iOS app Android app

Christopher B. Nelson
GET UPDATES FROM Christopher B. Nelson
Christopher B. Nelson is president of St. John’s College in Annapolis, and a national spokesperson and champion of the liberal arts. St. John's College, with campuses in Annapolis, Maryland, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, is an independent, four-year college that is devoted to liberal education. Its richly varied curriculum focuses on an integrated study of philosophy, literature, history, theology, political science, mathematics, music, and science. Students and faculty engage directly, through study and discussion, with original texts and ideas that are at the foundations of Western thought.

Entries by Christopher B. Nelson

Ambiguity? A New Book Suggests Leaders Should Learn to Love It

(0) Comments | Posted April 16, 2015 | 5:04 PM

Good bosses are supposed to know that ambiguity, or uncertainty about the meaning of something, is toxic. Ambiguity is confusion. Ambiguity leads to stress and can even create chaos. At best, it should be grudgingly "tolerated." It really ought to be "handled," "lessened" or...

Read Post

Are We Teaching Millennials to Be Amoral?

(2) Comments | Posted March 17, 2015 | 2:05 PM

Who loves employee codes of conduct? Given how sprawling and lawyerly many of them are, who can even read them? If you're a boss who is thinking of scrapping yours and embracing one that reflects the values embodied in your company's slogan, like Google's "Don't be evil" or...

Read Post

Hey Zuckerberg, Here's a Suggestion: Add a Classic to Amp Up Your Book Club

(1) Comments | Posted February 20, 2015 | 5:31 PM

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, made an announcement in January that he was launching a book club. He is calling 2015 "A Year of Books," and he has invited Facebook users to join him in discussions and participate in author Q&As online. "We will...

Read Post

Have a Bite of Humble Pie Before Heading to the Office

(0) Comments | Posted January 30, 2015 | 10:43 AM


It's hard to hear the news about someone like Marilyn Tavenner stepping down and not think about the expectations we put on our leaders. In Tavenner's case, when she became acting head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid...

Read Post

What Would Adam Smith Say?

(1) Comments | Posted September 9, 2014 | 1:07 PM


A friend of mine in the financial services industry called me the other day to vent about the poor quality of the public discourse concerning the freedom of the marketplace and the obsession with the Almighty Dollar. "Does it make sense,"...

Read Post

Advice to the College-Bound: Everything Important in Life Is Unknown

(0) Comments | Posted August 14, 2014 | 2:03 PM

"Everything important in life is unknown." When I read this in a book recently, it jarred a bit. As a college president, I'm usually saying that our nation's colleges and universities help students come to know the unknown, and to grasp the vital importance of knowing. Yet there is something...

Read Post

Beginning the Struggle

(0) Comments | Posted June 16, 2014 | 4:35 PM


On Sunday, May 11, St. John's College in Annapolis held its two hundred twenty-second commencement ceremony. The commencement speaker was Andrew J. Krivak, an alumnus of the Annapolis Class of 1986, and a 2011 National Book Award Finalist for his first novel,

Read Post

Choosing a College: Advice to My Son

(2) Comments | Posted April 3, 2014 | 5:25 PM

Many high school seniors are facing one of the most important choices they will confront in their lives: Which college should I attend next fall?...

Read Post

Choosing a College: 5 Things to Consider

(3) Comments | Posted March 19, 2014 | 6:04 PM


Now is the time of year when many students completing high school have to make an exciting, but at the same time daunting, choice: Which college should I attend in the fall? Those who are lucky enough to have multiple options often must...

Read Post

The Power of Doubt

(0) Comments | Posted February 4, 2014 | 4:46 PM

Galileo is supposed to have said, "Doubt is the father of invention."

Why did he think that doubt is generative? Many people seem to believe the opposite, namely, that doubt is destructive -- or at least paralyzing. Others fear doubt, because it threatens their otherwise comfortable sense of certainty. But...

Read Post

'Lone Survivor': Free Officer and Free Citizen

(1) Comments | Posted January 15, 2014 | 3:08 PM

Lone Survivor, the new film recounting an ill-fated search and rescue attempt in Afghanistan, has a tragic connection with my school, St. John's College in Annapolis. Lt. Cmdr. Erik S. Kristensen, the Navy SEAL who led the bold mission and who died bravely along with many others in the daring operation,...

Read Post

The Miracle of Imagination

(1) Comments | Posted December 2, 2013 | 3:43 PM

Making choices about life depends critically on the ability to imagine possibilities. Speaking as an advocate for liberal education, I believe that the central liberal art -- the art that frees us from the shackles of our pasts, our times, our places, our familiar opinions, our inherited prejudices, and the...

Read Post

Investing in a Liberal Education

(1) Comments | Posted October 3, 2013 | 11:10 AM

Settling in to college life this fall, students seem to be following a drumbeat toward practical majors. An all-time high percentage of respondents to UCLA's annual survey of incoming college freshmen said that they are attending college in order to get a better job, make more money, and...

Read Post

Flawed From the Start: The President's New Plan for Higher Education

(8) Comments | Posted August 30, 2013 | 12:54 PM

President Obama has been a strong supporter of programs designed to help families pay for a college education, most notably through the Pell Grant and the Opportunity Tax Credit. However, this past week, President Obama announced a new "Plan to Make College More Affordable." In his speech announcing...

Read Post

The World's Longest Running Seminar on Free Government

(0) Comments | Posted August 6, 2013 | 9:24 AM

I recently returned from vacationing for a few weeks in rural Wisconsin. There was a time not so long ago when this retreat would have cut me off from what was going on the wider world. But as our communication devices become ever more interconnected, we can access news from...

Read Post

Is It Worth It?

(13) Comments | Posted May 22, 2013 | 4:34 PM

This is commencement season at colleges and universities across the nation. Graduating students, their families, and their teachers swell with pride as each diploma is awarded. As president of St. John's College, I greet all the graduating students, one by one, with a diploma and a hearty handshake, wishing them...

Read Post

Lincoln and Liberal Education

(10) Comments | Posted March 28, 2013 | 1:35 PM

Abraham Lincoln remains alive to us these days, in part because of the extraordinary performance by Daniel Day Lewis in the film Lincoln. In one thoughtful scene, Lincoln sits in a teletype office and wrestles with the question of human and racial equality and the awful institution of slavery. He...

Read Post

Yes, You Can Afford The College Of Your Choice: Liberal Arts Colleges Increase Financial Aid

(3) Comments | Posted March 14, 2012 | 12:43 PM

College-bound students gather around the dinner table with their families this time of year to consider the admissions letters and email notifications that are rolling in. Students who have been accepted to the private liberal arts college of their choice may worry: Can I afford it? Is it worth it?...

Read Post