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Columbia University names Nemat Shafik as first woman president

Nemat “Minouche” Shafik will become Columbia University’s 20th president and the first woman to serve in the role in its 268-year history. Photo by Mark Bader/Columbia University
Nemat “Minouche” Shafik will become Columbia University’s 20th president and the first woman to serve in the role in its 268-year history. Photo by Mark Bader/Columbia University

Jan. 18 (UPI) -- Columbia University has announced economist Nemat "Minouche" Shafik will become the university's 20th president and the first woman to serve in the role in its 268-year history.

Shafik, who is the current president of the London School of Economics and Political Science, will succeed Lee Bollinger on July, 1, 2023, when he retires after serving 21 years as president of the Ivy League school in New York City.

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"In Minouche, we believed we found the perfect candidate: a brilliant and able global leader, a community builder, and a preeminent economist who understands the academy and the world beyond it," Jonathan Lavine, chair on behalf of the Trustees of Columbia University, said in a statement Tuesday.

Shafik, 60, was born in Alexandria, Egypt and was raised in the United States. She completed her undergraduate work in economics and politics at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, a Master of Science at the London School of Economics and Political Science and a PhD from St. Antony's College at Oxford University.

In addition to her work as president of the London School of Economics, Shafik was the youngest-ever vice president at the World Bank and later served as the deputy governor of the Bank of England.

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"What set Minouche apart as a candidate was her unshakable confidence in the vital role of institutions of higher education can and must play in solving the world's most complex problems," Lavine said.

"Like all of us in the Columbia community, she believes that in order to bring about meaningful change, we have a collective obligation to combine our distinctive intellectual capacities with groups and organizations beyond the academy."

Shafik's appointment means all eight Ivy League schools will now have had women presidents at some point in their history. Last year, Sian Leah Block became the first woman president of Dartmouth College, while Claudine Gay became the first Black president, and second woman president, at Harvard University.

Shafik said she believes universities should be inclusive and provide opportunity for young people to "engage with people who have a very different perspective and point of view" which she called "an essential way to build a cohesive society."

"Everywhere I've worked, I've made a huge effort to make sure that I had teams around me who had different points of view, different backgrounds and different life experiences," Shafik said.

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