Dr. Betsy Sinclair ’98, professor and expert in American voter behavior, named 2019 graduation speaker

When Dr. Betsy Sinclair ’98 received the call from Head of School Kate Morin inviting her to be our 2019 graduation speaker, a rush of “yeses” ran through her mind.
Yes. The Class of 2019 is the last class taught by our beloved Sr. Barbara Mullen, SHCJ, Mayfield’s longtime Holy Child educator who passed away three years ago. Dr. Sinclair considered Sr. Barbara a mentor and friend and wants to share Sister’s legacy of faith, joy and God’s love for all.

Yes. The time is right to let our seniors know just how much their diverse voices are needed in this world. As a professor of Political Science at Washington University in St. Louis, educating the next generation of leaders is important to Dr. Sinclair.

Yes. Dr. Sinclair enthusiastically wants to tell our seniors just how much their Mayfield education will distinguish them in college and beyond.

“Action-based love—that is the revelation of Mayfield,” Dr. Sinclair told a group of senior student council members who met with her following the announcement. “It may sound crazy, but it’s real. It changes how you feel about our world. It changes what you can do. It gives you the eyes to see what can be done.”

Indeed, Dr. Sinclair is “a remarkable example of Mayfield’s ‘Actions Not Words’ motto,” said Mrs. Morin. “Her extraordinary work as a professor, researcher and noted author is greatly shaping the conversation in the study of political science and she is bringing people together for the greater good.”

A magna cum laude dual major in math and economics at the University of Redlands, Dr. Sinclair received her master’s degree and doctorate from CalTech in social science. She is an expert in the ways social networks influence American political behaviors and choices and is a distinguished  author on the topic, including two books, The Social Citizen and A Connected America and a long list of journal articles.

Dr. Michael Alvarez, a professor of political science at Caltech who was Dr. Sinclair’s mentor, said that as a graduate student “she exemplified all the qualities of a brilliant scholar with great integrity and boundless energy and enthusiasm.”

Dr. Alvarez, who is also a Mayfield Board of Trustees member and father of Sophia ’19, said Dr. Sinclair is a “wonderful role model” for our girls.

“She continues the Mayfield tradition of helping those around her and in her community,” he said.

Dr. Sinclair is also the co-founder of the startup Magnify, a civic engagement platform connecting like-minded people to work on projects involving civic, political and environmental issues. She is particularly proud of the startup, which she not only built herself, but based on her research.

“I think Magnify is my greatest illustration of ‘Actions Not Words,’ ” she said. “When you see something that needs to be changed in your community, you post it as a project and use social media and social pressure to make the world a better place.”

After graduating from Mayfield Senior School in 1998, Dr. Sinclair said she was inspired by Sr. Barbara’s teaching on the importance of social justice and service and spent a winter term volunteering with Casa Cornelia Law Center in San Diego. This Holy Child ministry is a public interest law center that provides pro bono legal services to primarily indigent immigrants who are victims of human and civil rights violations.

She is the mother of three boys—James, 7, and twins Miles and Charlie, 4— and married to Brian Rogers, who is also a professor at Washington University.  

Her ties to Mayfield are strong—as is the intellect gene in her family! She is the daughter of retired Academic Dean and English teacher Joan Sinclair. Her sister, alumna Laura Sinclair ’00, is a physicist in the Applied Physics Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder. Andy Sinclair, her younger brother, is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College.

Dr. Sinclair gave a special shoutout to her former calculus teacher, Melissa Tighe, Math Department Chair and Director of Innovation, for helping to fuel her love for math in high school. Before online courses were widely available, Dr. Sinclair took an advanced independent study math course through UC Berkeley her senior year at Mayfield to gain more experience doing line and surface integration.

With her experience as a college professor and with rigorous years of college studies behind her, our students asked Dr. Sinclair to give them some advice on graduation day about how to navigate their own college years.

“We know that Mayfield has prepared us academically,”  said Chloe Kessel ’19, ASB President. “But after we leave this amazing Mayfield bubble, where we are literally friends with every girl, how do we handle college life?”

Also, they said they want some strategies for living in a time marked by often divisive discourse.

“The best thing about Mayfield is how inclusive we are, how we are a family and respect each other and love each other,” said Zoe Cerrillo ’19. “Now we are five months away from being independent, things are going to change—we have to wrap our minds around that.”

Although we don't know exactly what Dr. Sinclair will say to the Class of 2019, we are confident of the sentiment: Her words will be rooted in her love and gratitude for the “action-based love” at the heart of her Holy Child education and modeled by her extraordinary teacher, Sr. Barbara.
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Established in 1931, Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, CA is a Catholic, independent, college preparatory school for young women grades 9-12. Noted for its rigorous academic program, which includes 21 Advanced Placement and Honors courses, Mayfield’s curriculum is underscored by a philosophy of educating the “whole child,” which also encourages commitment to and excellence in the arts, athletics, community service and spiritual growth. The nurturing environment at Mayfield Senior School allows each student to flourish in an atmosphere of personal attention.