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Welcome to the Spring 2023 Semester at Columbia

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:

Welcome to the Spring 2023 semester at Columbia!

For those of you who are new members of the SPS community, a special welcome. There is much to look forward to this spring, and I encourage you to take advantage of the many events across the School. 

Today the University named its 20th President, Nemat “Minouche” Shafik, Ph.D., a leading economist whose career has focused on public policy and academia. Dr. Shafik has had a remarkable career. She holds a Master of Science in economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a Doctor of Philosophy in economics from St Antony's College, Oxford University. At age 36, she became the youngest-ever vice president at the World Bank. During the early 2000s, she held academic appointments at the Wharton Business School of the University of Pennsylvania and the Economics Department at Georgetown University. In 2008, she was appointed Permanent Secretary of the U.K.’s Department for International Development, where she led an overhaul in British foreign aid. She also served as Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund and then as Deputy Governor of the Bank of England. In 2017, she returned to academia as President of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Her election concludes a wide-ranging and intensive search launched after Lee C. Bollinger announced that he would step down as Columbia’s president at the end of the 2022-2023 academic year. In a letter to the community, Jonathan Lavine, chair of the Columbia Board of Trustees, called Dr. Shafik “the perfect candidate: a brilliant and able global leader, a community builder, and a preeminent economist who understands the academy and the world beyond it.” He wrote, “What set Minouche apart as a candidate is her unshakable confidence in the vital role institutions of higher education can and must play in solving the world’s most complex problems. Like all of us in the Columbia community, she believes that in order to bring about meaningful change, we have a collective obligation to combine our distinctive intellectual capacities with groups and organizations beyond the academy.” Her appointment begins July 1, 2023. 

As we look forward to the years to come, it is important to acknowledge the extensive contributions and leadership of President Lee C. Bollinger to Columbia over the past two decades. President Bollinger is Columbia’s first Seth Low Professor of the University, a member of the Columbia Law School faculty, and one of the nation’s foremost First Amendment scholars. During his tenure, the University has flourished as a center of academic excellence, prioritizing university-wide and cross-disciplinary work that approaches teaching and research in novel ways. New initiatives have been created or expanded to realize these ambitions, including those devoted to data science, neuroscience, the arts, cancer research and care, the humanities, journalism, and precision medicine. He has pushed for a thoughtful approach to global engagement and has fostered a dedication to diversity in education. In addition, he spearheaded record-breaking capital campaigns and oversaw Columbia’s most ambitious physical expansion in more than a century. We owe him much. 

A special note of thanks also to our Board of Trustees, and in particular to the subset who served on the Presidential Search Committee. The Board’s work is profoundly important to this institution. A fact you may not know: The corporate name of our institution is not “Columbia University” or even “Columbia University in the City of New York.” It is “The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York.” To our current students who will soon be alumni, and to those of you already out in the world, I urge you to think about this and your connection to this singular institution. Further, like those in our own SPS Student Government, I urge you to be a vigorous part of our shared enterprise to enhance the greatness of this place.

Returning to the spring semester, a wonderful way for new students to become more familiar with our School and the SPS community is during the upcoming Weeks of Welcome. Activities begin January 17 and include campus tours, academic workshops, Broadway outings, sporting events, and more. More information can be found on Engage. I also invite you to become acquainted with the SPS Student Government and with School resources available to students, such as the Career Design Lab and Wellness Services

On January 20, our Strategic Communication program will host its first annual Winter Symposium, “Courageous Impact: Strategic Communication in a Changing World,”  an opportunity for Strategic Communication students, faculty, and alumni to come together for a day of thought-provoking ideas and leadership development. On January 25, Political Science Professor Gregory Wawro will moderate “2024 Starts Now,” a Political Analytics program webinar that will include leading political data analysts, industry influencers, and academic experts who will discuss how data and analytics will be critical to building political strategies and will direct the billions of dollars that will be spent in the 2024 election cycle. 

While it may seem far away, planning is already underway for SPS Graduation. In the coming weeks, the Office of Student Life will share more information for those graduating this May. 

I would like to thank our student leaders, faculty, and staff for all you do. I am always inspired and impressed by your innovation, school spirit, and accomplishments. I am excited for what lies ahead.

Best regards,