Cornell Vice-Provost New Dean of the College

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 – Via the Cornell Chronicle

An hour ago, Spec was forwarded an email from Dean Kevin Shollenberger announcing that Cornell Vice-Provost for Undergraduate Education Michele Moody-Adams will be the next Dean of the College. Moody-Adams, who will replace the retiring Dean Austin Quigley, will be the first woman to hold the post.

Moody-Adams (whose last name punsters will have a field day with) was also the founder of Cornell’s Program on Ethics and Public Life, where her study included “moral relativism, moral objectivity, and moral psychology.” Perhaps she’ll be able to ethically justify raiding your room.

On more controversial issues, Moody-Adams has not shied away from giving her opinions: just two weeks ago, she joined several other professors in “co-sponsoring” an Islamic Alliance for Justice protest consisting of signs and 1300 flags representing dead Palestinians and Israelis in the recent Gaza conflict. Eight years ago, she told the audience at a teach-in one week after the 9/11 attacks that “vengeance is not the answer,” and suggested a multilateral approach to the response. She should fit right in in Morningside.

UPDATE (1:20 p.m.): President Lee Bollinger has sent out an email announcing the decision, saying “in the breadth of her scholarship and interests, Professor Moody-Adams exemplifies Columbia’s own tradition of great scholarship that is engaged in the public issues of our time.” Full email after the jump.


To the Columbia community:

I am extremely pleased to announce the appointment of Michele Moody-Adams as the next Dean of Columbia College and Vice President for Undergraduate Education.  She comes to Columbia from Cornell University where she is the Hutchinson Professor and Director of the Program on Ethics and Public Life, and has served for the past four years as Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education.  As an administrator, she has been responsible for ensuring the integrity and coherence of undergraduate curriculum and instruction at Cornell and overseeing a number of academic and residential initiatives.

Professor Moody-Adams is an accomplished scholar and administrator who has taught at Cornell, Indiana University, the University of Rochester and Wellesley College.  She has produced an extensive and exemplary body of work in moral philosophy and is the founder of Cornell’s program in ethics and public policy.  Her 1997 book, Fieldwork in Familiar Places:  Morality, Culture, and Philosophy, has been widely praised as “a major contribution to moral philosophy.”  She has also written and lectured extensively throughout the United States and abroad on a wide range of timely issues, and her voice is a prominent one among publicly-minded philosophers.

In the breadth of her scholarship and interests, Professor Moody-Adams exemplifies Columbia’s own tradition of great scholarship that is engaged in the public issues of our time.  Hers is the kind of approach to teaching and learning imagined by Columbians who have created and nurtured a Core Curriculum that has called on generations of undergraduates to reflect deeply on our shared intellectual traditions, to challenge their own preconceptions about the world, to remain open to the perspectives of others, and to grapple with the questions essential to active citizenship in a democracy.

Professor Moody-Adams received BA degrees from both Wellesley College and Oxford University; and went on to earn her MA and PhD in Philosophy from Harvard.  She has won numerous academic honors, including the “Last Lecturer” faculty award from Cornell in 2004 and Howard University’s Alain Locke Award in Philosophy in 2003.

I want to thank Vice President of Arts and Sciences Nick Dirks and all the students, faculty, staff and alumni members of the search committee for their hard work and enthusiastic recommendation of Professor Moody-Adams for this vital leadership role at Columbia.

Professor Moody-Adams’ extraordinary commitment to teaching, scholarship and public service, as well as her experience as an academic administrator, make her uniquely well suited to this role.  I want to thank Dean Austin Quigley again for his 14 years of leadership at the College.  With the appointment of Michele Moody-Adams, we know that Columbia College will continue to be in good hands in the years ahead.  Please join me in welcoming her to the Columbia University community.


Lee C. Bollinger

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  1. Where

    does a photo like that come from? Was she surprised by a photographer whilst deep in thought over some work of literature? I find it hilarious to think that academics have their own glamor photoshoots with complete with books and chin-stroking poses.

  2. Please...

    1) she is reading Lincoln at Gettysburg, it is part of Cornell's New Student Reading program, it is obviously a posed shot that pushes the schools proram.

    2) MMA (I want to be the first to coin a nickname) was brought to Cornell with one of her responsibilities being running the program.

    The hilarious part is perhaps asking yourself, maybe there was a reason she has this glamor shot.

    • hey buddy  

      someone's initials do not a nickname make. try again.

