Mary Boyce, the first female dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, will serve as Columbia’s chief academic officer starting in July, University President Lee Bollinger announced in an email Wednesday afternoon. She will be the first woman to serve as provost in University history.
Bollinger’s announcement comes over one year after then-Provost John Coatsworth stepped down from the role in June 2019. Ira Katznelson, who served as the chief academic officer in the interim, steered Columbia through a rapidly changing academic landscape during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under his tenure, the University transitioned to virtual learning, implemented a hiring freeze across nearly all schools and departments and administrative offices, and suspended admissions for doctoral students in humanities programs.
As provost, Boyce will likely inherit the lasting effects of major disruptions to the University’s academic programs. In the role, Boyce will be tasked with overseeing 18 reporting offices and academic units, ranging from the International Students and Scholars Office to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action; directing academic plans and policies; setting tuition and budgets; supervising academic departments; and evaluating faculty-specific issues such as tenure recommendations and grievances.
Boyce is the first dean of SEAS to be named provost since 1982, when Peter Likins finished his tenure as provost of the University’s professional schools. Following the 1987 consolidation of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences into the primary academic unit of the University, the provost position has primarily been held by academics with backgrounds in the humanities and social sciences.
After her appointment to dean in 2013, Boyce followed a vision of “Engineering for Humanity,” which explored ways for students and faculty to apply their research and education to ongoing societal issues. She spearheaded major industry partnerships including the September launch of the Columbia Center of Artificial Intelligence Technology in partnership with Amazon, a priority in line with Bollinger’s efforts to expand the University’s reach as a competitive research institution.
“The School has thrived, buoyed by her celebration of intellectual creativity in all its forms, by her thoughtful expansion of the School’s academic programming, and by the recruitment of top scholars from around the world to the Engineering faculty,” Bollinger wrote in his email. “Propelled by a firm belief in the value of interdisciplinary work, Mary has established connections among Columbia Engineering and other parts of the University.”