Lindsay Cronk, Mollye Demosthenidy and Anita Raj

Shared Success

Three new campus faculty leaders — Lindsay Cronk, Mollye Demosthenidy and Anita Raj — have bonded over their new roles and agree that now is an even more exciting time to be a Tulanian.

(Photos by Sabree Hill and Jennifer Zdon)

Three of Tulane University’s newest leaders are women, all with résumés that illustrate their accomplishments in the areas of gender equity, public health, library science and so much more. 

They are thrilled to be starting their Tulane careers at the same time and excited about the opportunities to cross paths throughout their various disciplines. 

“We are all three in positions that are designed to cut across disciplines and connect all the different elements of campus,” said Anita Raj, executive director of Newcomb Institute. “We can start this work together with that mindset. This is one university, and my charge is to the commitment of the entire university and working across disciplines.” 

Raj was named executive director of Newcomb Institute on July 1, 2023, joining newcomers Lindsay Cronk, dean of Tulane Libraries, and Mollye Demosthenidy, dean of Newcomb-Tulane College. In the past six months, the trio have enjoyed getting to know each other and discussing all the possibilities for collaboration and innovation. 

“I really believe there’s never been a more exciting time to be a Tulanian,” Demosthenidy said. “I know that, together, we’ll accomplish great things for Tulane.”

Cronk said that as a feminist and a graduate of a women’s college, she is impressed by Tulane’s commitment to gender equity. She pointed to research showing that, nationwide, women hold the least senior administrative positions and are the lowest paid among higher education administrators.

“Tulane is addressing those challenges and championing diverse talent,” Cronk said. “I am excited to be a part of this team at Tulane — Anita and Mollye know they can count on me, and I know I can count on them for support and collaboration as we take on the challenges ahead. I am so excited to learn with them and to celebrate our shared successes.” 

“We are all three in positions that are designed to cut across disciplines and connect all the different elements of campus ... This is one university, and my charge is to the commitment of the entire university and working across disciplines.”

Anita Raj, executive director of Newcomb Institute

Lindsay Cronk standing behind a table with a long piece of paper
Lindsay Cronk

Lindsay Cronk

Along with New York and Paris, New Orleans has always been one of Lindsay Cronk’s favorite cities. She and her husband have visited at least a half-dozen times, and as a preteen, she was fascinated by the city as a setting for the books she read at a clip that made her a regular at her public library growing up. She remembers encountering New Orleans for the first time on the page through the work of author Anne Rice, in her bestselling book Interview with the Vampire.

So, when she was recruited for the position of dean of Tulane University Libraries, she was delighted beyond words. Especially when she learned the libraries are home to the author’s archive. 

“It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. New Orleans had always been a huge part of the geography of my imagination, and I was ready to make it my reality.” 

At the time, Cronk was an assistant dean for scholarly resources and curation at the University of Rochester, where she oversaw seven departments and implemented several campuswide and community partnerships. While she’d been recruited by many institutions, none held the draw of Tulane.

“My interviews at Tulane felt like brainstorming sessions for workshopping fresh ideas about the future of academic libraries, how they could be different in the context of Tulane,” she said. “I felt synchronicity with my future colleagues immediately.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly at Tulane, her early initiatives are all collaborations, an example being prototyping a student consultant team to take a deep dive into the library’s current services and spaces, and then offering feedback and recommendations. Other efforts include partnering with the New Orleans Book Festival at Tulane to expand student involvement and build a pipeline from the Book Fest to the residence halls. She’s expanding connections with the Howard-Tilton-based Center for Engaged Learning and Teaching (CELT) and the Connolly Alexander Institute for Data Science (CAIDS) to improve collective impact. She’s also given her go-ahead for the facilities team to put solar panels on the roof, noting that libraries are themselves a renewable resource. 

“There’s a kaleidoscopic opportunity here to take the traditional elements of the library and bring them together with cutting-edge research and design — to deliver a new kind of library that honors and embraces both tradition and the avant-garde.”

In announcing the appointment of Cronk as dean of libraries, Tulane President Michael A. Fitts and Provost Robin Forman described her as a “distinguished leader, innovator and visionary” and an “internationally recognized expert in scholarly communication strategies.”

In her six years at Rochester, she led such departments as digital initiatives, scholarly communication, special collections and preservation. She focused on access-based initiatives that included affordable and open materials for students and faculty on campus.

When Cronk talks about libraries in general and the Tulane library system specifically, her eyes light up. She uses words like “magical,” “joyful” and “inspirational” to describe her first few months on the job and her impressions of everything the library has to offer to both students and faculty. 

“How can you look at the Codex Tulane without getting excited? The Hogan Archive is a treasure no other institution can touch. We have treasures here that will knock your socks off.” 

More than anything, Cronk wants to build a culture of curiosity at Tulane. She wants all patrons, and particularly students and faculty, to make their way to the library for a sanctuary of quiet wonder, helpful experts and expansive collections. “We are the calm in the hullabaloo,” she says with a smile. “The Tulane University Libraries are here for you.”

Mollye Demosthenidy sits outside on Tulane campus quad
Mollye Demosthenidy

Mollye Demosthenidy

If there is such thing as a perfect fit for a job, the search committee looking for the next dean of Newcomb-Tulane College (NTC) could not have found a more ideal candidate than Mollye Demosthenidy, an associate dean of the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine (SPHTM). 

