Valentini Named Interim Dean
Professor of Chemistry James J. Valentini has been named interim Dean of the College and Vice President for Undergraduate Education, replacing Michele Moody-Adams, who unexpectedly resigned in late August.
A member of Columbia’s faculty since 1991, Valentini led Columbia’s chemistry department as chair from 2005–08 and was director of the department’s Undergraduate Studies Program, Summer Session Chemistry Program and National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates Program from 2007 until his recent appointment.
In announcing the appointment to the College community on September 2, President Lee C. Bollinger lauded Valentini’s scholarship while noting that the interim dean’s “two decades at Columbia have been marked by a love of teaching undergraduates and dedication to supporting their intellectual journey at the College.”
“The College has been a central part of my life for the entire 20 years I have been at Columbia,” Valentini says, “and my interaction with students in the College has been the most rewarding part of my Columbia experience.”
Valentini has worked extensively on curriculum matters, undergraduate affairs, faculty governance and tenure. He has been chair of the Arts and Sciences Academic Review Committee, chair of the College Committee on Science Instruction, a member of the Committee on the Core Curriculum and the College Committee on Instruction, and a faculty representative to the Columbia College Alumni Association Board of Directors. He also served on the search committee for the now former dean and on a Presidential Advisory Committee on Diversity Initiatives. He was for many years an active member of the University Senate.
The interim dean’s research focuses on chemical reaction dynamics. He has published more than 100 academic papers and has been named a fellow in both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society. He was the first in his family to attend college, earning a B.S. from Pittsburgh in 1972 and then an M.S. from Chicago in 1973 and a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in 1976, all in chemistry. He did post-doctoral research at Harvard. Valentini was a member of the research staff at Los Alamos National Laboratory and a professor of chemistry at UC Irvine before coming to Columbia. He has taught many undergraduate and graduate chemistry lecture courses, has developed and taught research seminars for first-year students and seniors, and recently designed the course “Energy and Energy Conservation“ to satisfy the Core science requirement.
Bollinger accepted Moody-Adams’ late August resignation effective immediately and, in a statement issued shortly thereafter, thanked her for her service and for her devotion to the College and its students. The former dean retains her post in the philosophy department as the Joseph Straus Professor of Political Philosophy and Legal Theory.
In a September 2 announcement sent to College alumni about the Valentini appointment, Bollinger affirmed the University’s commitment to the College as the center of the University. “Whatever has been true at certain moments in the past, I can say to you, without any qualification, that our commitment to the College has never been stronger, and that the College has never had a stronger role in the University.”
He also noted, “Columbia is a complex organization, with an expansive mission, and a tradition of vigorous debate about its future. We are fortunate to be able to work on these issues with not only a gifted faculty but also a board of University Trustees informed by the strong representation of College alumni leaders, including the chair and three of four vice chairs, and a cohort of able and committed College alumni helping to move Columbia forward.”
Valentini says he is committed to meeting with students, faculty, staff and alumni and providing transparency and communication of information regarding the decision-making process. He set up a special email address for feedback (firstname.lastname@example.org) and, at the suggestion of a student, sent a video message to students during his first month as interim dean.
“The Dean of Columbia College has many jobs, but just one responsibility,” he says, “and that is to make the undergraduate experience at Columbia the very best it can be, for the students enrolled in the College and the faculty who teach them, protecting what we have that is already great, enhancing what it is that is now merely good and developing what it is that is less than good.
“I thank Michele Moody-Adams for leading the College these past two years and wish her the best in her faculty position.”