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Judy Ledgerwood takes reins of Liberal Arts and Sciences

August 28, 2017

Judy Ledgerwood

Veteran anthropology professor Judy Ledgerwood, who for the past five years served as director of NIU’s internationally renowned Center for Southeast Asian Studies, has stepped into the role of acting dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

With 18 departments spanning the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences is the largest of NIU’s six undergraduate colleges. The college touches virtually all new students to the university, regardless of their majors, through the wide array of general education courses housed within its departments.

“The faculty, staff and students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will be well-served by Dr. Ledgerwood,” NIU Acting President Lisa Freeman said. “Her research, teaching and engagement activities in Southeast Asian Studies have garnered national and international recognition for NIU. In addition to her numerous faculty accomplishments, Dr. Ledgerwood is an effective administrator and proven leader. She has demonstrated excellence in all aspects of NIU’s mission.”

Ledgerwood’s appointment was approved Aug. 17 by the NIU Board of Trustees, and became immediately effective. She replaces Chris McCord, who was named acting executive vice president and provost earlier this summer.

“Judy Ledgerwood’s experiences as a leader and a faculty member make her exceptionally well-positioned to lead the college,” McCord said. “She has overwhelming support from her colleagues.”

Ledgerwood holds a Ph.D. in anthropology and Southeast Asian Studies from Cornell University. She arrived at NIU in 1996 as an assistant professor and later served six years as anthropology chair before becoming director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

In all of her roles, she has helped put NIU on the map as a global institution, reaching far and wide to mentor students from the region and abroad and to create partnerships with other universities, museums and cultural institutions.

Ledgerwood successfully negotiated formal exchange agreements with universities in Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma), Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. She served as project director for a number of federally funded leadership programs for youth from Southeast Asia and has received more than a dozen grants, including from the U.S. Department of Education, the Department of State, the Cambodian Ministry of Education, the Center for Khmer Studies, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Henry Luce Foundation.

Closer to home, Ledgerwood’s engagement with Chicago’s Cambodian American Heritage Museum has helped resettled victims of the Khmer Rouge regime tell their stories and preserve their heritage. Her work on an exhibit about the 1970s Cambodian holocaust is now a permanent part of that museum’s collection.

NIU students have described Ledgerwood, who has trained two generations of Southeast Asia scholars, as an inspirational teacher who “goes the second mile” to make transformational learning experiences accessible to all. In 2015, she was recognized with NIU’s Presidential Engagement Professorship.

“I have a great commitment to the liberal arts foundation of higher education,” Ledgerwood said. “NIU is strongly positioned to provide transformational experiences for students, with relatively small class sizes, engaged activities outside the classroom and personal attention from faculty who are outstanding in their fields.”

History professor Eric Jones, who teaches courses on nearly every country in Southeast Asian, has been named acting director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies. He has served as assistant center director for the past four years and previously directed undergraduate studies for the Department of History.