Cristle Collins Judd is serious about the liberal arts.
"A liberal arts college education teaches people how to think, how to write, how to communicate, how to deal with knowledge, how to explore new problems," said Judd, Bowdoin's new dean for academic affairs. "Those are the things that prepare people for engaged citizenship and leadership."
To make certain Bowdoin produces students who have these qualities, Judd said that making the transition between different aspects of student life "seamless" is crucial.
"There are places from the curricular, to the co-curricular, and to the extracurricular where we can probably make the continuum smoother," she said. "I see that as the number one challenge facing us in terms of academic life."
Judd points to the arts as an area at Bowdoin where there is a possibility of creating such a continuum and would like to see the arts as central to the College in the 21st century. She believes that now, with such projects as the museum renovation and the new recital hall well underway, is the right time for this to happen.
"The crucial point is the arts within the liberal arts. This is not somehow to have arts instead of or with greater priority than sciences, social sciences, or humanities," Judd said. "It is recognizing that most students are or ought to be really well-rounded students, that we ought to be in a place where the very best students can come and have a full expression of their intellectual capabilities, including those artistic capabilities."
Judd said that while she sees supporting the arts as important, the Office of the Dean for Academic Affairs' primary focus needs to be on "supporting the faculty here in their lives as scholar-creators and as teachers."
"Life as a faculty member goes through a career trajectory from the time you arrive at a place like Bowdoin," Judd said. "To come to a place like Bowdoin means that people have to be both extraordinary teachers and scholars or artists of distinction. Supporting that means making it possible for people to create and research."
According to Judd, that includes making sure professors have sabbatical opportunities, connecting into various kinds of grants, and giving professors a course load that allows them to pursue their work outside of the classroom.
This research component and an excellence in teaching are necessary for professors at Bowdoin to be awarded tenure. A third component of service is also a criterion. Judd believes that neither teaching nor research trumps the other.
Judd said teaching and research go "hand-in-hand" because excellent teachers are teachers who are engaged and active scholars and creators.
"We can't and won't do one without the other," Judd said. "That's what liberal arts colleges do particularly well?they integrate those two features. So it's not teaching versus research, or research versus teaching. It's intertwined teaching and research."
While it is important to foster this type of environment for faculty, Judd also believes it is essential to create a similar setting for students that allows them to engage intellectually. A large component of this is ensuring that the new curriculum requirements work smoothly.
"The faculty thought long and hard about [the new curriculum], so we are in a place of really having worked on the curriculum and the majors," said Judd. "But for someone who is new looking from the outside, we still have these moments of division between what's academic and what's extracurricular."
One area that Judd identified as in need of improvement was advising. She said that while engagement with and accessibility of faculty was "off the charts" in a survey of graduating seniors, students indicated advising was lacking.
"I found that an interesting sort of contrast, because it's clear that the individual relationships students make with faculty here are something that they find not only highly satisfying but a crucial part of the Bowdoin experience," Judd said. "The question is how formalized mechanisms are understood, or how we make that part of it work."
Judd plans to team up with the dean of student affairs to work on this and other aspects of what she referred to as "the living-learning community."
In addition to her dean position, Judd also serves as a professor of music. Although her hectic schedule will keep her from teaching this semester, Judd has found other ways to interact with students. She is forming a student advisory board for the office.
"I think it's really important for us to have a way both to work with students who are on committees, which we do, but for me to have a sounding board," she said, "and be able to work with students and have a conversation about initiatives that are coming out of the office but also the chance to hear back."