President Safa R. Zaki

Safa R. Zaki is the sixteenth president of Bowdoin College, a renowned psychologist and cognitive scientist, and the first woman to lead the College since its founding in 1794.
Safa Zaki headshot

Safa’s research focuses on how people divide the world into categories, using computational approaches to model cognitive processes in order to enrich our understanding of the human mind.

She is the recipient of funding from the National Institute of Mental Health, and her research has been published in journals including Psychological Science, Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, and the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, among many others.

Safa most recently served as dean of the faculty and the John B. McCoy and John T. McCoy Professor of Psychology at Williams College in Williamstown, MA. She joined the faculty at Williams in 2002 as assistant professor of psychology, after serving previously as a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University. She was promoted to associate professor at Williams in 2005 and to full professor in 2010. She twice chaired the Williams Program in Cognitive Science and was named Class of 1924 Professor of Psychology in 2021. Appointed dean of the faculty at Williams in 2020, she was named to the John B. McCoy and John T. McCoy Professorship in 2022.

Born in Egypt, Safa grew up in a number of countries, including Tanzania, Syria, Jordan, and Trinidad and Tobago. She earned her undergraduate degree in psychology at the American University in Cairo and traveled to the US in 1990 to pursue graduate education at Arizona State University, where she earned her master’s degree and doctorate, also in psychology.

Named to the Bowdoin presidency in March 2023 by unanimous vote of the Bowdoin College Board of Trustees, Safa began her duties on July 1, 2023, and was officially installed in an inauguration ceremony on Saturday, October 14, 2023.

Safa is married to Huff Templeton, whose work centers on inclusive economic development and entrepreneurship. The couple has two recent college graduates—Adly, from Williams College in 2020, and Sabrina, from Middlebury College in 2022.