President Karen R. Lawrence
Karen R. Lawrence was named the tenth president of Sarah Lawrence College in August 2007. She previously served as Dean of the School of Humanities at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), where she co-chaired the Humanities Commission charged with formulating the University of California’s twenty-first century role as a national and international model for the humanities in higher education. Prior to her Deanship at UCI, President Lawrence was a member and chair of the Department of English at the University of Utah.
She attended Smith College for two years and received her B.A. degree in English, magna cum laude, from Yale University. Dr. Lawrence was among the first women to graduate from Yale when it became coeducational. She earned an M.A. in English from Tufts University and her Ph.D. in English, with distinction, from Columbia University.
During her tenure at Sarah Lawrence, President Lawrence has worked to enhance the College’s unique educational philosophy in an institutional setting that fosters rigorous intellectual inquiry across disciplinary boundaries. She has garnered resources for new initiatives in Environmental Studies, partnering with the Hudson River Valley Environmental Educational Institute in Yonkers to create the Sarah Lawrence College Center for the Urban River at Beczak. Under her leadership, the College has received support for initiatives in Arts and Technology; faculty chairs in Asian Studies, sustainable design, and Writing; and for significant expansion of scholarship funds for students. Building on the College’s history of linking theory and practice, intellectual inquiry and practical knowledge, President Lawrence has fostered extra-curricular programs—like SLCeeds—to help students test and develop their ideas in real world situations. At the same time, she has sought to strengthen the College’s ties with the Yonkers community as well as student community and activities on campus.
President Lawrence is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on its Higher Education Working Group on Global Issues, as well as the Executive Committee of the Annapolis Group. She has served as a member of the Women’s Leadership Network, the American Council of Education Commission on Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Equity, the Presidents’ Leadership Coalition, and the board of the Commission of Independent Colleges and Universities.
A widely respected English and Irish literature scholar and teacher, President Lawrence has continued to teach at SLC periodically while serving as President. She had served in leadership positions in her field, including president of the International James Joyce Foundation, and the Society for the Study of Narrative Literature. Her books include The Odyssey of Style in Ulysses; Penelope Voyages: Women and Travel in the British Literary Tradition; Transcultural Joyce; Decolonizing Tradition: New Views of 20th Century "British" Literary Canons; Who's Afraid of James Joyce? and Techniques for Living: Fiction and Theory in the Work of Christine Brooke-Rose. View collected works»
Throughout her career, President Lawrence has received numerous awards and professional accolades, including a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, the Ramona Cannon Award for Distinguished Teaching in the Humanities, and the University of Utah’s prestigious Rosenblatt Prize for Excellence in research, teaching, and service.
President Lawrence is married to Peter Lawrence, Chief of Vascular Surgery and Director of the Gonda Vascular Center at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. They have two sons, Andrew and Jeffrey.