Colorado College’s next president will be L. Song Richardson, a legal scholar, educator, lawyer, and expert on implicit racial and gender bias. Richardson was appointed the 14th president of Colorado College after a unanimous vote by the Colorado College Board of Trustees on Dec. 9. She succeeds CC President Jill Tiefenthaler, and will assume the presidency on July 1, 2021.
Richardson currently is the dean and chancellor’s professor of law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. When she was appointed to that post in January 2018, she was the only woman of color to lead a top-30 law school.
Richardson, who is Black and Korean, will be the first woman of color to hold the presidency at Colorado College. Acting Co-President Mike Edmonds, who has been serving along with Acting Co-President Robert G. Moore since Tiefenthaler’s departure in July, is the first person of color to serve in the presidential capacity.
Richardson says she wasn’t looking to leave UC Irvine School of Law, but she felt deeply connected to Colorado College’s people, core values, and sense of purpose. CC’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, its initiatives to increase access for students, and its dedication to sustainability and innovation drew her to the college.
“I never dreamed that I would be leaving UCI Law, a community that I adore and a school that has achieved unprecedented success in less than 11 years of existence,” Richardson says. “But then I was introduced to Colorado College. Everything about CC resonated with me. The more I learned, the more intrigued I was by this community of innovative changemakers and problem-solvers. I am honored to join CC and the Colorado Springs community, and look forward to building a bright future together.”
The board confirmed Richardson after a nine-month nationwide search conducted by a presidential search committee that included trustees, faculty, staff, and students. The committee considered highly accomplished leaders from a pool of more than 150 applicants with diverse backgrounds.
“Dean Richardson embodies the curiosity, dedication, spirit, commitment, and joy that are the essence of CC,” says Susie Burghart ’77, chair of the Board of Trustees. “She is authentic and accessible, a scholar committed to building the resiliency, depth, and breadth of students, and a changemaker who will shift CC and our future graduates forward on the path toward antiracism, access, and even greater academic excellence.”
Prior to becoming dean at UC Irvine School of Law, Richardson served as interim dean and senior associate dean for academic affairs at UCI School of Law. She holds joint appointments in the Department of Criminology, Law, and Society and in the Department of Asian American Studies. She received her AB from Harvard College and her JD from Yale Law School.
Richardson’s interdisciplinary research uses lessons from cognitive and social psychology to study decision-making and judgment. Her scholarship has been published by law journals at Harvard, Yale, Berkeley, Cornell, Duke, and Northwestern, among others. She is working on a book that reflects on the current reckoning with anti-Blackness that is occurring across the U.S. and its implications for law and policy.
Richardson’s legal career included partnership at a criminal defense law firm and work as a state and federal public defender. She was an assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., and a Skadden Arps Public Interest Fellow with the National Immigration Law Center in Los Angeles and the Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Unit in Brooklyn, NY.
She has won numerous awards and recognitions. She was honored for contributions to legal education through mentoring, teaching, and scholarship; was named one of the top women lawyers in California; and was chosen as one of the two most influential Korean Americans in Orange County, California.
Richardson also is a classically trained pianist who performed twice with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and won numerous major piano competitions, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Harvard/Radcliffe concerto competitions.
She is married to artist Kurt Kieffer. They plan to move to Colorado Springs in the coming months.
She was announced via a video (transcript) that included an introduction by trustees and perspectives from the CC student body, faculty, and staff, as well as a powerful message from Richardson to the CC community.
Jeff Keller ’91, P’22, vice chair of the CC Board of Trustees and chair of the presidential search committee, said Richardson brings great strengths to the college.
“Dean Richardson is incredibly accomplished, with a track record of always leaning passionately into opportunity. She fits with our students, who are adventurous by nature, with a desire to take bold but carefully thought-out risks,” says Keller. “We have found the right person at the right time for Colorado College, and I look forward to watching her lift this already great institution to even greater heights.”
The firm Storbeck Search, a member of the Diversified Search Group, provided executive search services.