Although the position attracted outstanding applicants from across the country, Demosthenidy, a Tulane faculty member since 2011, was exactly the kind of person, scholar and leader the search committee had in mind when it began its work. 

What’s more, she has served in various roles at NTC since 2015, including serving on the NTC Academic Integrity Committee, as faculty principal for the NTC College Scholars Program and as a residential faculty mentor in Butler Hall. 

“When I saw that the previous dean was leaving, I thought, ‘This would be a great fit.’ It’s all the things I love. I love the environment. I love working with students. They are bright. They are curious. They get inspired. And that allows them to engage more with the undergraduate program.” 

NTC is the foundation of the unique Tulane undergraduate experience, opening the door for students to collaborate across fields and disciplines and empowering their intellectual exploration and growth through innovative programs and opportunities. 

“Students want an interdisciplinary education,” said Demosthenidy, a native of Alexandria, Louisiana. “Their curiosity is boundless, and an interdisciplinary education lets them write their own story based on their interests. And there’s significant academic value in taking classes that offer a broad spectrum of perspectives, even if you’re laser-focused on a particular major.

“Having been at Tulane for so many years, I feel like I have a solid perspective, but it’s one perspective, and it’s just mine. I’ll continue to observe, ask questions, go all over campus, learn more and gauge what our aspirations are for the undergraduate experience at Tulane.”

Demosthenidy, a healthcare expert who holds a law degree and master’s degree in health administration from Tulane, joined SPHTM as a faculty member in 2011. She taught after practicing law at two New Orleans firms. She has taught a variety of healthcare-related courses, including health law and regulation, health policy and leadership at the undergraduate and graduate levels. 

She eventually rose to the position of associate dean for strategic initiatives at SPHTM but continued serving as a clinical professor in the school’s Department of Health Policy and Management. Her impact on students led to numerous awards, including the Outstanding Undergraduate Public Health Teaching Award, which she won five times, and the Student Government Association Teaching Excellence Award, which she won twice.

In announcing her appointment as NTC dean, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Robin Forman said Demosthenidy’s passion for undergraduate education, along with her vision, collaborative spirit and administrative experience, made her the ideal person to take NTC to the next level. 

“What was great for me is that the search committee represented the intersectionality of the university,” Demosthenidy said. “I engaged with people I didn’t know and had deep conversations about their thoughts on the Tulane experience.

“The college is in great shape, and we’re positioned to take the next step in delivering a truly one-of-a-kind undergraduate experience, to make it the most innovative, interdisciplinary academic offering.”

Anita Raj standing next to a library ladder in front of bookcase
Anita Raj

Anita Raj

Anita Raj had no intentions of leaving San Diego. She and her husband, Jay Silverman, had jobs they loved at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), both serving as distinguished scholars in the UCSD School of Medicine. 

But then the search firm assisting Tulane University in finding the next executive director of Newcomb Institute sent her a description of the position, and that’s when everything changed. 

“We were going to retire in San Diego,” Raj said. “But then I looked at the job and I didn’t say anything. I forwarded the email to my husband, and he said, ‘You have to apply.’ Uprooting your life — a life you are happy with — is a big deal. And it would have to take a very special position to do that. This was that special position.” 

In their statement announcing Raj as Newcomb Institute’s next executive director and the Nancy Reeves Dreux Endowed Chair at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Tulane President Michael A. Fitts and Provost Robin Forman hailed Raj as an innovative leader, author, researcher, and voice for racial and gender inequalities, violence prevention and public health initiatives. 

Her research, including epidemiologic and intervention studies, focuses on sexual and reproductive health, maternal and child health, women’s empowerment and gender inequalities, including gender-based violence and child marriage. Raj has 300 peer-reviewed publications. Her work has been featured in major media outlets in the United States, the United Kingdom and India.

In her first six months at Tulane, she has already made a name for herself, releasing the results of a survey on violence in Louisiana. Titled the Louisiana Study on Violence Experiences Across the Lifespan (LaVEX), the study says that more than half of Louisiana residents experience physical violence in their lifetime, and about one in five are threatened or harmed with a gun. Louisiana is only the second state in the nation to acquire this level of violence data and the first in the Southeast. She conducted a similar study in California.

Raj said she was proud of the media response to the study, which also revealed that 42% of women experience violence at the hands of romantic or sexual partners. 

“The level of response was far more than what I anticipated,” she said. “I never imagined that I’d be presenting at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge, and I never imagined that I’d be on so many radio shows and TV in such a short time. It shows you the reputation of Newcomb as well as the readiness of the state of Louisiana and the city to use data to address these issues. To me, that’s very exciting.” 

It is that kind of research that appealed to Raj when she was considering the job. She was well aware of Newcomb Institute’s reputation, and the history of Newcomb College convinced her that this was where she wanted to continue her work. That the job was in one of her favorite cities clinched the deal.

A native of Jackson, Mississippi, Raj was a regular visitor to New Orleans as a child, mostly on school field trips. When it came time to apply to college as a 16-year-old, she chose Newcomb. “I was drawn to the idea of being in a place where differences were valued and enjoyed,” she said. “But at that age, I was way too young to manage the freedom.”

She later enrolled at and graduated from Mississippi College, then moved to Athens, Georgia, where she earned both her master’s degree and PhD in psychology at the University of Georgia. It’s also where she met her husband, who is now a professor and leading global health researcher at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. 

“I loved California,” said Raj, who continues to hold a faculty appointment at UCSD. “But to me, being at Newcomb, in this place, at this time, just felt so right. I wanted to be part of that.”