As assistant vice president for arts, Kären Nagy to focus on advancing initiative

L.A. Cicero Kären Nagy

As assistant vice president for the arts, Kären Nagy, who is set to assume her new responsibilities no later than early 2008, will work to advance the goals of the Arts Initiative, launched in 2006 to foster a systematic “culture of creativity” at Stanford. The enterprise intends to link the arts to virtually every field of study.

It’s often been said that there are no generalists left in the world. But Stanford has managed to find one for its critical new role in the arts and humanities.

Kären Nagy, executive dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, has been named assistant vice president for the arts, a position that will take effect no later than early 2008. Her duties will include advancing the goals of the Arts Initiative, launched in 2006 to foster a systematic “culture of creativity” at Stanford. The enterprise intends to link the arts to virtually every field of study, including engineering, sciences, social sciences, law and medicine.

Nagy began her career as a professional flutist, but she became drawn to music history, which was the focus of her master’s degree from Northwestern in 1977. Later, she said, “I got enchanted with the world of libraries.” Hence, library science was the subject of her second master’s, from Dominican University, also in 1977. She also has studied design, architecture and information services.

She came to the university in 1986 as head of the music library and archive of recorded sound, served as assistant and then deputy university librarian during the 1990s, and was a lecturer in Stanford’s Music Department for 16 years.

“That’s one of the things that will make this job so fun for me,” she said. “I really love the arts and have participated in the arts quite broadly throughout my life. Now I can focus on helping the university obtain the goals of the Arts Initiative.”

Stanford President Emeritus Gerhard Casper, chairman of the executive committee of the Arts Initiative, said: “I think she will really be what I would call the chief operating officer of the Arts Initiative. She will see to it that we do our planning for the Arts Initiative carefully and steadily, and she will also be concerned about the implementation of decisions that the university has reached for its Arts Initiative priorities.

“She’s a perfect person for the job because of her longstanding interest in and commitment to the arts, and her deep administrative experience as the executive dean of humanities and sciences.”

In the new position, Nagy’s duties will range from planning for the new performing arts center to bringing creative arts fellows and distinguished visiting artists to campus to overseeing staff and operations for SICA (the Stanford Institute for Creativity and the Arts). SICA, said Nagy, is “the longer-term manifestation of core arts organization here that will steward and shepherd these initiatives over the long haul.” It will continue to provide an infrastructure for the arts, she said, after the initiative ends.

Key to the new role will be overseeing the creation of world-class arts facilities for the campus, including the new performing arts center, with its 900-seat concert hall and 500-seat theater, as well as a new art/film building adjacent to the Cantor Arts Center. The initiative also will focus on renovating existing facilities, such as Frost Amphitheater, Dinkelspiel Auditorium, Campbell Recital Hall and Memorial Auditorium.

Nagy is charged with establishing three core SICA programs: 1) arts, science and technology; 2) arts in a global society; and 3) arts, humanities and creativity.

Nagy said the timing is right for the new post: “I think the position has been created because there’s a sense that this initiative involves so many stakeholders across the university,” she said. “It’s really good to have a senior staff role with someone waking up every morning and going to bed every night thinking how to advance this initiative.”

The Arts Initiative is comparable to other multidisciplinary initiatives at Stanford, such as the International Initiative, the Initiative on the Environment and Sustainability and the Initiative on Human Health.

The new position reports jointly the President’s Office and the School of Humanities and Sciences. Nagy will be working closely with the faculty directors of SICA and the Arts Initiative, Bryan Wolf, the Jeanette and William Hayden Jones Professor in American Art and Culture, and Jonathan Berger, a composer and the Billie Bennett Achilles Professor in Performance in the Department of Music.

“As executive dean, I’ve had a lot of broad exposure to what goes on at Stanford for a number of years,” Nagy said. “To go back to my own artistic passion is an incredible opportunity for me—to make the Arts Initiative a reality for campus.”

One of her new bosses, Senior Associate Dean for the Humanities Stephen Hinton, a professor of music and a music historian, said: “I can't imagine a better fit between her remarkably comprehensive skill set and the goals of the new job. As a trained musician and lover of the arts, as a high-level academic administrator with vast experience at Stanford, and as one of the most dedicated, caring people I know, she clearly has so much to offer.”