Update on Columbia's Faculty Diversity Initiative

January 20, 2016

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community,

A decade ago, President Bollinger committed the University to a substantial financial investment in diversifying Columbia’s faculty through the recruitment and retention of underrepresented minorities and women.  The initiative has expanded greatly in scope and reach since then and today provides a national model others are following.  Thus far, the University and our individual schools have committed $83 million toward this important goal.  I want to share with you the latest iteration of these efforts, which relate directly to the discussions here at Columbia and across the nation about the enduring inequality in our society and ways we must work to combat it. 

We have long recognized that academic excellence of the level sought by Columbia is attainable only through the contributions of a diverse faculty and student body.  Creating this diversity requires a sustained commitment at all levels of the institution.  With that in mind, we are funding a group of proposals for new faculty positions dedicated to LGBTQ scholarship as part of our LGBTQ initiative.  The selections are based on recommendations from a committee of senior faculty members from both the Morningside and Medical Center campuses.  Below you will find a list of approved proposals and recruitments, along with the respective School, Department and lead faculty member for each.

We are proud that Columbia’s LGBTQ initiative is the first of its kind among our peer institutions.  In addition, we have awarded new grants to support the career success of ten junior faculty from underrepresented groups who are working in a variety of scholarly and professional disciplines.  Please join me and Vice Provost for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion Dennis Mitchell in congratulating all of the awardees, who are also listed below.

These efforts, important as they are, reflect only a small fraction of the many initiatives underway at Columbia to further diversify our intellectual and campus life.  Other faculty-specific initiatives include: building a larger pipeline of undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields; recruiting women and individuals from underrepresented groups to bring their cutting-edge scholarship and dynamic teaching to Columbia; providing grants for women and underrepresented junior faculty working towards tenure; and recruiting faculty in diverse areas of inquiry, such as LGBTQ scholarship. Read more about University’s faculty and pipeline diversity initiative to learn more. 

As President Bollinger wrote last month in his ongoing public and legal advocacy for affirmative action, it is not enough for us to simply create a more diverse faculty and student body; we must make sure that “every one of the diverse identities and backgrounds present at our school” has “the opportunity to thrive.”  I look forward to reporting soon about the new efforts through our Center for Teaching and Learning to apply Columbia’s thought leadership on issues of social difference to further enhance inclusion in our academic life.

For the present, this is a moment when we can see the results of Columbia’s determination to foster diversity and inclusion within our academic ranks – and rededicate ourselves to continuing this vital effort.

John Coatsworth

The approved Schools and Departments, lead faculty members for each proposal, and brief descriptions of the proposed faculty recruitments are listed below: 

Faculty of Arts and Sciences (A&S), Division of Humanities 
Department of English & Comparative Literature, in collaboration with 
The Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality (IRWGS) 
Sarah Cole, Professor and Chair, Department of English & Comparative Literature 
Marianne Hirsch, William Peterfied Trent Professor of English & Comparative Literature and Professor, IRWGS 
Proposal to recruit a senior scholar in queer studies

Faculty of Arts and Sciences (A&S), Division of Humanities 
Department of Religion 
Courtney Bender, Professor and Chair, Department of Religion 
Proposal to recruit a junior or senior scholar engaged in research at the intersection of religion and gender/sexuality studies

Faculty of Arts and Sciences (A&S), Division of Social Sciences 
Department of History 
Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies and Chair, Department of History 
Proposal to recruit a senior scholar in the history of sexuality

School of Nursing 
LGBT Health Initiative, Center for Evidence-Based Practice in the Underserved 
Walter Bockting, Professor of Medical Psychology [in Psychiatry and Nursing] and 
Co-Director, LGBT Health Initiative; in collaboration with 
Anke Ehrhardt, Professor of Medical Psychology (in Psychiatry) and Director, LGBT Health Initiative 
Proposal to recruit a senior scholar in lesbian and bisexual women’s health


Assistant Professor 
Columbia Business School      
Projects on Gender Sorting of Entrepreneurs

Assistant Professor of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research 
School of Engineering and Applied Science 
A Scalable and Robust Approach for Sequential Decision Making   

Assistant Professor of Neuroscience 
College of Physicians and Surgeons 
Modulation of Circuits Elements for Motion Detection by Locomotion       

Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies
Faculty of Arts and Sciences 
Love, Loyalty and Difference: Forms of Companionship Across Early Modern Iran and India

Assistant Professor of Economics 
Faculty of Arts and Sciences 
Credit Risk and Interdealer Networks 

Assistant Professor of Medicine 
College of Physicians and Surgeons 
Innovative Models for Delivery of Depression Care and Reducing Cardiovascular Disease

Associate Professor of Theatre Arts   
School of the Arts 

Assistant Professor 
School of Social Work 
Innovating Gang Violence Prevention with Qualitative Analysis and Natural Language Processing Tools 
Social Work

Assistant Professor of Medicine         
College of Physicians and Surgeons 
Understanding the Molecular Pathobiology of Right Ventricular Dysfunction as a Determinant of Gender Differences in Heart Failure  

Assistant Professor 
Columbia Business School      
The Role of Competition and Economies of Scale in Drug Development