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Former Wharton Professor Nemat Shafik, who will be the first female President of Columbia University (Photo by Cliff Owen | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Former Wharton Professor Nemat "Minouche" Shafik is set to become the 20th President of Columbia University, marking the first time a woman and person of color will hold the position. 

In a statement published Jan 18., Columbia announced that Shafik — who served as a Visiting Associate Professor at Wharton from January 1996 to June 1996 — will assume the presidency on July 1, concluding the 21-year tenure of current president Lee Bollinger.

The University’s Board of Trustees statement dubbed Shafik as the board’s “perfect candidate." Beyond her listable achievements, the board also described Shafik as a “creative and thoughtful leader” dedicated to wielding higher education for the public good. 

Shafik, the current director of the London School of Economics and Political Science, is a renowned economist for her work at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. 

Her deep-rooted international perspective has marked Shafik’s path to the University’s presidency as her upbringing was split between her birth nation of Egypt and the United States. She, furthermore, earned her doctorate from the University of Oxford in England. 

In her 2021 book, “What We Owe Each Other: A New Social Contract for a Better Society,” Shafik advocated for a new social contract reflective of the gender, age, and technological transformations of the 21st century. Despite the looming challenges of climate change, racial and ethnic conflict, and economic inequality, Shafik remains optimistic. 

“A new social contract is possible that can satisfy people’s need for security and opportunity while also addressing the challenges that affect society as a whole,” Shafik wrote in an article for the International Monetary Fund.

In their statement, the Board of Trustees cited Shafik’s message in “What We Owe Each Other” as proof of a lifelong commitment to ameliorating institutions to serve communities better. 

Shafik’s selection comes amidst the monthslong controversy surrounding the data supplied for the U.S. News College Rankings list and the loss of over a billion dollars in endowment.

“At Columbia, [Shafik’s] call to action will not only enrich our educational and research mission but also enhance our role as a neighbor and civic partner,” Jonathan Lavine, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, wrote.

After Shafik’s inauguration, Columbia will join five other Ivy League universities — all except Princeton and Yale — that currently have or will have female presidents by the 2023-2024 school year.