From the President's Desk: November 2021

Filed under:

Dear Members of the Sarah Lawrence Community,

As we look toward the College’s second century, the concluding promise of our mission statement serves as my touchstone for leadership: we prepare students to tackle the problems of, and thrive in, a complex and rapidly evolving world.

With that touchstone very much in mind, I am excited to announce the creation of a new genomics institute at Sarah Lawrence. The mission of this new institute, simply stated, is audacious: to expand access to the benefits of genetic and genomic science for all people.

We are living in a moment that is crying out for this intervention: the proliferation and ubiquitous deployment of genomic technologies hold extraordinary potential for improving human well-being but also carry profound ethical and societal implications. This complex and rapidly evolving field demands new kinds of professionals who bring together an understanding of science and technology with deeply embedded ethical and humanistic training. And this is where Sarah Lawrence excels: we educate people who can connect multiple disciplines to create novel solutions that meet emerging needs. The institute will be an inclusive educational community committed to the ethical, equitable, and effective integration of genomic technologies in society. As a center of thought leadership in genomics, it will work hand-in-hand with industry and community partners to to build a diverse, compassionate, thriving workforce.

Sarah Lawrence has a long history of identifying critical societal needs and responding with innovative educational programs. We did this 50 years ago when the College established the first ever graduate program in genetic counseling. The program pioneered a new field in healthcare, drawing on the disciplines of psychology, ethics, advocacy, biology, and medicine in a manner that thoroughly embodied the College’s philosophy of education and humanistic values. The Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics continues to exert extraordinary influence on the field; it remains the largest program in the U.S. and, with more than 1,000 alumni, has produced more genetic counselors than any other program in the world.

Because of this early and ongoing leadership, Sarah Lawrence stands ready to act. I am especially grateful to alumna Diane Baker MS ’79, a distinguished leader in genetic counseling, who joined with us to bring genetics and genomics leaders from industry, medicine, sciences, the academy, and advocacy organizations into conversations about the future of these fields and how Sarah Lawrence might best make an impact. A recent major gift—targeted at investing in the College’s strategic growth—has provided critical momentum to put these plans into action, leading to today’s announcement of the creation of this genomics institute and the launch of a search for a visionary leader to serve as its inaugural director.

I hope you share my excitement for the significance of this genomics institute in extending Sarah Lawrence’s impact in the world. As we look to our second century, this is a bold move for our small College: it is a critical intervention at a critical juncture, and a vital opportunity to tackle the problems of a complex and rapidly evolving world in a way that only Sarah Lawrence can.

I thank everyone who has been involved to get us to this moment, and I look forward to sharing this journey with all of you.


Cristle Collins Judd
Instagram: @slcprez

More Good News

Major Grant for Genetic Counseling Program

Our efforts to increase diversity of perspectives and experiences of those working in the field of genetic counseling were bolstered last week by a grant from the Warren Alpert Foundation. The Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics is one of five programs in the nation—along with those at the University of Pennsylvania, Boston University, Rutgers, and the University of Maryland—to form an Alliance to Increase Diversity in Genetic Counseling. SLC will receive $1.8 million, which will allow the College to provide a scholarship covering full tuition and living expenses for two genetic counseling students from underrepresented backgrounds for each year over the next five years. Read more


In December, Claire Davis, co-director of our Human Genetics graduate program, and undergraduate biology faculty member Drew Cressman will hold a shared class for graduate human genetics students and students in Cressman’s undergraduate genetics seminar. They’ll build familiarity with one another while working together on developing outreach and educational materials about genetics and genetic counseling. This class is the first event to come from a partnership between Davis and Cressman aimed at bringing together undergraduate and graduate students interested in genetics. I look forward to seeing what comes next from this partnership!

Meeting with Genetic Counselors

I am especially excited about the opportunities the genomics institute will create for our alumni and their colleagues in the field. Continuing education, training, and professional development will be among the institute’s core functions, as will fostering a sense of community among professionals. I look forward to meeting virtually with alumni of our Human Genetics program in December, along with Diane Baker and the program’s co-directors Claire Davis and Lindsey Alico Ecker MS ’11, to further discuss the myriad opportunities ahead of us.

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.