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Vol.24, No. 02 Sept. 11, 1998

A New Role: Chris Colombo, Dean of Students

By A. Dunlap-Smith

Among the discoveries returning students are making as they move back to campus is that Costantino Colombo has taken on the newly-created role of Dean of Student Affairs. The move, announced in a letter from Columbia College Dean Austin Quigley in late July, is another step in the implementation of President George Rupp's policy to place the College at the Center of University life.

"I'm of course extremely happy with having been given this new portfolio," Colombo said. "By creating it, the school now has a single office that handles a student's relationship with Columbia from first contact to the handshake at graduation; it just makes a lot of sense."

As the Dean of Student Affairs, Colombo is responsible for the offices of student advising, undergraduate admissions, financial aid and residential life. The post therefore combines the office of undergraduate admissions and financial aid and the office of the Dean of Students at Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, both formerly overseen by Colombo, with that of the College's Dean of Students.

"Combining the two deans [of Students] offices--at the College and SEAS--is part of what we're doing to build a unified, single undergraduate experience and a more cohesive undergraduate population from two schools with distinct academic missions," Colombo said.

The post of Dean of Students at the College was effectively dissolved after Roger Lehecka, who occupied it for 19 years, stepped down last spring. Lehecka is now a Special Counsel to the University President and Dean of Alumni Affairs.

Colombo, who introduces himself as Chris, is popular with the undergraduates he serves. An affable man with a knack for putting people immediately at ease, the dean will take a minute out of a hectic day to share a joke or discuss his passions: scuba diving, motorcycles (he rides a Harley) and ties (bought Ermenegildo Zegna long before Monica did.)

The new Dean of Student Affairs office is the result of a lengthy evaluation of college student life at Columbia - part of the undergraduate Enhancement and Enlargement initiative - conducted jointly by Quigley and his counterpart at SEAS, Zvi Galil.

The evaluation's findings have had their greatest effect on undergraduate life through the change in student advising. During the summer Columbia shifted from a house-based system, whereby a dean was assigned to every undergraduate dorm, to a class-based system.

The new system puts a team of deans in charge of advising each class. Four teams are thus in place around the campus. First year students will be advised by a team in Carman, sophomores by one in Wien, juniors in S.W. Mudd and seniors in Furnald.