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Courtesy of John Reis /

In July 2009, Moody-Adams will join Columbia, replacing Quigley as College Dean

Michele Moody-Adams, vice provost for undergraduate education and professor of philosophy at Cornell University, will become Columbia College's next dean, assuming the mantle from Austin Quigley and becoming the first woman and first African American to hold the post. She will begin her tenure on July 1, 2009. break Moody-Adams will also take on an additional title, vice president for undergraduate education. In the newly created position, she will be the spokesperson for undergraduates to the senior administration. She will also hold an appointment in the philosophy department, where she eventually hopes to teach. Moody-Adams' role will extend beyond the college, tying her into the central administration as part of Columbia's emerging vision for greater integration. In an e-mail notifying undergraduates of the appointment, University President Lee Bollinger lauded Moody-Adams for "ensuring the integrity and coherence of undergraduate curriculum and instruction at Cornell and overseeing a number of academic and residential initiatives." The appointment of a new dean comes at a time of administrative flux for the University. The choice of Moody-Adams speaks to Columbia's direction towards further internal unity. The execution of Bollinger's long-term goals and upcoming plans—such as the impending expansion in Manhattanville—require cooperation across Columbia's many decentralized units. Referring to the push for further cohesion between the college and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Bollinger said in an interview on Thursday that "this a direction that I think is absolutely, clearly for the best interests of undergraduates and for the faculty and for the University. I and others made this point very clearly to Michele that this is a direction we're headed in, and we want to keep going in that direction. I think alumni are extremely supportive and helpful in this transition. It will take many years because it's overcoming a lot of years where there were different feelings about Arts and Sciences and the University, but we're on the path and we have to stay on it." "With the appointment of Michele Moody-Adams, we know that Columbia College will continue to be in good hands in the years ahead," he wrote in the e-mail. Moody-Adams was chosen by a confidential selection committee spearheaded by Nicholas Dirks, vice president for arts and sciences, and composed of professors, students, and alumni. Bollinger added that he was grasping for the proper words to describe the committee's selection. "I think that her scholarly inclinations and accomplishments together with a sense of the importance of ideas and teaching students in the most serious way. It's just exactly what we want to have in this position." He and others also said that she showed a strong devotion to the Core Curriculum. In an interview, Moody-Adams said she was drawn to Columbia because of its unique composition as a "selective liberal arts college" within a larger university. "Columbia offers a distinctive combination in its commitment to the ideals of the classical liberal education—where you read widely in the humanities, culture, and literature and you're encouraged to go and specialize in something—and innovation—where you engage with your faculty mentors in thinking about cutting edge, modern contemporary issues in all fields," Moody-Adams said in a phone interview on Thursday. Aside from her administrative post at Cornell, Moody-Adams is director of the Program on Ethics and Public Life at Cornell. According to Cornell's Web site, "She does research and teaching on a variety of issues in ethical theory, the history of ethics, political philosophy, practical ethics, the philosophy of law, and the history of philosophy. Professor Moody-Adams has published on such topics as moral relativism, moral objectivity, and moral psychology, as well as on problems of social and economic justice, feminism and equality, and the moral implications of reproductive technologies." Moody-Adams graduated from Wellesley College in 1978 with a bachelor's degree in philosophy. She attended Somerville College at the University of Oxford on a Marshall Scholarship and received a B.A. in philosophy, politics, and economics in 1980, and went on to earn Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard University in 1986. Moody-Adams wrote her dissertation on "Moral Philosophy Naturalized: Morality and Mitigated Skepticism in Hume" under the supervision of philosopher John Rawls. Before coming to Cornell in the fall of 2000, Moody-Adams worked at Indiana University, Bloomington as associate dean for undergraduate education. Moody-Adams' husband, James Eli Adams, will also move to the city. Adams, a Victorianist at Cornell, will teach as a visiting professor in English and comparative literature at Columbia. Moody-Adams stressed her commitment to the Core Curriculum, and the college's diversity. On her last visit to Columbia, Moody-Adams met with Barnard President Debora Spar. "I think Debora spar and I have a lot to learn from each other. As someone who went to a women's college, I have a special interest in seeing Barnard thrive." Spar said she is also interested in bolstering the relationship. "It will be wonderful working with her next year, and joining forces with someone who clearly has such a long relationship with and commitment to women's education." Joy Resmovits can be reached at

Michele Moody-Adams CC
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