Immediate Past Senior Vice President and Executive Director, Boston Conservatory at Berklee
Cathy Young served more than 35 years of experience as an artist and educator to her dual roles as senior vice president of Berklee and executive director of Boston Conservatory at Berklee from 2017-2022. During the course of her career, she has been a performer with leading American dance companies, the artistic director of her own dance company, a nationally recognized choreographer and teacher of jazzdance, a professor of dance, cofounder of a college dance program, chair of a theater and dance department, and the dean of dance at Boston Conservatory at Berklee.
Young grew up on a farm in a central Pennsylvania coal mining town. She earned her B.A. in sociology and women’s studies magna cum laude from Harvard University, where she was first exposed to dance as an art form through an African dance class. Having fallen in love with dance for its physicality, communicative power, and ability to create community, she made the decision to pursue it professionally, leaving former dreams of law school behind and embracing the joys and challenges of a life as a performing artist.
Young spent the next 20 years building her career as a dancer, choreographer, artistic director, and teacher of dance. She has worked with leading artists in American contemporary dance and jazzdance, and has created a choreographic body of work and directing through her own company, Cathy Young Dance. Young’s choreography has been commissioned by universities and professional companies around the country and abroad, and presented in prestigious venues, including the Joyce Theater and Dance Theater Workshop in New York City, Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston, Maine, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. In addition to her work in concert dance, Young has also created choreography for theater, opera, commercials, industrials, and film. As a teacher, she has conducted artist residencies at more than 30 colleges and universities, and has been on the faculty of numerous national and international dance festivals.
After 20 years as a working artist, she returned to academia to earn her M.F.A. in dance at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and became a tenured associate professor of dance at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania, where she cofounded the dance program, designing a full curriculum, implementing a dance major and minor, and creating a student dance company. Young was named chair of the Theater and Dance Department, and focused her efforts on engaging students and faculty across the campus in all academic disciplines. She has also published numerous articles and reviews in scholarly journals, and is considered an expert in jazzdance pedagogy and history.
From 2011–2017, Young led the Dance Division at Boston Conservatory at Berklee as dean. Young’s emphasis on diversity, innovation, collaboration, and community as core values—expressed through the Dance Division’s curriculum, training, and artistic productions—attracted the top students, faculty, and guest artists in the field. She revamped the program, implementing a comprehensive and forward-thinking curriculum designed to prepare students for 21st-century entrepreneurial dance careers. Under her leadership, the Dance Division became recognized as the top contemporary dance program in the United States.
In 2017, Young was named to the dual role of senior vice president of Berklee and executive director of Boston Conservatory at Berklee, following a national search to replace the former Boston Conservatory President Richard Ortner, and charged with leading the Conservatory through the highly complex merger with the larger Berklee institution. During her first two years as executive director, Young led a comprehensive strategic planning process for the Conservatory, which resulted in the Boston Conservatory at Berklee Strategic Direction 2020–2025: A Singular Institution for a Plural World.
The Strategic Direction, built around the three central pillars of diversity, innovation, and elevation, is a visionary plan designed to maximize the potential of the merger while also positioning Boston Conservatory at Berklee as a global leader in contemporary conservatory education. As outlined in the Strategic Direction, Boston Conservatory at Berklee aims to reinvent conservatory education through large-scale innovation of curriculum, pedagogy, and delivery of degree programs, with diversity as the central driver of curricular, artistic, and cultural change.
Under Young’s leadership, the Conservatory made significant progress toward these goals, including enrollment growth; strong philanthropic momentum resulting in increased scholarship support for students; an increasingly diverse student, faculty, and staff population; and exciting academic innovation, including the launch of technology curriculum for all first-year students, development of online courses with Berklee Online, and the creation of a groundbreaking thee-year, six-semester degree program focused on commercial dance.
Diversity and inclusion have been a central focus for Young throughout her career. As executive director of the Conservatory, she implemented numerous initiatives designed to create a truly diverse and inclusive institution, including enrollment and hiring strategies to increase student, faculty, and staff diversity; investment of philanthropic funds in diversity initiatives that support scholarships, faculty development, and curricular change; the formation of student and faculty advisory councils; and the creation of a Diversity and Inclusion website section to provide transparency and accountability to the community.
Young worked closely with Berklee’s President Erica Muhl to continue to shape a bright future for both the Conservatory and the wider Berklee organization, which now includes Boston Conservatory at Berklee, Berklee College of Music, Berklee Online, Berklee Valencia, Spain, Berklee NYC, and the Berklee Abu Dhabi Center.