Faculty of Arts and Sciences Names New Divisional Deans for Social Sciences and Humanities

June 24, 2014
Sharon Marcus, (left) Orlando Harriman Professor of English and Comparative Literature, and Alondra Nelson, professor of sociology and director of the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality.

Alondra Nelson and Sharon Marcus become divisional deans in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, effective July 1. Nelson, professor of sociology and director of the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality, was named Dean of Social Sciences. Marcus, the Orlando Harriman Professor of English and Comparative Literature, will be the new Dean of Humanities.

Nelson, author of the award-winning book "Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination," came to Columbia in 2009 after six years at Yale. She earned a Ph.D. in American studies from New York University and a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from University of California, San Diego. Her academic interests include race and ethnicity, family and gender, science and technology, biomedicine and health, and social movements. Nelson's next book, "The Social Life of DNA: Race and Reconciliation after the Genome" is soon to be published.

"Columbia University’s faculty played a critical role in the formation of the social sciences. Scholars here have produced some of the most influential and enduring ideas in these disciplines. And today my colleagues are developing the big ideas of the future," said Nelson. "I am deeply honored by the opportunity to serve as the dean of the social sciences. I feel fortunate to be part of such an auspicious tradition."

Marcus, who earned a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins and a B.A. from Brown, both in comparative literature, specializes in the literature of 19th century England and France. Her focus is the novel, theater and performance, architecture and urbanism, and gender and sexuality. She joined the Columbia faculty in 2003 after teaching at University of California, Berkeley, and is the author of "Apartment Stories: City and Home in Nineteenth Century Paris and London" and the prize-winning "Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England."

"I'm honored to have this chance to work with our superb humanities faculty and with David Madigan and fellow deans Amber Miller and Alondra Nelson," said Marcus. "I look forward to facilitating collaboration across departments, divisions, and schools, and to spearheading a strategic initiative in the humanities that will allow us to define the central role that the humanities will play at Columbia and in the world during the decades to come."

Divisional deans are appointed by the executive committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, consisting of David Madigan, executive vice president and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences; James J. Valentini, Dean of Columbia College, and Carlos J. Alonso, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Science, and report directly to Madigan.

“I am absolutely thrilled that Alondra and Sharon have agreed to serve as divisional deans,” said David Madigan, executive vice president and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “They are both distinguished scholar-educators and ideally qualified to take on the challenges and opportunities of their new leadership roles.”

Working with the executive committee and other academic deans, divisional deans oversee academic departments, research centers, institutes and other major units in their divisions. Their responsibilities include budgeting in conjunction with department chairs, faculty searches and hiring, and compliance with equal opportunity and conflict-of-interest policies. The new deans join Amber Miller, professor of physics, who is Dean of Science. “We now have a fantastic team in place and I am certain they will propel the Arts and Sciences to new heights in the coming years,” said Madigan.

— by Georgette Jasen