Hamilton Hall decorated with banners printed with gradients of blue and red ad green and magenta with the UArts logo in white type

Introducing Kerry Walk, PhD

University of the Arts’ Board of Trustees Announces the Selection of Kerry Walk, PhD, as the University’s Fifth President

Kerry Walk, PhD, currently president of Marymount Manhattan College (MMC) on New York’s Upper East Side, will become University of the Arts’ fifth president and CEO on Aug. 1. Walk, a champion of student learning and success, is the first woman to assume the UArts presidency. 

 

Photo of Kerry Walk PhD standing in an outdoor location with leafy bushes and shrubs in the background against granite stonework. Kerry is leaning on a stone bench with her right arm on an armrest. She is looking directly at the viewer with a big smile. Kerry is wearing a buttoned black top with an upright collar, slightly zig-zagging pinstripes across the entire garment.

 

“Kerry is a proven dynamic leader in higher education who espouses the values that shape UArts’ extraordinary university community,” said Judson A. Aaron BM ’81 (Saxophone), chair of the university’s Board of Trustees. “As a highly experienced college president passionate about arts education, she is the perfect person to capitalize on our momentum as UArts embraces its next chapter. Perhaps more importantly, it is clear she believes deeply in our cross-disciplinary educational imperative, which aims to nurture our students’ ability to think, adapt and innovate in preparation for professional success and a rich, creative life.”

“UArts’ mission, to advance human creativity, has never been more important and relevant than it is today,” said Walk. “As UArts students and alumni have constantly demonstrated for nearly 150 years, artists and creative thinkers are at the forefront of innovation and meaningful change in our society, striving for a more just and equitable world. It is an honor to be chosen to lead the university at this pivotal moment.”

Walk received her Bachelor’s degree in English from Wellesley College and her Master’s and PhD in English Literature from University of California, Berkeley. She focused on Shakespeare,  both on the page and on the stage. Prior to her presidency at MMC, where she has served for eight years, she was provost and interim president of Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles and spent more than two decades teaching and leading major initiatives at Harvard University, Princeton University and Pitzer College. 

“What stood out most to me was Kerry’s superior understanding of the workings of a private arts-based university—the challenges we face, as well as the need to work collaboratively with and support the faculty and staff,” said Search Committee member and Interim Director for Creative Writing Steven Kleinman. “As she has demonstrated throughout her career and across numerous institutions, she will be an inspirational president with the ability to lead our university into the future.”

At MMC, Walk has led the college through a critical time for higher education through her abiding belief in building strong, inclusive communities and engagement in proactive and collaborative long-range planning. Through her leadership, the college has focused on the convergence of creative practice and critical inquiry infused with social justice, diversity and innovation. She has secured significant funds, including a $25 million gift, the largest in MMC’s history, to support scholarships and the creation of the Judith Mara Carson Center for Visual Arts, a transdisciplinary hub of creativity built to support its students’ creative endeavors. The Judy, as it is better known, is a perfect emblem of Walk’s philosophy that sits at the intersection of the liberal and creative arts and guides innovative work that spans disciplines. Walk also recently launched MMC’s Center for Health, Human Development and Creativity, which encourages students and faculty to pursue opportunities for creative research and collaboration as students prepare to enter and transform health and well-being professions. 

Walk’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility, a fundamental UArts value, has been a hallmark of her long career. Among her first actions when arriving at MMC was to appoint the college’s first DEI officer and form a presidential council to coordinate DEI efforts across the college, centering the work within the President’s Office. In 2021, amidst the pandemic, the college opened the Intercultural Center, a welcoming space to provide a safe, educational and social justice–oriented environment for students across marginalized groups. 

I am beyond thrilled to welcome President Walk to UArts. Her empathy was apparent from the moment we met her, and she has a keen understanding of student priorities and needs in today’s world. In all of our conversations, it was clear how much she believes in the power of art and education, which is what this community is all about.”
— Search Committee member and Student Union Head Alex McFadden ’24 Screenwriting (BFA)

Walk also launched CityEdge, a signature program that aims to broaden the college’s educational avenues by immersing students in New York–focused coursework, internships and other career-preparation programs. With $1.7 million in funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Walk built BRIDGE, a unique prison education initiative that strengthens the bonds between the college’s students on campus and those incarcerated at two correctional facilities for women in Westchester County, New York. 

Beginning in July 2022, a search committee comprising students, faculty, staff and trustees conducted the presidential search with executive search support from the firm Isaacson, Miller. The committee considered a pool of distinguished candidates from across the nation before the Board of Trustees unanimously elected Walk to the UArts presidency. Walk will succeed President and CEO David Yager, who has led the university since 2016 and is retiring on June 30. Board Chair Jud Aaron will serve as interim president for the month of July.

Introducing University of the Arts’ fifth president and CEO

Music credits: “Skylark,” composed by J.Mercer/H.Carmichael; arranged by Alan Baylock  Performed by University of the Arts’ “Z” Big Band, Matt Gallagher, director  Featured soloist: Ian Livingston; trumpets: Dan Horning, Spencer Sivco, John Polanco.