Ronald D. Liebowitz was appointed as the 16th president of Middlebury College in April 2004. He has been on the Middlebury faculty since 1984, and prior to his appointment as president, he served as provost and executive vice president.
Under Liebowitz’s leadership, the College has sought to define a contemporary liberal arts education as one that creates connections between its foundational qualities and the larger world. As it has been for more than two centuries, Middlebury remains committed to providing the finest undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences; a large part of that is the successful retention and further recruitment of an exceptional faculty. But the College is also looking beyond the classrooms and labs, encouraging students to pursue project-based and other forms of experiential learning in order to develop the skills needed to contribute and succeed in a global economy. An example is the College’s success in the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2011 Solar Decathlon. The only liberal arts college to qualify in the history of the competition, Middlebury finished fourth out of 19 schools and won three of the decathlon’s ten categories outright. The team’s success not only underscores the power of a liberal arts education, but also speaks to the value of project-based learning experiences in a traditional liberal arts environment.
Also during Liebowitz’s presidency, the College developed the Project on Creativity and Innovation, now in its fifth year and offering many different programs that aim to make intellectual risk-taking and creative problem-solving second nature to Middlebury students. Most recently, Middlebury opened the Center for Social Entrepreneurship. The Center—through winter term courses, symposia, lectures, grants, and fellowships—seeks to provide students with the tools necessary to conceive of projects, design them, and implement them, all with the goal of improving peoples’ lives and bringing about a more just world through new ways of approaching old problems.
Building on Middlebury’s leadership in language learning and international studies, Liebowitz and the College have remained focused on the long-term goal of becoming the first truly global liberal arts college for the 21st century—a College that best prepares its graduates to meet the challenges they enter upon graduation.
Since Liebowitz took office, the institution has added the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California as a professional graduate school of Middlebury; established “4+1” dual-degree programs with Monterey, allowing Middlebury students to earn a B.A. and a master’s degree in just five years, in five different areas of international studies; established new C.V. Starr-Middlebury Schools Abroad in Africa (Cameroon), the Middle East (Alexandria, Egypt; Beer Sheva, Israel; and Amman, Jordan), and Japan (Tokyo), while adding sites at existing Schools Abroad in China, Latin America, Spain, Italy, and France; created an M.A. program in Chinese through the School of Chinese in collaboration with the Monterey Institute; and, in collaboration with Brandeis University, developed the College’s 10th intensive summer language School—the Brandeis-Middlebury School of Hebrew.
In addition, the College has launched the Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy (MMLA) and a for-profit company, Middlebury Interactive Languages (MIL), both of which are designed to introduce language learning to students at an early age. MMLA is modeled on the College’s 97-year-old Language Schools and offers students in grades 7-12 an intensive summer immersion program in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, and Spanish. MIL provides tools and courses for both online and bricks-and-mortar learning environments and is designed to help address a crucial national issue, the lack of access to high-quality foreign language learning in grades K-12. If successful, the new venture will also provide a new revenue source for the College, easing the pressure on tuition increases and reliance on the College’s endowment for operating support.
During a tenure that has included a global recession, President Liebowitz has received national recognition for his fiduciary leadership and stewardship of Middlebury College. Though the institution was not immune to the forces affecting greater national and global economies, Middlebury emerged from the financial crisis with a balanced budget, an intact mission, recalibrated financial models—and all without resorting to layoffs or curtailing need-blind admissions. During this time, Liebowitz made the bold step of initiating a policy that would limit annual comprehensive fee increases to within a one percent increase of the Consumer Price Index. Known as “CPI+1,” Liebowitz’s policy reflected an understanding that comprehensive fee increases that outpaced inflation could not continue without a negative impact on the institution. In addition, Liebowitz’s tenure has been marked by record fundraising totals and alumni participation in annual giving.
President Liebowitz is a political geographer who specializes in Russian economic and political geography. He has authored scholarly articles related to Soviet and Russian regional economic policy, edited three books, and is the recipient of a number of national fellowships, including those from the National Council on Soviet and East European Research, the International Research and Exchange Board (IREX), the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), the George F. Kennan Institute, and the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars. He also served as the first board chair for the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITLE), an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-supported consortium of 81 liberal arts colleges that served as a catalyst for innovation and collaboration for national liberal arts colleges.
Liebowitz joined the Middlebury faculty as an instructor of geography and was promoted to associate professor in 1988 and full professor in 1993. A graduate of Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, where he majored in economics and geography and competed as a varsity swimmer, Liebowitz twice attended Middlebury’s Russian Language School prior to his professional career at the College. He received his doctorate in geography from Columbia University in 1985.
Liebowitz and his wife Jessica live in the College president's official residence at 3 South Street, with their three children, David Heschel, Shoshana, and Ezra.
— Updated, 08/08/12
B.A., Bucknell University
Ph.D., Columbia University
Russian economic and political geography
Soviet and Russian regional economic policy