After releasing an album with an all-too-familiar title, singer-songwriter, indie icon, and one of News Editor Victoria Borlando’s favorite artists of all time Sufjan Stevens may try to “Reach Out” for a new career path.

The man, the myth, the legend Sufjan Stevens is at it again: After releasing The Ascension almost a year ago, and his 5-Volume instrumental memoriam of his late father, Convocations, earlier this summer, the king of state-themed albums released a brand new, 14-track collaboration with Angelo De Augustine at midnight. With this new, beautiful, off-the-walls incredible album—titled A Beginner’s Mind—he also dropped some hair-raising hints for the Columbia undergraduate community: he may, in fact, be assuming the role of Dean of Columbia College as Dean Valentini’s successor.

Many students (myself included) have already picked up on the fact that Stevens’s A Beginner’s Mind shares the same name as a concept famously coined by Dean Valentini (“Deantini,” as students lovingly bestowed upon him). Furthermore, when listening deeply to the album (as I most certainly have, since I’ve been streaming it nonstop ever since I woke up), one notes that the overall themes of this beautiful piece of music lines up almost exactly with the definition Deantini provided in the first time he mentioned having a “Beginner’s Mind” in a speech. Deantini stated in 2012 that a Beginner’s Mind is “…what drives scientific curiosity…learning to question and analyze what we know and how we know it, what we believe and why we believe it, to imagine new knowledge and to entertain new ideas.” And what does Sufjan Stevens’ magnificent album explore? Going beyond the self, learning about the world on a deeper level, fostering human connection, and learning about one’s role in the greater scope of life. That being said, Sufjan Stevens had clearly shadowed our Dean at some point—learning about Deantini’s mindset and outlook on life as a prominent figure in supporting every student’s Columbia Journey.

Moreover, looking at the concept of the album, we can see Sufjan’s clear influence from the Columbia Core, an essential (and academically mandatory) part of CC life and culture. The album itself reflects on deep concepts like love, existence, productivity, spirituality, identity, and more with the assistance of several mediums of human culture. For instance, “Reach Out,” the first song off the album, uses Wings of Desire, a 1987 German romance film about angels that descend to Earth to listen to the grievances of sad Germans, to create a love that is devotional, one that destroys one’s own identity and reforms it in the name of the lover and the “Holy Name.” (That lyric makes me go ballistic; it’s so good, and for WHAT!) Songs like “Lady Macbeth in Chains” (based on All About Eve) and “Murder and Crime” have themes similar to those of books in the Literature and Humanities canon (Macbeth and Crime and Punishment, respectively), despite that these—and almost every song—are based on different movies. Thus, one can see that Sufjan Stevens is well-versed in his classical studies, and he can easily formulate deep thoughts from a slew of ancient, classical, and modern mediums of art and literature. This seems like someone ready to oversee the largest component of the Columbia Core Curriculum!

Yet, all of the above arguments seem more like Sufjan’s resumé submission for the job, not an actual confirmation. So, where are the hints that he is coming to campus as our new Dean of the College in 2022? Well, I’ve compiled hints from every song on this album that confirm that he will be assuming this prestigious new role:

  1. “Reach out, reach out / to all the ones who came before you” (“Reach Out”) – As I’ve already stated, this line of the first song’s chorus basically confirms that Sufjan Stevens was in communication with Deantini long enough to embody the spirit of a “Beginner’s Mind.” Who would learn all about the job of CC Dean if they were not going to fill the position soon?
  2. “Backstabbing feeds on its own inventory” (“Lady Macbeth in Chains”) – Sufjan, Deantini’s follower and successor, has taken a stance
  3. “I’ll be there to play my part / Want to keep us safe from harm” (“Back to Oz”) – Oh, what part do you have to play, SUFJAN? And why is it a leadership/protector role? Seems pretty direct, if you ask me…
  4. “I can’t wait to inscribe / All the names that I’ve read in the blood of your knife” (“The Pillar of Souls”) – Okay, Sufjan, this is a very metal way of saying that you can’t wait to sign your name and the ones of those on of graduating students from CC on all the diplomas.
  5. “Nothing resembling what it had been before / Contamination, death to America / Reanimation, what are you waiting for?” (“You Give Death a Bad Name”) – something, something, insert a mandatory speech from PrezBo about freedom of speech and how democracy is facing imminent implosion.
  6. All of “Beginner’s Mind.” It’s so obvious that he’s going to be our next Dean.
  7. “There’s no place like home” (“Olympus”) – We all know Sufjan travelled a lot back in the day; we can name at least four states he’s been in at some point. Well, he lived in New York City the longest! Maybe he’s hinting at his return home to direct the “greatest college at the greatest university in the greatest city in the world.”
  8. “Saw your heart couldn’t take much more” (“Murder and Crime”) – Sufjan is aware that the news of no longer having Valentini as Dean broke a lot of students’ hearts, so he decided to let us know in advance that an equally cool person with a strong cult following is immediately going to make us all feel better. What a hero!
  9. “You tell me what it means to be human / The freedom you seek is to free your mind” (“(This is) The Thing”) – This is basically plagiarism of whatever Deantini says when he talks about having a ‘Beginner’s Mind.’ Word-for-word, if you ask me.
  10. “Doesn’t it seem quite obvious?” (“It’s Your Own Body and Mind”) – Self-explanatory. It does seem obvious that Sufjan Stevens is becoming CC’s new Dean (but not unwise, simply because I like Sufjan and think he is neat :))
  11. “Caught in thought, daydreaming like I do / Just like you, when you told me all your dreams would come true / Well I hope you’re right, and they always do” (“Lost in the World”)
  12. “Now that I have survived / The spectacle of my youth / I’m gonna bring it on again / Bring it on with my truth” (“Fictional California”) – These words of affirmation seem exactly like something someone with a sudden and extreme career change would say…
  13. “I just want you to love me / I just wanted to change myself” (“Cimmerian Shade”) – This one line is doing two things. First, Stevens echoes the cult following Deantini inherited over the years, asking the undergraduates of CC to accept and love him as much as they did for Deantini. Second, by admitting that he wants to change himself, he seems to be justifying this new path for his career as a multi-talented artist and visionary. The new path just happens to be higher education, not music.
  14. “I saw your eyes burn in the moonlight / All I ask is a chance in this lifetime” (“Lacrimae”) – This is the note Sufjan chooses to end on: a plea for the people to accept him and give him a chance. He came at the call of the Columbia College students; now we must let him take the reins on our Columbia Journey.

The evidence is there; Sufjan Stevens clearly is going to assume the role of Dean of Columbia College after Dean Valentini steps down in June 2022. So, start getting acclimated to the change! There’s a new sheriff in town, and his name is Dean-jan Stevens.

The Sufjan-ication of Columbia via Photoshop