Columbia Climate School Leadership Announcement
Since April 2021, the Columbia Climate Institute 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 key functional areas of our groundbreaking new school . In addition to their existing portfolios, they each take on climate school mandates — Alex at the Earth Institute; Jason as head of the Center for Global Energy Policy at the School of International and Public Affairs; Ruth at Ecology, Evolution and the Department of Environmental Biology as University Professor and Denning Family Professor of Sustainability; and Maureen at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
I extend my deepest gratitude to each of the co-deans for their extraordinary contributions to the College as leaders, scholars, and innovators. Opening a new school—Columbia’s first in 25 years—was quite the undertaking. All four rose to the challenge with great determination and character. Their commitment to collaboration and outreach drives the school’s dream. All understand the need to connect the University’s intellectual assets to address one of the world’s greatest challenges.
The College’s co-dean leadership structure reflects the premise of this connection. Having four of Colombia’s most eminent climate experts representing diverse areas of expertise at the helm facilitates our use of the range of disciplines needed to address climate issues and provides a strong foundation for the Faculty to thrive. Our co-deans welcomed our first cohort of students in September 2021 and celebrated our second cohort of dedicated graduates in May. All aspects of a thriving school are now in place.
The progress these four deans have made in laying the groundwork for the new college puts us in a strong position to now adopt a single leadership model. To this end, we will soon begin the search for a Dean to lead the College into the next phase of its development. Alex, Jason, Ruth and Maureen have been steadfast advocates, builders and leaders of Climate Schools. Without them, there would be no Climate Schools. I ask you to join me in recognizing their significant contributions and thanking them for getting us to where we are today. With this transition to a single leadership model, we create spaces for them to refocus on their academic work and other leadership endeavors. I would add that they have all readily agreed to continue supporting the school during this transition and will continue to serve as faculty members in their fields at the Climate School.
To ensure the continuity of the Climate Academy, and in close consultation with incoming University President Minouche Shafik, I am pleased to announce that Jeffrey Shaman has agreed to serve as Interim Dean. Jeff will officially start on July 1, but has already assumed additional responsibilities and is working with the co-deans to ensure a smooth transition. Jeff is Professor of Environmental Health Sciences and Director of the Climate and Health Program at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Professor of Climate at the School of Climate. Jeff will build on the School’s foundations to accelerate impact and transition into this expanded role from his current position as Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs at the Climate Institute, where he served as a key leader and advocate for the faculty.
Please join me in thanking Alex Halliday, Jason Bordoff, Ruth DeFries, and Maureen Raymo for their pioneering work on behalf of the Climate Academy, and in welcoming Jeff Shaman as Academy leader.
Lee C. Bollinger is President of Columbia University.