Columbia’s New President: Minouche Shafik

The Columbia University Board of Trustees in January introduced Nemat “Minouche” Shafik, PhD, as the university’s 20th president. She succeeds Lee Bollinger on July 1. Dr. Shafik toured the Columbia University Irving Medical Center the day after the announcement.

Columbia’s new president, Nemat “Minouche” Shafik, visiting with students while touring Columbia University Irving Medical Center

Columbia’s new president, Nemat “Minouche” Shafik, visiting with students while touring Columbia University Irving Medical Center

A leading economist, Dr. Shafik joins Columbia after serving as president of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) since 2017. Her career has focused on public policy and academia. A tireless proponent of diversity and inclusion and a creative and thoughtful leader committed to cultivating and promoting service to the public good, Dr. Shafik has edited, co-authored, or authored numerous articles and books, including, most recently, “What We Owe Each Other: A New Social Contract” (2021), in which she calls for a better social contract to underpin our economic system and challenges institutions and individuals to rethink how we can better support each other to thrive.

Dr. Shafik will be Columbia’s first woman president. She also served as the first female leader of LSE and previously was the first female permanent secretary of the U.K. Department for International Development.

She was born in Alexandria, Egypt, and fled the country with her family when she was 4 years old. Her father, a scientist, found work in the United States, where he had done his PhD, and Dr. Shafik attended numerous schools in Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina. She earned a BA degree in economics and politics from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where she graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa; an MS degree in economics from the LSE; and a PhD degree in economics from St Antony’s College, Oxford University.

Dr. Shafik says diversity can be encouraged by opening “the door for others,” which results in “better workplaces, better decisions, and more impact.” She sees universities playing an important role “in social mobility and providing access and opportunity to everyone. There is much debate about this issue in terms of admissions, in terms of the costs of education, in terms of the impact and benefits of higher education. And we need to rise to that challenge because providing opportunities for everyone is a core part of what we do.”

Dr. Shafik’s guided tour of the medical center, led by Katrina Armstrong, MD, VP&S dean, included a reception with CUIMC deans and VP&S leadership. She also was introduced to a few of the community initiatives underway across the campus and heard from initiative leaders about the importance of building trust with the local community to improve health outcomes and conduct research to better serve the community through clinical care. Tour stops included a visit to the Comprehensive HIV Program clinic, hosted by Magda Sobieszczyk, MD, chief of infectious diseases, and a visit to the lab of David Ho, MD, director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, to hear about Columbia’s scientific contributions to COVID-19 vaccination efforts. She also met with students.