      • JFK, LBJ, RFK  

        Yeah, you sure about that? When initials take on a meaning beyond being just initials, they can certainly be a nickname. MMA also means Mixed Martial Arts, so would be a savage nickname.

        and why are y'all hating her on here. she is going to be a solid choice. my friends at cornell had thought she was going to be the next provost, kind of a steal i'd say. she is a great administrator and student-oriented, which interests me more than #8's petty claims.

  3. Ouch

    I remember that several Columbia professors were being seen as possible contenders for this position. Kind of sad they couldn't find any internal people to promote.

  4. eeww  

    She doesn't impress me at the moment; glad I am graduating with Dean Quigley.

    BTW -- I've never criticized bwog for grammar before, but please, do a read through of your article, and fix the typos. Thank you!

  5. unimpressed  

    An unabashed defender of moral relativism! Sounds like a complete moron of the highest order. What an idiot. I'm afraid I cannot stop myself from repeating. What an idiot!

  6. actually

    her research seems rather interesting.

  7. undergrads  

    which undergrads were on the committee? ... talk about an opportunity to impact The College!

  8. jeezy

    my cc dean is black, my lambo is blue?

  9. nice  

    two things- seems like a victory for campus progressives; dealing with her should be far more productive than that reactionary tory fuck quigley

    and well done to #12

  10. Hey,  

    When are the College students supposed to be informed about this?

  11. yes  

    but can she light a Yule log??

  12. ...

    This represents a clear departure from Quigley who was more geared to fundraise than to interact with students. Something tells me she might be more responsive to students.

    Though in these tough economic times, I think a fundraiser like Quigley wouldn't be a bad asset for the college. Also, even though I agree with her position on Gaza, I'm not sure some of the more Israli-biased donors will appreciate that.

  13. ooh  

    ooh look she's black

  14. i agree  

    MMA is a bad nickname. Wouldn't Moody suffice? Or something using Moody?

    Also, yeah. She's black. Weird. And not what I was expecting (which says more about me than anything). But very, very cool.

  15. Anonymous

    I think we can all agree on one thing: that picture fucking rules.

  16. New Nick Name  

    How bout just Ma?

  17. The Nickname  

    Mama Moody. (mama a play on the MMA).

    Btw anyone else feel like this is sort of a step-down, especailly if she was in line for provost?

    • A step down?

      Umm anything that moves you from Cornell to Columbia is a step up.

      What about "Mad eye Moody," or something that plays on John Quincy Adams and Mad Eye, both grizzly fighters for justice and morality?

  18. thoughts  

    some things to consider about MMA

    1) Does any school hate it's alumni more than Columbia does it's ugrad alumni? Is anybody in a major undergraduate administrative post an alum? Dean? Admissions? Student Affairs? Just saying.

    2) Look at her old responsibility and her new title and read between the lines.

    She's going to be the Vice President of Undergraduate Education. That means a few things. She's not only the dean of CC, but she's going to have a position in the central administration itself. This is a big upgrade for undergraduate education in terms of its position in the University.

    This is also probably the first of many moves by PrezBo to reorganize and reshape undergraduate education at Columbia. There's one point person for Ugrad Ed at Columbia, and it's the CC dean. Expect a tighter integration of CC/SEAS and GS. If done right it's probably a good thing.

    Don't believe me? Look at her portfolio at Cornell: "As an administrator, she has been responsible for ensuring the integrity and coherence of undergraduate curriculum and instruction at Cornell and overseeing a number of academic and residential initiatives."

    Cornell consists of lots of different colleges, yet they're all "Cornell". Over here we have ridiculous territoriality between CC, SEAS, and GS. That's going to end, I think. Change is coming from the top down.

    The downside to this is I don't know what this means about getting someone with a soft touch in the administration who will change the culture of management that sees "control and suppression" of students as its mission (cough SDA and Student Affairs cough).

    • really?

      Are we sure 'vice president of undergraduate education' represents a material difference from 'associate vice president of undergraduate education,' which is what Quigley already is? (See: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/record/archives/vol20/vol20_iss30/record2030.13.html) Or that PrezBo didn't just bungle the title slightly, like he did with the terminology in that endowment letter? (I spy at least one other typo in this email.)

      I don't mean to challenge your premise -- there have been multiple moves in the past 18 months that point to some consolidation of Columbia's undergraduate schools -- but I'm wondering if that title is as significant as you suggest.

      If indeed they're giving the CC dean a title bump, it seems weird that PrezBo made no attempt to explain that fact in the email. That would be a huge reorganization -- not the type of thing I'd expect them to bury. Maybe I'm wrong?

