Columbia Climate School Leadership Announcement
Since April 2021, the Columbia Climate School has operated under an unusual leadership model, with four co-deans, Alex Halliday, Jason Bordoff, Ruth DeFries, and Maureen Raymo, sharing responsibility for leading the development of the key functional areas of our pioneering new School. They each took on the Climate School assignment in addition to their existing portfolios—Alex at the Earth Institute; Jason as head of the Center on Global Energy Policy at the School of International and Public Affairs; Ruth as University Professor and the Denning Family Professor of Sustainable Development in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology; and Maureen at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
I extend my deepest thanks to each of the co-deans for their remarkable contributions to the School as leaders, scholars, and innovators. Launching a new school—the first at Columbia in 25 years—is a considerably difficult task. All four approached this challenge with great determination and character. Their commitment to collaboration and outreach propelled the dream of a School forward. All understood the need to connect the University’s intellectual assets to tackle one of the world’s greatest challenges.
The School’s co-dean leadership structure reflected this premise of connection. Having at the helm four of Columbia’s most eminent climate experts, representing diverse areas of expertise, has facilitated our drawing on the range of disciplines needed to address the climate problem and created a strong foundation on which the School can flourish. Our co-deans welcomed the first cohort of students in September 2021 and in May celebrated our second cohort of dedicated graduates. All aspects of a thriving school are now in place.
The progress these four deans have made in establishing a foundation for the new School has positioned us well, making it possible to now adopt a single-leader model. To that end, we will soon be launching a search for a dean to lead the School into its next phase of growth. Alex, Jason, Ruth, and Maureen have steadfastly advocated for, built, and led the Climate School. Without them, there would not be a Climate School. I ask that you join me in recognizing their significant contributions and thank them for bringing us to where we are today. With this shift to a single-leader model, we create the space for them to return to focusing on their scholarly work and other leadership endeavors. I will add they have all graciously agreed to continue supporting the School through this transition and will remain faculty in the Climate School in their respective fields.
To assure continuity for the Climate School, and in close consultation with incoming University President Minouche Shafik, I am pleased to share that Jeffrey Shaman has agreed to step in as Interim Dean. Jeff will officially begin July 1, but is already taking on additional responsibilities and working with the co-deans to ensure a smooth transition. Jeff is a Professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences and Director of the Climate and Health Program at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, and a Professor of Climate in the Climate School. Jeff will build on the School’s foundation to accelerate impact, and transitions into this expanded role from his current position as Vice Dean of Faculty Affairs at the Climate School, where he has served as a key leader and supporter of faculty.
Please join me in thanking Alex Halliday, Jason Bordoff, Ruth DeFries, and Maureen Raymo for their pioneering work on behalf of the Climate School and in welcoming Jeff Shaman as he assumes leadership of the School.
Lee C. Bollinger is the President of Columbia University.