For the first time in school history, Columbia University is electing a female president.
Economist Nemat “Minouche” Shafik will become the school’s 20th president taking over from Lee C. Bollinger, the university announced Wednesday morning. Bollinger became the school’s 19th president in 2002 and is the longest-serving Ivy League president.
Shafik, who runs the London School of Economics, takes over as higher education faces a ruckus over issues including costs and the potential end of affirmative action.
The 60-year-old woman is slated to assume the presidency in July, the school reported.
In a letter to the Columbia community, the university’s board of trustees wrote it had found the “perfect candidate” to lead the university, calling her a “brilliant and able global leader, a community builder and a preeminent economist who understands the academy and the world beyond it.”
Who is Minouche Shafik?
Shafik is married to molecular biologist Raffael Jovine, with whom she has two college-age children and three adult stepchildren.
Born in Alexandria, Egypt, Shafik’s family fled the country during the political and economic upheaval of the mid-1960s.
Her father, a scientist, found work in the United States, where he had done his Ph.D. Shafik attended schools in Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina, and in 1983, she graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and politics.
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In 1986, she was awarded a Master of Science in economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science, followed by a Doctor of Philosophy in economics from St Antony’s College, Oxford University, in 1989.
She has not only run the London School of Economics since 2017, she has also served as vice president at the World Bank, deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund and deputy governor of the Bank of England.
The fight over race and education
In October, a majority of Supreme Court justices indicated they are skeptical of race-based efforts to foster diversity on American campuses.
But experts said the fight over race and education won’t stop if the nation’s highest court ends affirmative action as it is understood today. In fact, legal battles over what may come next are already playing out in federal courts across the country.
Nine states – including Washington and California – ban the consideration of race in higher education. But education leaders in some of those states, as well as some public school district officials, have sought ways to promote diversity without explicitly asking about or considering race. Some of those policies have also drawn lawsuits.
The outcome of that litigation could provide a roadmap for how schools and universities respond if the Supreme Court rules against Harvard College and the University of North Carolina, both of which consider race as one of many factors in their admissions.