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Michele M. Moody-Adams Named Next Dean of Columbia College

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger today announced the appointment of Michele M. Moody-Adams as the new dean of Columbia College. Moody-Adams comes to Columbia from Cornell University, where, since 2000, she has been the Hutchinson Professor and Director of the Program on Ethics and Public Life, and has served for the past four years as Cornell's vice provost for undergraduate education. Moody-Adams succeeds retiring Columbia College Dean Austin E. Quigley. Her appointment begins July 1, 2009.

Michele M. Moody-Adams discusses the future of Columbia College. (3:03)

"Professor Moody-Adams' extraordinary commitment to teaching, scholarship and public service, as well as her hands-on experience as an academic administrator for undergraduate education, make her uniquely well suited to this new challenge," said President Bollinger. "Hers is the kind of approach to undergraduate education imagined by Columbians who created and nurtured a Core Curriculum that has called on generations of students to reflect deeply on our shared intellectual traditions, challenge their own preconceptions about the world, remain open to the perspectives of others and grapple with the questions essential to active citizenship in a democracy."

Professor Moody-Adams is an accomplished scholar and academic administrator who has taught at Cornell, Indiana University, the University of Rochester and Wellesley College. She has produced an extensive body of work in moral philosophy. Her 1997 book, Fieldwork in Familiar Places: Morality, Culture, and Philosophy, has been widely praised as "a major contribution to moral philosophy." She has written and lectured extensively throughout the United States and abroad on a wide range of timely public issues. As an administrator, she has been responsible for ensuring the integrity and coherence of undergraduate curriculum and instruction at Cornell and overseeing a number of academic and residential initiatives. Before that, she was a professor and associate dean for undergraduate education in the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University, Bloomington.

"The Columbia undergraduate experience combines the best ideals of a liberal education with the highest respect for cutting-edge scholarship and research," said Moody-Adams. "I look forward to joining the Columbia community and to taking a leading role in the continuing development of its outstanding undergraduate programs."

Moody-Adams received B.A. degrees from both Wellesley College and Oxford University and went on to earn her M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard University. She has won numerous academic honors, including a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship and a Marshall Scholarship, and has served on the editorial boards of several national and international scholarly journals. She has been recognized by Who's Who Among America's Teachers for her undergraduate teaching, and celebrated as a faculty "Last Lecturer" by the Cornell chapter of the Mortar Board Honor Society.

"Michele Moody-Adams comes to Columbia with an extraordinary background in the administration of undergraduate education," said Columbia's vice president for arts and sciences, Nicholas Dirks. "Even as her own scholarship has bridged old debates between timeless universalism and age-specific relativism, she is deeply committed to the traditional mission of general education and the liberal arts in the larger setting of our vibrant and global research University. I am thrilled to know I will be able to work with her in the years ahead."

Professor Moody-Adams' husband, James Eli Adams, will join her at Columbia as a visiting professor in English and comparative literature. A scholar of Victorian literature and culture, Adams has been a faculty member in the English department at Cornell since 2000.

"I am so pleased that Michele Moody-Adams is the person who will succeed me as dean of the College," said Austin Quigley, who retires after 14 years in that position in June. "She has a splendid record of academic and administrative achievement and has all the abilities needed to sustain the momentum of the College's progress."

"Michele Moody-Adams' enthusiasm and intellectual prowess is contagious. Columbia College students are going to embrace her as one of their own," said Adil Ahmed '09, who served with Sarah Weiss '10 as the undergraduate students on the search committee. "She showed us that she has a sharp ability to lead and craft a short-term and long-term vision for Columbia College. She was highly regarded for being open and accessible to students in her tenure at Cornell, and it is individuals like her that make me excited to be active as an alumnus in the coming years."

"The alumni of Columbia College have every reason to be proud and excited by the appointment of Michele Moody-Adams as the next dean," said Geoffrey Colvin '74. "The search process was thorough, and there was consensus on the part of the alumni participants-Jonathan Lavine '88, Lisa Landau Carnoy '89 and me-as well as other members of the committee, that Michele was an outstanding first choice. For so many of us, the intellectual challenges and personal experiences we had at the College helped shape who we are as people, what we do as professionals and why we are active citizens. It's clear that Professor Moody-Adams has a deep appreciation for the central significance of Columbia College at the University, and we know that generations of future Columbia College students and alumni will benefit from her leadership and scholarship."

To see a New York Times article about the new dean, go to