President Bollinger Names School of General Studies Alumna Lisa Rosen-Metsch as the School’s New Dean

November 14, 2017
Dean of the School of General Studies Lisa Rosen Metsch

Photo by Michael DiVito

President Lee C. Bollinger named Lisa Rosen-Metsch, currently the Stephen Smith Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health, as dean of the School of General Studies (GS). On January 1, 2018, Rosen-Metsch will succeed Peter Awn who is stepping down after 20 years. Awn will continue to teach in the Religion Department.

“Our School of General Studies is unique in the world of higher education and we are fortunate to have an accomplished alumna of the school like Lisa Rosen-Metsch join our outstanding group of University Deans,” said President Bollinger. “An internationally recognized scholar in the prevention of HIV among populations with substance use disorders, Prof. Rosen-Metsch is dedicated to improving our society and believes passionately in the role of the School of General Studies in that public mission.”

Rosen-Metsch joined Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health five years ago. She had previously been a professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, where she was also director of the Division of Health Services Research and Policy. Her research has helped to reshape national policy for the care and treatment of HIV, including through the design and testing of new strategies for expanding the reach of testing and the level of engagement of vulnerable populations.

Born in Brooklyn, she is the daughter of two New York City public school teachers and a 1990 graduate of the School of General Studies, where she earned a bachelor of arts in sociology while also working toward a bachelor’s in history and philosophy from the Jewish Theological Seminary as part of a joint degree program between the two schools. She completed her doctoral studies in medical sociology at the University of Florida. Rosen-Metsch notes that her interest in HIV/AIDS arose in part as a result of an undergraduate internship with HIV/AIDS researchers and undergraduate courses that fundamentally affected her academic and professional interests.

A 1990 photo of Lisa Rosen-Metsch graduating from Columbia's School of General Studies
Lisa Rosen-Metsch graduating from the School of General Studies in 1990.

“My years at Columbia as a General Studies student were transformative and extraordinary,” she said. “I’m proud to be a General Studies alumna, and as someone who started my higher education at Columbia, the potential to expand my role in navigating Columbia’s future by returning to the School that gave me so much is humbling, exciting, and inspiring.”

In her extensive research resulting in more than 180 peer-reviewed publications, Rosen-Metsch has advocated locating public health within social, cultural, economic, historical and political contexts. One current project focuses upon implementing and testing a mobile HIV treatment and prevention clinic to serve low-income neighborhoods in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She plans to continue her research while dean. “It’s important for a dean to continue to be a scholar, and I look forward to involving GS students in my work,” she said.

Rosen-Metsch also currently serves on the executive committee of Columbia’s Center for Justice, an interdisciplinary initiative dedicated to refocusing the criminal justice system on prevention, education and healing. In collaboration with the Columbia School of Social Work, she co-directs a NIH funded pre-doctoral and post-doctoral training program focused on HIV, substance use and the criminal justice system.

She returns to the School of General Studies as it celebrates its 70th anniversary. Created in 1947 in large part to educate returning World War II veterans after the G.I. Bill was passed, the School has fully embraced that founding mission over the past decade under Dean Awn. As a result, Columbia is home to a student population of military veterans that is multiple times larger than any other in the Ivy League. The majority of Columbia military veterans – this year numbering some 700 – are enrolled at General Studies where they join other non-traditional or first-generation students who seek a rigorous undergraduate degree on a full- or part-time basis.

The Columbia University School of General Studies (GS) is the premier liberal arts college in the United States for nontraditional undergraduate students seeking a rigorous, traditional, Ivy League education. GS students take the same courses, study with the same faculty, and earn the same degree as all other undergraduates at Columbia University.

GS is also home to the oldest and largest Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program in the United States, the Joint Program with Jewish Theological Seminary; the Dual BA Program Between Columbia University and Sciences Po; and the Joint Bachelor’s Degree Program between the City University of Hong Kong and Columbia University.