President Judd Looks to Beginning of Academic Year in August Newsletter, From the President's Desk

Dear Members of the Sarah Lawrence Community,

Mid-August is an exciting time to be on a college campus: there is an air of expectation and, with each day, the growing anticipation of the return of faculty and students and the arrival of the incoming class. While this rhythm and ritual of return occurs at the beginning of every academic year, August 31st will mark a special point of beginning for Sarah Lawrence as we welcome the Class of 2023 in the newly opened Barbara Walters Campus Center. (Indeed, the welcome of students and families will be the first official event to be held in the BWCC.) The College’s incoming class, #SLC2023, was chosen from the largest and most competitive cohort of applicants in our history, continuing a trend of growth in applications over the last five years.


Watching the BWCC take shape over the past 18 months has been a source of increasing excitement(as those of you who follow my Instagram know as I have captured key milestones with increasing frequency!) It has been a special pleasure to share the good news that this donor-funded project, the first new building on campus in 15 years, will be completed on-time and on-budget! (If you have a moment, the time lapse video of the construction is impressive.) Just as the outdoor Remy Theatre, which opened last spring, has quickly come to feel like an integral part of our campus, so too will the Barbara Walters Campus Center.We will formally celebrate the opening of the BWCC during Family Weekend at the end of October as we also celebrate the successful conclusion of the College’s $200 million capital campaign.

We know the Barbara Walters Campus Center will be not only a meeting place for members of the campus, but a new opportunity for our engagement with our surrounding community: a cultural and intellectual hub. Fully accessible, the building’s green roof will flow seamlessly into new landscaping at Andrews Circle and the beautiful atrium will act as a new campus main street, connecting Heimbold to Westlands. Among the many sustainable features of the building are the white oak table tops that were locally milled from trees that came down to make way for the building. And in an important connection to its campus past, the landscaping will include a cherry tree. The Center also provides a new venue that will greatly enhance the College’s role as a thought-convener and thought-leader, with new small and large spaces for bringing people together both informally and formally.

Throughout its history, Sarah Lawrence, with our model of progressive education, has been a convening place for knowledge explored through discourse and dialogue and rooted in the pursuit of our motto, “wisdom with understanding.”

Like many of you, I suspect, the recent news of Toni Morrison’s death was not only saddening, but offered an opportunity to reflect on her important and prophetic voice. In 1988, the year she won the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved, Toni was the Sarah Lawrence commencement speaker. Her speech, recently published in the collection The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations, is worth a re-read. Written 31 years ago, it still speaks very much to our time, as she discusses the importance and nature of education:

" education I do not mean passing on monologues, but engaging in dialogues. Listening, assuming sometimes that I have a history, a language, a view, an idea, a specificity. Assuming what I know may be useful, may enhance what you know, may extend to complete it. My memory is as necessary to yours as your memory is to mine."

Dialogue—built on the deep listening Ms. Morrison described and requiring questioning and examination of issues and ideas from every angle—is a pillar of a Sarah Lawrence education. 

In 2017, we inaugurated a year-long exploration of the theme of “Democracy and Education” as a way to take up some of the most pressing issues of our time, and last year we extended that focus through the theme “Difference in Dialogue.”  This academic year, we will continue to explore what “Democracy and Education” means, focusing on the theme “e pluribus unum”—out of many, one. 

E pluribus unum. We encounter this national motto, quite literally, every day, on every coin we carry. I hope you will join us as we explore the expansiveness, the limitations—the contours—of this complex, aspirational idea through a series of lectures and events, as we examine what this motto means for the United States in 2019 and what it means for the College as it approaches its second century of existence. We will delve into key issues and topics related to identity, nationality, immigration, religion, belonging, and civic engagement to expand our understanding of each other and the world we live in. Watch for information on the ways you can engage with us in this theme on campus and beyond.

Out of many, one… Sarah Lawrence individuals—passionate, smart, creative, out-of-the-box—together comprise a vibrant community made stronger by the cultural and intellectual diversity each of us brings. I look forward to welcoming our newest students into this community and to the exciting work ahead of us as we commence the College's 92nd year.


Cristle Collins Judd, President
Instagram: @slcprez

About Sarah Lawrence College

Founded in 1926, Sarah Lawrence is a prestigious, coeducational liberal arts college that consistently ranks among the leading liberal arts colleges in the country. Sarah Lawrence is known for its pioneering approach to education, rich history of impassioned intellectual and civic engagement, and vibrant, successful alumni. In close proximity to the unparalleled offerings of New York City, the historic campus is home to an intellectually curious and diverse community.