The Board of Trustees of Claremont Graduate University (CGU) installed Deborah Freund as its fifteenth president during a ceremony on Sept. 15. As CGU’s first female president she joins four other female presidents out of the seven in the Claremont University Consortium (CUC).
In accepting the position, Freund called CGU an “institution that specializes in applied research and research that brings the disciplines together to solve problems.”
According to CGU’s website, one of Freund’s strengths is her experience “working to encourage interdisciplinary opportunities” at Syracuse University, where she served as Vice-Chancellor and Provost for Academic Affairs from 1999-2006. Her own interdisciplinary research focuses on health economics.
Freund said she was excited to join the community of female presidents working within CUC.
“I never would have imagined having such experienced women that I could rely on and also call my friends,” she said, adding, “It’s a lot of fun.”
“The only critique I can make about CGU’s 86 years of groundbreaking graduate education is that it took this long to finally hire a female president!” she said at the Installation Ceremony.
Scripps College President Lori Bettison-Varga echoed the sentiments of her newest colleague.
“You feel a sense of esprit de corps having the other women presidents here,” she said.
Freund noted that a strong female presence is not unique to the presidents at CUC, pointing to the Ivy League institutions, where four out of eight presidents are female.
“If you look everywhere, you will see women in college presidencies, [and] women who are becoming CEOs,” she said.
Still, Bettison-Varga acknowledged that American society in general has a lot of progress to make toward gender equality. She noted that there were many times in her career when she considered opting out of a top leadership position in an effort to balance what she called a “dual career”—raising her three children as well as managing a career in academia.
“Even today when there are so many talented, bright, assertive women, [ours is] still a society that expects women to stay at home,” Bettison-Varga said, “One of the elements that I think is really wonderful about having other women colleagues is that they have gone through many of the same challenges in terms of work and life balance.”
Harvey Mudd President Maria Klawe said she was looking forward to working with Freund.
“Debbie is a highly collaborative, passionate, energetic, and generally fearless leader,” Klawe said. “It’s really fun working with her and I’m confident we will achieve great things with her in the group of presidents. She’s a great addition to Claremont.”