      • Alum

        The CC deanship has been elevated from associate vice president to vice president. Instead of answering to the VP of Arts & Sciences, the Dean will be his/her peer. I'm not sure how well this will work out in practice and I agree that the university should have made some sort of public announcement (*before* announcing the new dean), but the new title is real and it reflects a real change.

  19. instead  

    of mma, let's call her professor cage fighter

  20. worried  

    we really should be less concerned with nicknames and more concerned with checking for traces of polyjuice potion.

  21. let's say it all together


  22. the undergrads  

    on the committee were Adil Ahmed (CC 09) and Sarah Weiss (CC 10)


  23. chinoise  

    Look. I'm glad she has all these highfalutin degrees and academic abilities. But frankly, I don't give a shit. I deal with snobby, cold, intellectual professors everyday. What Columbia needs at the helm of its undergraduate program isn't another pure academic, it needs someone that really cares about undergraduates and the quality of undergraduate education. I want to hear about those qualities more. Moreover, the fact that she was at Cornell freaks me out even more. It's probably the only other ivy with as miserable an undergraduate population as Columbia, save Harvard perhaps. Even more important is the fact that it's the quality of undergraduate experience that attracts kids to colleges -- that's why a mediocre school like UPenn regularly ranks as high as Columbia; they're not at our level intellectually, but people like to go there. Similar deal with Princeton and Yale.

  24. editedchinoise  

    Look. I'm glad she has all these highfalutin degrees and academic abilities. But frankly, I don't give a shit. I deal with snobby, cold, intellectual professors everyday. What Columbia needs at the helm of its undergraduate program isn't another pure academic, it needs someone that really cares about undergraduates and the quality of undergraduate education.

    I want to hear not only about academic qualifications, but about how Columbia College's academic dean is going to make Columbia's undergraduate education better.

    Moreover, the fact that she was at Cornell freaks me out even more. Cornell's probably the only other ivy with as miserable an undergraduate population as Columbia, save Harvard perhaps. And these days, the undergraduate experience is important, and it better damn well be since most of us pay so much for it and will be going to graduate school in this economy.

    Columbia needs to realize these days that that's the reason why an otherwise mediocre school like UPenn regularly ranks as high as Columbia -- they're not at our level intellectually, but people like to go there. Similarly, I think that's why we don't rank as high as Princeton and Yale -- we're probably academically in their range, but we blow it when it comes to actually having kids that enjoy their time here.

    One last note: I remember that during my interview to Columbia, the interviewer gave me one particular piece of sage advice. "Be sure to enjoy going out into New York City if you go to Columbia." It was sort of an obvious remark, but in retrospect, he seemed to be implying that Columbia itself was not a fun place to be an undergraduate. And this time of year, that point is driven home especially hard while we're dealing with all the bullshit and bureaucracy associated with housing and picking majors. I feel like this kind of shit isn't half as big of a problem at other schools. As one of my friends at Yale said, "Things just work here." I just hope that Columbia will make that a priority, too.

    • can you  

      Give specific examples what you are talking about?

    • bitter...  

      hey bud, i get it. you are bitter, columbia's pleasantries appear few and you think - if i had only gone to new haven...

      1) bureacracy is life, it is not great, special or wonderful, but the more complicated the situation, the more complex the bureacracy. If Columbia was a school, like Yale, that had the lowest percentage of minority students or students from underresourced communities, I am sure homogeneity would be more our thing.

      2) Many yalies live off campus - yes no bullshit with housing when you have your own house, but the 'hoods they are in are far more dangerous.

      Onto Mama Moody

      She was vice provost for undergraduate education - so why does it matter she comes from Cornell, a complicated, multifaceted school that may not excite you personally, but offers a solid top tier educational experience matter? Or how about further that she was an administrator, i.e. understands student concerns more.

      I hope your interviewer also said - Columbia doesn't hold your hand, she is not here to be your best friend, she is complicated, large-scale often hamstrung university in the middle of the countries most diverse and by extension complicated cities. What you get here is an experience in real life, not cookie-cutter, and certainly not overly manufactured drone like existence.

      Places like Yale and Princeton offer great experiences - where you can drift off into some candyland of a place for four years. It is certainly enjoyable for some and I would not decry those that want that experience, but it is boring, unrealistic, and it is probably why them folk jump right into Wall Street before Columbians to continue their high society, nothing goes wrong attitude.

      And it is not to some how propose that Columbia is some Hobbesian place of cold brutal people. I think it is the opposite. I can't imaging having a more self-aware and yet equally provocative experience than at Columbia. I visit my friends at other schools and it affirms why I am at Columbia. Not my second, or third choice - not the best Ivy I could get into - not some school in NYC. As far as an undergraduate Education, Columbia, for me, is precisely that. A complete total place where you learn how to negotiate not just your intellectual and extracurricular passions, but you find out that perhaps playing your clarinet loud at 11pm at night is a bad idea (consideration for others), or that puking on a frat stoop when little kids are walking by doesn't really make you a cool 'bro.'

