By Carol P. Bartold
Feb. 8, 2017: Dr. Cristle Collins Judd, senior program officer for higher education and scholarship in the humanities at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, has been named the eleventh president of Sarah Lawrence College. Dr. Judd will succeed Dr. Karen R. Lawrence, the college's current president, in July of 2017.
Dr. Judd is a graduate of the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, where she earned her bachelor of music degree in music performance and her master of music degree in musicology. She earned both the master of music and PhD in music theory from King's College, London University.
At the Mellon Foundation, Dr. Judd has worked with college and university officials throughout the country not only to address issues of diversity, inclusive excellence, access to higher education, and the cost of that education but also to understand and communicate the value of the liberal arts education.
"The argument, I think, for the liberal arts is that career paths are going to unfold in ways across people's lives that require incredible nimbleness and flexibility," Dr. Judd said. "In our world, your first job will not be your last job." She added that a liberal arts education trains people to develop aptitudes for critical thinking, problem-solving, and the ability to attack new problems.
She credits her musical education and background for helping her build leadership roles. A music theorist, she explained, develops analytical capacities to think about structure and the big picture while understanding the details that animate the big picture. The theorist must be able to move back and forth between the big picture and the details, never losing sight of one or the other. A music historian focuses on understanding culture and context and on sensitivity to the particulars of a given situation, while a performer learns to work in collaboration and within a heightened sense of communication and expression.
Dr. Judd emphasized that, at this moment, it is important to recognize that history, philosophy, and literature help people understand the past, the future, and each other. The liberal arts, she pointed out, exemplify skills of empathy and ways of living that help people understand the nature of what work is and prepare them to think about their lives.
"I, and many, would argue that the value of the liberal arts education and the Sarah Lawrence College education is actually more relevant today than ever," Dr. Judd said. "The evidence of outcomes is there." The college sector, she added, needs to be prepared to demonstrate and talk about those outcomes.
Also important to understand, Dr. Judd pointed out, is what value living in an intentional, diverse community on a residential campus adds to the educational experience. "So much of education happens not just in the classroom, but in everything that surrounds the classroom," she noted. "This means looking very creatively at and being cognizant of the college's core values."
From the 2008 financial crisis forward, Dr. Judd stated, every college in the country has been examining the balance between how to maintain access and contain costs while continuing to provide a transformative education.
Sarah Lawrence College, she said, stayed true to the arts and humanities roots of its liberal arts background. "This is part of the challenge and part of the incredible attraction for me in coming to an institution that has, from its beginning, articulated an innovative approach to education and a willingness to continue to innovate while staying true to those core liberal arts values."
Pictured here: Dr. Cristle Collins Judd, newly named president of Sarah Lawrence College.
Photo courtesy Judith Schwartzstein, Vice President for Publicity, Sarah Lawrence College