President Judd Reflects on end of Semester and Looks Ahead to 2020 in December Newsletter

As we approach the end of the semester and calendar year there is a flurry of activity on campus: the library and campus center are open 24/7 and students are intently focused on their work and the culmination of four months of seminar discussions, internships, fieldwork, and campus activities. Adding a seasonal flare to the semester countdown, a pre-winter snowfall recently gave way to a host of clever snow sculptures around campus.

December is a time when many take stock of the past year and consider goals for what lies ahead. This year certainly provided ample opportunities for the Sarah Lawrence community to be proud. Our faculty were recognized for their excellence in the classroom and beyond, and earned Tony nominations and Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships. Students applied lessons from the classroom to current events, traveling to Washington, D.C. to lobby the country’s lawmakers. They also remained committed to civic engagement, and even had the chance to showcase their work at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. The College completed and surpassed the most ambitious capital campaign in school history and received its largest-ever programmatic grant.

Our small institution has an outsized impact, and this list provides just a few examples of the leadership of this exceptional community.

Two and a half years ago when I arrived at Sarah Lawrence, I described a sense of palpable momentum and my excitement at being entrusted with the privilege of carrying forward the mission of this distinguished college. I did so fully cognizant of the debates about the necessity and continuing relevance of the liberal arts and the very real—even existential—challenges facing higher education, especially small, tuition-dependent institutions like ours. Since my arrival, I have been singularly focused on engaging faculty, staff, students, alumni, and trustees in conversations about the values and priorities that will guide us as we chart a way forward that ensures not only Sarah Lawrence’s present excellence, but our sustained future.

Consider this: when Brandon Borrman graduated from SLC in 1999, it’s unlikely he envisioned a pathway through life that would lead him to become the Vice President of Global Communications at Twitter. Not because he wasn’t ready for that kind of position, but because in 1999, Twitter did not exist—and would not for another seven years! But as a graduate of Sarah Lawrence, Brandon was ready for a life-long pursuit of intellectual interests and adaptation to new challenges, new industries, and in fact whole new ways of communicating that have proven revolutionary.

This goes to the heart of what Sarah Lawrence offers: an environment in which smart, creative students who think outside the box, working closely with extraordinarily dedicated faculty, are able to connect their passions to create not only their futures, but the future of our world. Our remarkable undergraduate program is linked to a bright constellation of early childhood, pre-college, and unique, precedent-setting graduate programs that demonstrate how a small liberal arts college, set in one of the world’s greatest metropolitan areas, can address the lifelong learning needs of students of any age and interest. As we enter a new decade, indeed with our second century on the horizon, Sarah Lawrence must continue to build on our historic excellence in a manner that affirms the College’s core values, builds on our key strengths, embraces new opportunities, and continues to position Sarah Lawrence as a leader in higher education. To that end, I am excited to share with you a few important innovations for the College:

Cinema Sarah Lawrence, about which I’ve written to you before, is one such example of the important new opportunities we have embraced. The program combines our strengths in film and experiential learning with our deep professional networks to create a novel, immersive approach to off-site learning culminating in the production of a professionally crafted feature film.

Similarly, recognizing the intersection of our strengths in writing and film, in 2020-21 our MFA in Writing program will offer a new track in screenwriting.

Another area of opportunity grows out of our work in genetic counseling. Fifty years ago, SLC established the first-of-its-kind master’s degree in Human Genetics to meet the needs of a changing scientific and healthcare landscape. Now in the works is a graduate certificate that will be an important complement to our master’s degree and fill a key educational need in an area for which the social, ethical, humanistic perspective Sarah Lawrence brings has never been more urgently needed.

Sarah Lawrence Journeys, a new partnership between our Alumni Relations and Global Education offices, gives alumni the chance to relive their Sarah Lawrence education on a global scale. Inaugural trips will take place in May and July 2020. Ron Afzal will be the “don” for a trip to Southern Greece, while Roland Dollinger will lead alumni and friends on a tour of Berlin’s storied past.

Last but not least, SLC will generate new revenues, awareness, and interest in the College by welcoming Exploration Summer Programs (EXPLO) to campus. For 40 years EXPLO has brought middle and high school students to residential and day programs that provide pre-college learners with an immersion in the liberal and creative arts. In 2020, Sarah Lawrence will join the group of selective colleges that host EXPLO programs, welcoming hundreds of middle and early high school students to our campus. Concurrently, we are working to ensure that the mix of SLC-directed summer courses and institutes reaches a growing audience.

From early childhood education to graduate studies and beyond, Sarah Lawrence has an extraordinary history as one of the few liberal arts colleges in the country that offers—and encourages—a lifetime of learning. This history will be the foundation not only of the College’s next decade, but also our next 100 years as we look towards our centennial in 2026. As it has done since its beginning, this College will rise to meet societal needs, adapt creatively to overcome challenges, and instill in generations of students to come an intellectual rigor that prepares them for today and for the future.

I wish the Sarah Lawrence community a joyous end of 2019 and hope you’ll share my excitement for 2020 and the future of our College. As I often close my remarks at alumni events: “Here’s to you and here’s to Sadie Lou!”


Cristle Collins Judd
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.