Columbia hired 30 new professors this year to teach full time in the Arts and Sciences, a Columbia College spokesperson told Spectator.
The School of the Arts’ creative writing program hired four new professors, the most of any department or program. The earth and environmental sciences, economics, English, history, and statistics departments each had three new hires.
Columbia College Dean James Valentini, who wasn’t yet dean when the 30 faculty search processes began in the summer of 2011, said that administrators decided which searches to approve on a case-by-case basis. The decisions were “not the result of a decision to emphasize one general area—humanities, social sciences, natural sciences—over another,” he said in an email.
Seth Kimmel, CC ’01, was hired to teach in the department of Latin American and Iberian cultures. He said that he decided to teach at Columbia because of its “challenging and stimulating environment.”
“There are great students here, and a really engaging group of faculty,” he said. “The students in my classes are really well prepared, interested, and motivated. They’re excited to really delve into the texts we’re reading—that’s really been the greatest thing so far.”
Tamar Lando, a new hire in the philosophy department, also emphasized the quality of the students at Columbia, as well as the support she receives from her department.
“I just felt the department here was a good fit. On my visit, people were very welcoming,” she said. “It’s been a very easy transition.”
Another new hire, geophysicist Sean Solomon, is the new director of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Solomon, who is also the principal investigator for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s MESSENGER mission to Mercury, said in an email that “the opportunity to direct the Observatory was too compelling an invitation to pass up.”
“In the three months I’ve been at Columbia and the Observatory, I’ve been immensely impressed with the intellectual breadth of the staff, the energy and creativity of the students, and the support of the administration for encouraging innovation and programmatic growth,” he said. “The best part of every day is learning about the latest work of one or more of my colleagues.”
According to the Office of Planning and Institutional Research, there were 854 full-time faculty members in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences as of last fall, up from 822 the previous year.
While many of the 30 new faculty members are acclimating themselves to Columbia this semester, some of them have already served as part-time professors. John McWhorter taught Contemporary Civilization and Introduction to Linguistics as an adjunct professor before taking a full-time job in the English department this semester.
“It’s never dull, and the two classes might as well be different universes,” McWhorter said in an email. “Just today, I finally got my academic books into my office—now all I need is an electric teapot and, I don’t know, a guinea pig or something and I’ll be completely settled in.”
This summer, faculty searches were approved for the first time by the newly formed A&S Executive Committee, which consists of Valentini, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean Carlos Alonso, and Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences Nicholas Dirks. Valentini said that he couldn’t comment on ongoing faculty searches.
“Departments are just beginning the search for new faculty, and over the course of the year, some searches will change, others will be deferred, and yet others may be redirected,” he said in an email.
Samantha Cooney contributed reporting.