Columbia University

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Sarah Cole to continue as Dean of Humanities

May 03, 2021

We are thrilled to announce that Sarah Cole, Parr Professor of English and Comparative Literature and current Dean of Humanities in the Arts & Sciences, has agreed to continue her deanship. Dean Cole has been reappointed to the position through June 2023.

Amy Hungerford, Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, announced Dean Cole's reappointment to the faculty:

"Sarah’s intellectual leadership in the last three years has been both expansive and grounded. Supporting departments day in and day out in their efforts to hire, retain, and promote top faculty across the humanities, she has brought total commitment to developing this core resource within the university. Enhancing the diversity of the faculty has been a top priority during Sarah’s deanship, leading to successful partnerships with departments in hiring, promotion, and faculty support, and bringing her into the circle of university leadership on these matters.  She brings to all this work a distinguished scholarly record of her own in her field of Modern British literature, continuing her research and publishing her third book, Inventing Tomorrow: H.G. Wells and the Twentieth Century (Columbia UP, 2020), during her term as dean. Her presidentially supported Humanities War and Peace initiative and a new faculty initiative on climate and the humanities, to take just two examples, have united and enlivened the intellectual, pedagogical, and public-facing life of the division across fields and research questions. 

Sarah’s service since the start of the pandemic has been nothing short of extraordinary. When disruptions began in March of 2020, she immediately increased her contact with chairs, gathering them for mutual support and problem-solving in the face of fresh uncertainties and new demands. Interviewing chairs during this process, I heard the same thing over and over: these meetings were not only essential, they were (to use a surprising word many used) fun. Sarah also chose to teach a seminar in the hybrid mode this spring in order to offer undergraduate students on campus the rare pleasure of in-person contact in the classroom. Mastering the technological tools, she stitched together community here, too, between remote and in-person students to create a positive learning environment for all. In the social austerity of lockdown, Sarah’s combination wit, optimism, and total competence lifted many a sagging spirit and inspired a feeling of community everywhere she landed.

Alongside all of this, Sarah has served, and continues to serve, in vital roles that cross divisional lines. During her service as the dean overseeing the Promotion and Tenure Committee, she has not only ensured the smooth running of that body, but has guided Arts and Sciences through significant changes, particularly as we support promotion and tenure in the wake of COVID disruption and, in collaboration with Carol Becker, Dean of the School of the Arts, integrate review of arts practice more fully into the PTC tenure review process. Sarah worked out policies and communications to support junior faculty in navigating extended tenure clocks, and continues to lead the implementation of the provost’s new round of COVID accommodations. During her deanship, she began to gather Center and Institute directors each term for collegial conversation, a project that will continue to grow in the coming years. In this and on all Arts and Sciences matters reaching beyond the division, she effectively collaborates with Fred Harris, Dean of Social Sciences, and Bob Mawhinney, Dean of Science, who continue in their roles at the head of their respective divisions. 

Please join me in thanking Dean Sarah Cole for her willingness to continue her extraordinary service to Arts and Sciences at an especially challenging time. I look forward to her deepening role and am grateful, both personally and professionally, for her talent as a leader and for her humane spirit—qualities that have defined her first term of service, and that mark her as one of Columbia’s best citizens."