      And to the matter at hand - frankly, no one knows how Mama Moody is going to integrate herself into our campus, our core and our experience. She has a track record as a reformer, and my feeling is she will have a pretty blank check to make the improvements necessary to make sure more people exit Columbia as happy as I am about it. We are not a perfect place, I hope she makes it better. But more than that, I hope you take stock in what we are, who we are, and that where as she is the Dean we are all stakeholders in the experience.

      Let's only hope the next few years are less that of luck than the impersonal rule of the present Dean, and more that of merit because of the university community led by our new dean.

    • Alum

      Your interviewer could just as easily have meant that Columbia is so much fun you might forget that there is additional fun to be had off campus. After all, if Columbia is really as unpleasant as you say, there would be no need to remind yourself of the other options.

  25. Bwog  

    Wow...racism and sexism are great ways to welcome our new Dean!

    It's disgusting posts like this that should lead you to ban anonymous posts. So many other college blogs force students to own their comments. Look at NYULocal...they recently did an unbelieveable job of pushing new media to the forefront while making the posters names public. This blog does nothing but detract from that and give a forum to hateful people.


  26. YES!  

    YES!!!!!!!! FINALLYYYYYYYY. A woman, a Black woman at that. So excited about the direction Columbia College is taking.

  27. Cornellian

    Wow. What with all of this Cornell-bashing over an absolutely great addition to Columbia's campus, I never knew that Columbia students were so insecure.

  28. Anonymous  

    Maybe she can get rid of the clusterfuhk that is General Studies. The entire hierarchy consists of petty apartchiks headed by folks more interested in protecting their jobs than actually advocating for their students. If CC students think they have a bone to pick with their administration I suggest you think twice. GS admin (with one or two notable exceptions, I see you Dean K, Dean Rogers)is akin to Zimbabwe's central bank wholly incompetent.

  29. someone else  

    I'd like to know what 44 and 37s relative experiences are. I can tell you from my own experience that the more time I spend at Columbia, the more responsibility I I take on for student organizations and deal more with bureaucrats, the more jaded and angry I get.

    It really isn't like this at other schools. I've spoken to administrators who've been hired from other schools and are shocked at the red tape, incompetence, and hoop jumping you have to do at Columbia relative to their past experience. (Ironically, they then become cogs in that machinery.) I've talked to graduate students at Columbia who are shocked at how awful the administration is here relative to their undergrad schools.

    This isn't just "grass is greener" bitching and moaning. This is real. Columbia is in fact as ass backwards as we make it out to be.

    It's easy to lose sight of the fact that a) Columbia is the largest Ivy League school, population wise, and that b) undergraduates make up the lowest percentage of the total student population among the Ivies here.

    Consider that Undergrads make up just under half of all students at Yale, and around 2/3 of all students at Princeton. They make up less than 30% of the population here. Our "experience" just isn't as high a priority here as it is elsewhere by necessity.

    • cc '07

      Sounds like things haven't changed much. Columbia students have been having this conversation since Nicholas Murray Butler was president. No joke.

      As a friend of mine put it: the university invests in itself, not in its people. In my own experience Columbia is a set of resources people use to start their careers and then move on from and forget about.

      My advice to all the people who feel frustrated is to accept it and move on with your lives. That's what I did.

    • It's 44

      I deal a lot with administrators so I know what that is like. I know that they are bureacrats, but to an extent you have to sort of understand competing visions.

      Yes there are fewer people looking over the backs of the folks in Hanover, but that doesn't mean it is such a 'great experience.'

      Consider the CTV scandal a few years ago when they showed full frontal boobs on television. If that stuff happened anywhere by NYC you wouldn't have seen Fox News do a segment on it. And further as you have a large student body in diverse schools you have a lot of competition. What that means is...you wont get everything you want all the time. And I understand, that is unpleasant. But really step back and think about it - you want everything on a silver plate? Have your student group allocation handed to you, your plan of study given to you?

      I think in a paradoxical sense what is most special about Columbia is there is no hand holding. You have to develop a bit of gaul to get through school here, push the envelope and be independent. When you develop that mindframe (I am going to make this happen) and also have the necessary resourcefulness then few things in or outside of college are impossible for you.

      Then look at your friends from other schools nimbly try to find a NYC apartment. It is kind of like watching mouses in a maze.

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