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Judith Clark reflects on her nearly three-decade tenure

Submitted on June 25, 2023 - 12:16pm
Judith Clark, 2023
Judith Clark, 2023. Photo by Leo Carmona

Judith grew up in Seattle in an academic family. Her father was a professor in the UW College of Engineering and her mother was an administrator in the Office of the UW Registrar. Education was always an important part of her life, but she was not always aware of its true value. She freely admits that as an undergraduate history major at the University of Washington (BA, 1970), she lacked the focus and commitment to benefit from all the opportunities offered through higher education. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree, life took her in a path far from academia. It wasn't until later in her life that she decided to return to her alma mater to pursue a master’s degree in art history (MA, 1996) at the School of Art, now the School of Art + Art History + Design (also known as the School).

With feelings of regret for missing out on the academic benefits as an undergrad, Judith describes her return to pursue a master’s degree as an act of redemption. Her experience as a mature graduate student allowed her to grasp the true value of education. During that time, she also had the opportunity to teach as a TA and directly work with students. It became clear to her that while she enjoyed art history, she was never going to go on to complete the PhD needed to work as an academic art historian. However, it was the experiences with students and love of art that ultimately led her to accept a job as an academic advisor at the School. This professional position was relatively new in academia. It offered lots of opportunity to listen to student needs and develop supportive programming that did not previously exist for students. Initially one thing was clear. Compared to other disciplines at UW, the study of the arts was not respected as a major that offered students a top undergrad degree followed by opportunities in the professional world. Changing that narrative has been the motive that has propelled Judith’s trajectory through the years.

Judith’s three main goals have been to support and guide students to achieve their academic milestones, to raise the community’s awareness of the value of an education in art, art history and design, and to help students recognize professional opportunities outside of the classroom. Over the years thanks to support from the faculty, directors and the excellence and teamwork of the advising staff, Judith’s office was able to create important programs and initiatives to respond and adapt to the inevitable changes that higher education institutions must face to ensure academic success for a diverse student body. Some of these programs spearheaded by Judith include quarterly events to help connect students with alumni and prepare for arts-related careers; the development of a Free Materials Library to help students acquire art supplies; and the creation of the popular Art on Loan program that placed student art in dozens of campus buildings and helped build an audience for student work.

“Since I arrived, I knew [the School's community] was something unique that I couldn't find anywhere else, and I just couldn’t let it go.”

Although she does not consider herself an art historian, Judith has always been inspired by and proud to support the disciplines of Art, Art History, and Design. While serving students was the main reason she stayed in her position, the community she found at the School also had a significant role in her tenure of nearly three decades. “Since I arrived, I knew it was something unique that I couldn't find anywhere else and I just couldn’t let it go” Judi says as she looks back in retrospect, adding “the school is a celebratory place by nature. We are all in one building where we hold classes, have exhibitions, attend lectures. It’s about students, staff and faculty sharing a place where creativity is always the major focus.”

By the time this interview was conducted, Judith had already been enjoying several weeks of retirement. While she is still in a transitional stage and contemplating various retirement activities, she [jokingly] asserts that another job is not her plan. For now, Judith is dedicated to spending time with her family and has plans to travel with her husband in the near future, which is something they both love. 

We wish Judith the best in a much-deserved retirement, and we thank her for all her contributions to make the School of Art + Art History + Design what it is today.

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