Kimberly Cassidy
President, Bryn Mawr College

Greetings on Behalf of the Academy

On behalf of Bryn Mawr College and all liberal arts colleges, I offer our congratulations to Sarah Lawrence and our warmest welcome to Cristle Collins Judd on her inauguration.

Sarah Lawrence has always embraced a progressive model of education, invested its resources in faculty who are deeply committed to their students, and valued the full range of the liberal arts. Ahead of many of its peers, Sarah Lawrence recognized that the creative and performing arts were critical components of a liberal arts education. This exceptional institution deserves exceptional leadership, and has secured such a leader in Cristle Judd.

While those of you at Sarah Lawrence already recognize many of Cristle’s remarkable strengths, I want to share a story about Cristle to add to your insights.

I first met Cristle at an annual meeting of provosts of liberal arts colleges in the northeast. This group gathers for professional development, and, to be honest, for commiseration: serving as provost is a tough job. This particular meeting took place in Fall 2008 in the midst of the fallout from the financial crisis. I am sure that our hosts for that year—Bowdoin, and Cristle in particular—were wondering if it might not be best to cancel. But Cristle went forward and in so doing, was acting on two priorities.

The first was the importance of bringing people together: to share ideas, to find opportunities for collaboration, to remember to look forward, and to take a moment for camaraderie.

Her second priority was lobster. How could we come to Maine and not eat lobster? And so we did, even as we ate it with few other frills in a building where the heat was set at 50 degrees—I swear. Those Maine colleges clearly assume that down jackets are a necessary indoor accessory.

Kimberly CassidyI am not telling this story to suggest that Cristle will cut budgets so that your students and faculty can eat lobster regularly. Instead, this is a parable about the ability to remain optimistic, to set priorities and recognize special opportunities (eat lobster sometimes, even if you have to wear wool socks), and to recognize that higher education requires community and colleagueship to thrive.

These are critical qualities at a time when headlines suggest that higher education is in crisis. The pace of change is great and the financial challenges are real, but so are the opportunities. Technology provides infinite connectivity and unparalleled possibilities for adaptive learning. The population attending college is shifting, and with these changes come opportunities to enroll diverse students who bring new perspectives to the classroom. Machines will increasingly be able to do sophisticated work, but it will be those who have the skills provided by a liberal arts education who will know how to direct and use that work.

Cristle is the right person to lead Sarah Lawrence through this time of rapid change in our higher education landscape. She brings the optimism, the creativity, and the professional experience to recognize the opportunities before her and to respond in ways that make the most of every situation—decisively, prudently, nimbly, and with a healthy sense of humor. Within a climate of respect and trust that she creates, Cristle has the ability to carry forward a promising vision for the future. She brings Sarah Lawrence the leadership qualities to realize the potential of this moment.

Cristle, I wish you and Sarah Lawrence all the best.