn and collaborate with Barnard’s community as she begins her tenure on campus.

“I still have so much to learn about Barnard,” says Rosenbury. “I must admit at times it is overwhelming. But I want to make sure we build upon existing strengths to take things to the next level. I want it to be a collaborative process, where together we determine how we are going to do that.”

Rosenbury, a prominent legal theorist in women and gender, finds herself in a unique position at Barnard, which, in October of 2022, announced that it will offer abortion pills, among other reproductive health care services on campus. 

“I think about how law constructs gender, but law is always interacting with other aspects of society,” says Rosenbury. “Now I can be at a place where so many of our students, faculty and staff also think about what gender means, how gender is constructed, and how to live gender.”

President Rosenbury does not specify whether Barnard plans to alter its admissions process following the Supreme Court overturning of affirmative action earlier this year. Rosenbury does suggest, however, that Barnard admissions has actively worked with “consultants” to “strategize.”

“There are several states, including Florida, that had already banned affirmative action, so I have some experience on how to operationalize this decision because I was living it before I came here,” says Rosenbury. “I am confident that we will be able to comply with the law and also fulfill Barnard’s mission of having a diverse and vibrant community.”

As for Rosenbury’s favorite spot on campus? “The greenhouse, that is one very special place. I also love the courtyard in the quad.” Her favorite hobby? “Gardening. I love to travel, read, and I do the New York Times spelling bee and wordle.” 

Rosenbury recalls Barnard’s first-year move-in day as one of her favorite (and most exciting) memories on campus. “The vibe! The DJ, the wooh-ing. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. It was better than a sporting event.” 

President Rosenbury articulates her philosophy of leadership as guided by service and the needs of the community. “I have always believed in service leadership. I am here to serve the broad Barnard community, to advocate for the Barnard community, to think about the community as a whole and move us forward.”

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