Columbia University

Communications and Calendars

Letters to the Faculty: July 14, 2011

Dear Colleagues:

I am delighted to announce this summer many positive changes and new appointments in the Arts and Sciences.


You have by now received President Bollinger’s announcement that Carlos Alonso, Morris A. & Alma Schapiro Professor in the Humanities, has assumed the position of Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. This past year Carlos was called from his chairmanship of the Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures to serve as acting dean of GSAS while we conducted a national search. His five years as chair at Columbia included serving on the Academic Review Committee, the Faculty Budget Group, the Steering Committee of the Chairs, and the Executive Committee of the GSAS.

During his brief time as acting dean, through vision and consensus, Carlos was able to work with us to increase graduate student funding to a level competitive with our peers; to explore the creation of a graduate student center; to give academic departments more control over their graduate admissions; and to launch Superscript, a new online graduate school newsletter.

With a keen interest in shaping current debates about higher education, Carlos is well poised to further elevate the standing of our graduate school and to serve as a national, indeed global, spokesperson for graduate education. I could not be more pleased that Carlos has agreed to be the new dean to lead the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.


This summer has also brought together for the first time all three new academic deans whose positions were announced this spring. Physics professor Amber Miller has been engaged as Dean of Science for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences since March; she is now joined by Professor of French and History Pierre Force as Dean for Humanities in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Geraldine Downey, Professor of Psychology and Director of its Social Relations Laboratory, has now begun the inaugural role of Executive Vice Dean for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. In this capacity she will work closely with me on all matters related to the Arts and Sciences, including coordinating the work of my staff and of the divisional deans. On a temporary basis, Geraldine will also be taking responsibility for the Social Sciences to complement the roles of the Science and Humanities deans.


I am also happy to note that several of our institutes and centers have exciting new leadership this year. Saidiya Hartman, specialist in African American and American literature and cultural history, is stepping in to direct the Institute for Research on Women and Gender in which she has been an active faculty member the past five years. She takes over from Elizabeth Povinelli of Anthropology and Marianne Hirsh of English who split the directorship skillfully the past four years. I would like to thank Beth and Marianne for their guidance of the institute, for the work they have done to sponsor conferences and other programs, and to maintain and improve the undergraduate degree program in Women's and Gender Studies and the graduate certification in Feminist Scholarship.

Mark Mazower, modern and international historian, is assuming the directorship of the Heyman Center for the Humanities, taking over from philosopher Akeel Bilgrami, who for the last seven years energetically directed the Center, bringing new intellectual life to the humanities in the broadest sense and re-establishing the Heyman Center as the vital humanistic enterprise it was set up to be.

British and Atlantic historian Christopher Brown is the new Director of the Society of Fellows and Chair of its Governing Board, replacing political scientist David Johnston who has ably attracted outstanding post doctoral fellows, expanded the Society, and provided intellectual leadership these past eight years.

I am also indebted to Peter Bearman of Sociology for returning to the Institute for Social and Economic Research Policy in the capacity of acting director when sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh stepped down as director earlier this spring. During the next year, Peter will play an active role in helping chart the expanding relationship of ISERP to social science research at Columbia, as we plan for a transition to a new director.

Jazz scholar, anthropologist, and professor of music John Szwed has been appointed Director of the Center for Jazz Studies, replacing distinguished composer and musicologist George E. Lewis. We are fortunate to have been able to recruit Professor of Slavic and Russian linguistics Alan Timberlake to direct the East Central European Center located in the Harriman Institute, taking over from John Micgiel.


As you know, after a long and venerable career at Columbia, Kathleen McDermott retired earlier this year from her most recent position as Assistant Vice President for Global Programs. While we conducted a search for a new leader of the Office of Global Programs, we considered how to bring undergraduate study abroad into a growing network of international education that now includes Columbia’s Global Centers and other developing opportunities to study and teach worldwide.

I am pleased to announce that Michael Pippinger is our new Assistant Vice President for International Education and Dean of Undergraduate Global Programs. Michael has these past five years at Columbia directed the Fellowships and Study Abroad Office of Columbia College, helping to create an office that both greatly increased Columbia’s competitiveness for the most prestigious scholarships and supervised unprecedented growth in participation in study abroad. I am also grateful to Michele Moody-Adams who co-chaired the search committee and worked with me to re-organize and strengthen the Office of Global Programs.

I very much look forward to working with these talented colleagues. Please join me in congratulating them as they begin their new roles at Columbia.

All best,


Nicholas B. Dirks
Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and History
Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences