It seems like just yesterday that PrezBo anointed Feniosky Peña-Mora dean of SEAS. Back in 2009, that halcyon year, Feni was talked up by ‘Bo, wore a doofy tee shirt, and hell, even sat down with OldBwog. These days are a little less rosy—the Times, which first profiled the guy in ’09, has of late reported that the SEAS faculty is talking shit, saying he’s not a good dean. While we (the pinnacle of journalistic integrity, to be sure) won’t take a side, we will commit to standing by and making gratuitous observations of all sorts. Last semester we had fun examining why PrezBo is such a badass, so when a tipster alerted us to this story from Feni’s time at U of I, we decided to compare and contrast Peña-Mora, then and now, professor and dean, through the medium of photography. Conor Skelding reports from his couch.

  • Hair. At U of I, Peña-Mora’s hair was unkempt, curly, and jet black; youthful and dorky and befitting of a civil engineer. Today, his ‘do is marked by a distinguished streak of gray, sandwiched by a closely cropped, conservative, black head of hair, more pepper than salt.
  • Beard. A goatee is a bold choice. It’s also a signifier of a sort of youthful self-reliance—one that was later exchanged for a clean-shaven jawline that says “fundraiser-chic.”
  • Eyes. Look at the former Feni’s hungry and challenging eyes—how they meet your gaze. They boast: “I do science! Give me science to do!” Today, his eyes are kinder—they invite, asking, “Will you help bring the best engineering and applied science students and faculty to Morningside Heights?”
  • Lips. Here we see yet another shift from “challenge” to “invite.” Years ago, Feni’s lips were flat and even a bit self-satisfied; he had an inside joke, and it was with himself. But those coy lips would only grant you smile if you earned it. Now, look at Feni’s Low Library portrait: his lips are turned up slightly in a friendly half-smile. Even the smallest donation demonstration of goodwill will knock those puppies into a full-fledged grin.
  • Expression. The lips and eyes are a lot of this, but there is a more holistic effect at work. In the first photo, Feni is waiting for you to speak first, ready for, but not dependent on, conversation. It’s not his job to talk to you. In the second, he seems open and expectant, eager to listen—step into his office.
  • Attire. The sleeves of that blue button-down are rolled up for science-work more often as they are down for photo-ops. Years have seen it exchanged for a subtle blue pinstripe, collar-stays, and a Columbia blue tie dotted with little SEAS logos.
  • Posture. See how aloof he was, back straight, far away from the camera; and see how comforting he is now, leaning towards you, attentive.
  • Background. In the full image of Feni v.2005, note the badass orange and blue machinery in the background, which can no doubt be used for awesome science, and is given just as much space in the picture as Feni or his friend. Today? Notice, artfully out of focus, one of Low Library’s columns, a literal reminder of the exchange of the physical implements of research for those of administration.
  • Digital watch. Shit, that thing probably does math, has GPS, and says “Indiglo” on its face. Such a rugged watch sends a message, and that message is “RESEARCH.” In a bold-faced font.

Before and after via and, respectively.