After announcing his retirement as dean almost a year ago, General Studies Dean Peter Awn will postpone his departure until the spring semester.
Awn was expected to retire at the end of the 2016-2017 academic year, but after a search process that took longer than expected, a replacement for Awn has not yet been found. Awn intends to remain engaged in teaching and research as a full member of the faculty after he steps down as dean.
Executive Vice President and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences David Madigan, who co-chairs the search committee for a new dean, said that he appreciated Awn’s willingness to stay on as dean.
“I’m very confident we’ll have a new dean in place on Jan. 1,” Madigan said. “We’re incredibly grateful to Dean Awn for being willing to stay on for the fall.”
The search committee, co-chaired by University President Lee C. Bollinger and Madigan, has been searching for a new dean for months, considering both internal and external candidates. Bollinger’s office in a statement did not directly address why the search committee did not stick to its original timeline.
No students were included on the committee, despite having been present on its counterparts in Columbia College and the School of Engineering.
General Studies, with a student body including veterans, non-traditional students, and students in dual-degree programs, is faced with a unique setof demands compared to Columbia’s other undergraduate schools. Unlike Columbia College, General Studies does not give its students full financial aid, and as a result, many students struggle to meet to pay tuition.
In an interview one year ago, Awn said that expanding financial aid was pivotal for the school’s future.
“Even though we’ve been right upfront about the financial aid issue, that could make or break the school in the long term,” Awn said. “There’s no choice about it.”
In an email announcing his retirement, Awn again emphasized the financial aid issue, arguing that his successor would be tasked with expanding financial accessibility, renaming the school, and finding space to accommodate new programs for GS students.