Jean E. Howard, William E. Ransford Professor of English, has been appointed to the newly created position of Vice Provost for Diversity Initiatives, Columbia University announced today.
As vice provost, Howard will lead the University's efforts to increase substantially the representation of traditionally underrepresented groups on the faculty and in the senior levels of the administration. In addition, she will forge efforts to link hiring initiatives to curricular and programmatic change and will promote scholarly efforts to understand the challenge of diversity in the global context of the 21st century.
"In making this appointment, Columbia reaffirms its commitment to promoting intellectual excellence, recognizing that this goal can be realized only if the University, in all of its aspects, reflects the diversity of American society and of the complex world in which we live," said President Lee C. Bollinger.
Professor Howard, a distinguished scholar of early modern literature and recipient of numerous awards, including the Guggenheim Fellowship, has been a member of the Columbia faculty since 1988. She is an experienced administrator who has served on numerous commissions and boards dealing with gender and other diversity issues in higher education.
During her tenure on the Board of Trustees of Brown University, she chaired its trustee Committee on the Status of Women, which undertook a major study of the impact on students and faculty of the decision to merge Pembroke and Brown into a fully coeducational institution. She is now a member of Brown's presidential Advisory Council on Diversity. At Columbia , Professor Howard served on the Academic Review Committee and on the Executive Committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. She has chaired the Commission on the Status of Women and co-chaired the Committee on Undergraduate Education that grew out of the Strategic Planning Commission's Task Force on Education. She also has served as Director of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender.
"I am delighted to take on the challenge of this job," Professor Howard said. "Educational excellence and social justice are intimately connected, and the goal of building a more inclusive and diverse university is one to which I am deeply committed. This means, of course, not only changing the demographics of the University, but also its ways of creating knowledge so that, for example, scholarship on race, sexuality, gender, ethnicity and religious difference is put at the center rather than at the margins of our intellectual endeavors."
Commenting on her appointment, Farah Jasmine Griffin, professor of English and Comparative Literature and director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies, said, "Given her knowledge of Columbia , her administrative brilliance and long-standing commitment to building a diverse faculty, I am convinced that Jean Howard is the best person for this very important job. Her leadership in this area will contribute a great deal to this great institution by helping to assure its status as an excellent 21 st-century university."
The new position builds on a number of initiatives Columbia recently has undertaken to enhance its intellectual quality and vitality. Within Columbia College and the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, it opened an Office of Multicultural Affairs that will spearhead, among other initiatives, efforts to enhance intercultural community programs.
Within Arts and Sciences, a rich array of area studies programs and a number of Centers and Institutes are advancing scholarship on race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality and religious difference within American and global contexts. These research centers include the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, the Institute for Research in African-American Studies, the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, and the Center for Comparative Literature and Society.
In addition, Columbia's Earth Institute has recently became the recipient of a five-year, $4.2 million National Science Foundation award to initiate the ADVANCE Program targeted at increasing the participation and advancement of women scientists and engineers at the University through institutional transformation.
"Diversifying the University is of central importance to Columbia," said Provost Alan Brinkley, "just as it is to the academic world at large. In the coming months, the president and I will be working closely with our academic departments, professional schools and others. Together, we will work aggressively to recruit outstanding new faculty who will contribute to the diversity of our community, to strengthen areas of the curriculum that address diversity, and to increase the number of people from traditionally underrepresented groups who matriculate in our programs."
Professor Howard's first steps will include a plan of action that will be developed through a collaborative process involving faculty and administrative leaders across the University.