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Moody-Adams Tapped as Dean at Columbia

You read it here first...

Michele Moody-Adams, vice provost for undergraduate education and professor of philosophy at Cornell University, will become Columbia College’s next dean, assuming the mantle from Austin Quigley and becoming the first woman and first African American to hold the post. She will begin her tenure on July 1, 2009.

Moody-Adams will also take on an additional title, vice president for undergraduate education. In the newly created position, she will be the spokesperson for undergraduates to the senior administration. She will also hold an appointment in the philosophy department, where she eventually hopes to teach.
Moody-Adams’ role will extend beyond the college, tying her into the central administration as part of Columbia’s emerging vision for greater integration. In an e-mail notifying undergraduates of the appointment, University President Lee Bollinger lauded Moody-Adams for “ensuring the integrity and coherence of undergraduate curriculum and instruction at Cornell and overseeing a number of academic and residential initiatives.”

The appointment of a new dean comes at a time of administrative flux for the University. The choice of Moody-Adams speaks to Columbia’s direction towards further internal unity. The execution of Bollinger’s long-term goals and upcoming plans—such as the impending expansion in Manhattanville—require cooperation across Columbia’s many decentralized units.

And the Sun actually seems to be running an article as well, although it isn't immediately accessible on their webpage:

Though Moody-Adams has had a long and illustrious career at Cornell, there were numerous factors that contributed to her career decision to move from Ithaca to the Big Apple. Among them were the unique aspects of the Columbia curriculum, which she hopes to streamline and maintain. Moody-Adams cited the specific two-year general education aspects of Columbia College’s curricula that intrigues her.

Additionally, Moody-Adams said she hopes to incite continued debate about the importance of a liberal arts education in an increasingly vocational-directed world. She noted that she wants to prove that it is possible to be well-versed in classic works and still obtain a good job.

A professor since 2000, Moody-Adams has had a lot of time to build up her resume. She said that one of her most enjoyable experiences has been her involvement with building a literary repertoire of the incoming classes.

“Absolutely the most fun thing is the book project,” Moody-Adams said. She has been involved with the New Student Reading Project since its inception in 2000 and helps narrow down the possible selections each year. The book project, however, is only one of many luminous accomplishments for the former Marshall scholar at Oxford.

“The things I feel proudest of, I’ve helped to create a Center for Teaching Excellence and worked with the West Campus housing system,” Moody-Adams said. She helped develop the live-in faculty member program on West Campus and cultivate the “living-learning” atmosphere.

I have a couple of immediate thoughts:

-- The announcement shouldn't come as a surprise. A black woman with administrative experience is a hot commodity in academia these days. Let's just hope that the University can hang on to David Harris.

-- It's unfortunate that Moody-Adams left so soon after Biddy, as it would have been nice to have a bit more continuity of leadership in the Provost's office with regards to undergraduate education. Fuchs will understandably be much more concerned with the nuts and bolts of the University over the coming year, and I hope that undergraduate education doesn't get short-changed in the interim.

-- By all accounts, Moody-Adams was universally well-liked by administrators, faculty, and most importantly, students. My strongest memory of Moody-Adams will always be her heartfelt and moving "Last Lecture" sponsored by Mortar Board in the fall of 2004 -- not only did she present an impassioned argument for the role of philosophical inquiry and humanity in daily life, but I will always remember how touched she was when students offered her a token gesture of their appreciation. She actually teared up.

-- Had she stayed at Cornell she could have easily become the next Isaac Kramnick on campus.

-- Some folks over at Columbia's Bwog are being hilariously immature about the news. One claims that "anything that moves you from Cornell to Columbia is a step up." Another suggests that "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." Insecure much?

-- Most importantly, it will be interesting to see who Fuchs taps as the next vice-prvosot for undergraduate education, and whether or not they will bring a new philosophy to the position. The first two, Moody-Adams and Kramnick, were largely there to support University-wide "quality of life" initiatives -- like the Tatkon Center, the reading project, and the West Campus System -- while leaving the "real" undergraduate education to the deans. There's been very little talk, for instance, of consolidating economics coursework across the colleges, or encouraging upper-level seminars for all students. That could change, but I doubt it.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on February 27, 2009 (#)

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