History of Faculty Diversity and Inclusion

The work to enhance faculty diversity at all of Columbia’s schools builds on initiatives spearheaded first by Professor Jean Howard during her tenure as vice provost for diversity initiatives, and then by her successor, Professor Geraldine Downey.

2004 – 2007

Jean Howard, the George Delacorte Professor in the Humanities, was appointed the first vice provost for diversity initiatives in 2004 and served through 2007. In 2005, Columbia’s Trustees unanimously approved a commitment of $15 million for a recruitment campaign to attract outstanding underrepresented minority and female scholars to the Arts and Sciences faculty, address the work-life issues of an increasingly diverse faculty, foster an institutional climate to enhance the recruitment and retention of faculty, and encourage broad discussion of these issues across the University. With $2 million in funding, in 2007 the Professional Schools Diversity Initiative was created to expand faculty diversity efforts to Columbia’s professional schools using a competitive grants program for junior faculty and visiting fellows. During Howard’s tenure, faculty members from underrepresented groups were recruited to the Arts and Sciences, Schools received training and resource materials to enhance the inclusiveness of faculty searches, the University’s first Office of Work-Life was established, a program to provide emergency back-up care for children and family members was created, and the Higher Education Recruitment Consortium was developed.

2007 – 2009

Geraldine Downey, professor and former chair of the psychology department, succeeded Professor Howard as vice provost for diversity initiatives in 2007 and served until 2009. Under her leadership, the office continued to focus on hiring and recruitment of faculty from underrepresented groups, and faculty and pipeline development.  An additional $5 million was devoted to faculty recruitments in the natural sciences in the Arts and Sciences. Under Downey’s leadership, faculty members from underrepresented groups were hired in the Arts and Sciences, the Professional Schools Diversity Initiative continued to award research fellowships to faculty members in Columbia’s professional Schools, and the Office of Work-Life implemented a range of new programs. The office played a central role in obtaining a Clare Boothe Luce Foundation grant to support women in science and engineering. In recognition of the centrality of faculty development to retention efforts, a Faculty Development Task Force was convened and new programming was incorporated into the work of the office. In partnership with departments in the Arts and Sciences, and with funding from the National Science Foundation, the Bridge to the PhD in the Natural Sciences Program was initiated. 

2010 – Present

The Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Planning was established in 2010 with the appointment of Professor Andrew Davidson as vice provost for academic planning. It extended and replaced the Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity Initiatives. The office worked in collaboration with University academic and administrative units to facilitate faculty development and diversity, and plan initiatives woven into the core functions and decision-making processes of the University. 

In 2012, Columbia announced its commitment of $30 million to enhance the diversity of its faculty through the recruitment of outstanding female and underrepresented minority scholars to more closely reflect the composition of the national pool of qualified candidates. Using a framework marked by collaboration with schools across campus, new investments were made in the recruitment of outstanding faculty and postdoctoral scholars from underrepresented groups to more closely reflect the composition of the national pool of qualified candidates. The effort included a small-grants program for junior faculty, designed to contribute to their career success and some cost-sharing support on select grant applications for undergraduates from underrepresented groups transitioning to PhD programs in the STEM fields.

In 2014, the University again redoubled its commitment to diversity, recruiting Professor Dennis Mitchell as vice provost for faculty diversity and inclusion. Under Vice Provost Mitchell's leadership, the University announced another continued commitment, this of $33 million, to support faculty recruiting, pipeline-building, and climate initiatives.