As students trickle into Dean for Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd’s Introduction to Music Theory class, she plays them a piece of music—Duke Ellington’s “Satin Doll.”  She then asks the roughly 20 student class to compare the piece to one they heard last class, and plays them two more seemingly dissimilar pieces—“Smoke on the Water” and the “Mission: Impossible” theme song. Using the piano and the whiteboard as teaching aids, she explains a variety of terms that might hopelessly confuse a non-musician, explaining those technical aspects of music that most of us never even consider.

For Judd, teaching Introduction to Music Theory is just one of many priorities. As dean for academic affairs, she oversees the College’s entire academic program, and is responsible for a wide range of topics from faculty and curriculum to the art museum and the Coastal Studies Center.

However, she emphasized the importance of remaining connected to the classroom.

“I don’t think any dean at a place like Bowdoin should stop being active in their research and their classroom,” said Judd. “That’s what the heart and soul of the place is about.”

Judd has been passionate about music from an early age, and attended Rice University to study musical performance as an oboist. However, she soon transitioned to the study of music theory, attending King’s College in London for graduate school, and teaching at a variety of institutions including the University of Pennsylvania. 

During her time at UPenn, Judd became more deeply involved with undergraduate students and became interested in “working with some of the bigger questions” of education. Accepting the position of Dean for Academic Affairs at Bowdoin in 2006 gave her the opportunity to pursue both of those areas further.

“One of the things that I really valued about my own education [at Rice] was the intimacy of the experience with undergraduates,” said Judd. “Being in an environment where one could focus on that was something I was excited about doing.”

As dean for academic affairs, Judd manages a wide variety of programs at the College. Most students know that the Department of Academic Affairs is in charge of hiring, supporting and granting tenure to faculty as well as organizing curricula. However, the office also oversees many areas unknown to most: Bowdoin’s libraries, museums and research centers; its academic support programs such as Off-Campus Study; and its academic spaces and new building projects, to name a few.

Judd described her own role in the department as one of oversight and communication, and emphasized the importance of working with faculty members, “because ultimately the curriculum depends on what kind of faculty we have.”

The daily routine of the Department of Academic Affairs encompasses a wide range of activities, from helping departments searching for a new faculty member to meeting with the Curriculum and Educational Policy Committee (CEPC) to attending faculty symposium. Jennifer Scanlon, associate dean for faculty, emphasized that frequent daily communication is keeps the office running.

The two most visible roles of the Department of Academic Affairs on campus are the hiring of new faculty and the granting of tenure to existing faculty; Judd plays a significant role in both. The search for new faculty members begins with the CEPC, which crafts a search plan. Judd must then interview all tenure-track finalists, and once the department has made its recommendation, she has the authority to choose a candidate.

The process of granting tenure is even more involved and requires approval by several more groups. Tenured faculty members in a professor’s department make a recommendation to the Committee on Appointments, Promotion and Tenure. 

The committee makes a recommendation to Judd, who then makes a separate, independent recommendation. Both then go on to President Barry Mills, whose final recommendation goes before the Board of Trustees.

“Our ideal would be that if we hire well, mentor well, and do our evaluations well, that everybody who stood for tenure would get tenure,” said Judd. “It’s incredibly important—because of what tenure confers—that the College maintains its standards of the excellence of teaching and research.”

Judd sees the Department of Academic Affairs as having three broad priorities beyond its specific responsibilities on campus. First, it must support faculty, which both Scanlon and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Barry Logan agrees is one of its most important goals. 

Second, the Office works to create a vibrant intellectual community on campus, which entails a broad range of areas, from curricula to resources such as the library. According to Logan, one of the department’s main priorities is to “represent and support the academic core and to organize the curriculum for students.”

According to Judd, a third, less obvious priority of the department is to make connections in the academic program that are “right at this moment.” For example, the College’s new Digital and Computational Studies initiative gives students the opportunity to learn about the intersections between fields like computer science and the humanities.

“We were looking to create opportunities for our faculty and our students to begin to move outside boundaries,” said Judd.

Judd emphasized that she feels lucky to have come to Bowdoin at a time when such exciting initiatives were taking place. She pointed to the creation of Studzinski Recital Hall and the establishment of comprehensive distribution requirements as important reforms that she was happy to have been a part of.

For Judd, one of the most difficult aspects of her job is reaching out to such a diverse community of scholars and students.

“The greatest thrill and privilege of my job is getting to represent such a distinguished faculty, but that’s also the challenge,” said Judd, who must figure out “how to help support [them] and take advantage of all the knowledge they have for the best use of the institution.”

Although the job can be challenging, Judd emphasizes its rewarding aspects.

“I have the opportunity to work at an amazing institution with a really strong sense of who it is, to support an incredibly talented faculty…and to work with an incredibly diverse student body,” said Judd. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Editor's note: The print version of this article mistakenly noted that Judd arrived in 2007, not 2006. The web version has since been corrected. An earlier version of this article misquoted Judd. She refered to the Bowdoin faculty as "distinguished" not "distinct."