Former School of International and Public Affairs Dean Lisa Anderson will become American University of Cairo's provost in fall 2008 in a career change she feels will take her full circle.
In a sense, Anderson, who stepped down as dean last year, will pick up in Cairo where she left off at Columbia. Since AUC is moving into a new $400 million campus, the concerns she will face in assisting the physical transfer of faculty are analogous to those she would have faced in moving SIPA from the International Affairs Building to their new Manhattanville facility.
Anderson will also be returning to her academic roots—her research focused on Middle Eastern politics before she became an administrator. Anderson's name became well-known—and irrevocably connected to Middle Eastern issues—when in 2006 she invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at the Columbia World Leaders Forum. After President Lee Bollinger chose not to lend the visit full sponsorship, Anderson rescinded the invitation, citing security concerns. Last spring, she stepped down as dean after a decade at the helm.
Anderson has been a member of the Columbia faculty for the past 20 years.
In explaining why she finds the AUC position appealing, Anderson spoke of setting an example for productive higher education in the Middle East: "I'll have the opportunity to do something constructive and interesting about higher education in the region and that is very appealing. It's a region that needs a fair amount of work on the higher education front."
Anderson praised AUC's expansion to their new campus as a way for the university to grow to a new level. She said AUC is a rare example of a university in the Middle East equipped with state of the art facilities "to demonstrate to the region what really good scholarly research and education looks like."
Anderson's focus on space led her to praise the much-maligned IAB, a component of Morningside Heights that she says she will actually miss. "Everyone hates it, but it's a wonderful, wonderful place," Anderson said. "I love how much you could learn while you're waiting for the elevator."
As provost of a developing institution, Anderson will work to build AUC by recruiting faculty and setting standards for tenure and promotion.
The school's immediate plans include completing the development of a business school. In the long term, AUC plans to build an education school and a public policy school.
Her new position at AUC gives Anderson a unique opportunity, she said, because "putting together an entirely new school isn't always on the docket for a provost."
Anderson said she is looking forward to forging connections with universities around the world, and specifically with Columbia, since she believes that the future of higher education includes such relationships. "Recruiting some graduates from Columbia's Business School to help start this business school in Cairo would be spectacular. The nice thing about this perspective—partly from having been at SIPA—is that you really have a global perspective."
Anderson cited the creation of SIPA's dual degree programs as among her proudest accomplishments as dean. In a statement, University President Lee Bollinger agreed, "Lisa has distinguished herself as a scholar, teacher and dean." Bollinger went on to say, "She has significantly increased the size of the SIPA faculty and developed a global network of institutional partnerships, including dual-degree programs."
While Cairo is a long flight away from New York, it seems that the substance of Anderson's work will not stray as far as the difference in time zones might suggest.