Columbia J School Dean Nicholas Lemann to Step Down

nick lemann exterior shot Columbia J School Dean Nicholas Lemann to Step DownNicholas Lemann announced that he will step down after a decade as the dean of Columbia Journalism School at the end of the year. Mr. Lemann, who is also a staff writer at The New Yorker, will take a year’s sabbatical before returning to the J School in 2014 as a faculty member.

“It’s a good moment for a new dean, with a new set of ideas, to come in. I have had a wonderful time leading this institution, and it’s hard to express how grateful I am to the many people who have helped along the way,” Mr. Lemann wrote in an email to friends, colleagues and students. 

The search for a new dean will be led by Columbia University President Lee Bollinger.

“Nick has been a terrific dean and will leave a permanent stamp on the school – not just through the many infrastructure improvements he brought, but through the talented new faculty and changes to the curricula he initiated and led. He also raised record amounts of money in a tough economic climate. It’s going to be tough to fill his shoes,” said Sree Sreenivasan, Dean of Student Affairs & digital media professor at Columbia.

Full email below:

Dear Friends,

I am writing with the news that this year, my tenth as dean, will be my last. I plan to step down at the end of this academic year, take next year off as a sabbatical, and then return to the Journalism School as a faculty member.

Deans at Columbia serve in five-year increments, so for me this was a decision not to ask President Bollinger for reappointment to a third term. Most significant efforts at a place like this take several years to develop, so there’s never a moment when all loose ends are neatly tied up. But the ten-year mark feels to me like about as good a break point as I could find. We will have finished our fundraising campaign and our centennial celebration, and the new initiatives of the past few years are moving along well. It’s a good moment for a new dean, with a new set of ideas, to come in. I have had a wonderful time leading this institution, and it’s hard to express how grateful I am to the many people who have helped along the way. A first-rate professional school at a great university is the furthest thing from a command-and control operation. It is a community of people from a wide variety of backgrounds, with a wide variety of abilities, who have come together because they share a commitment to a set of values and because they like and trust each other. In our case the shared commitment is to the full, glorious extent of journalism’s potential for good. It is our coherence as a community that has enabled us to become an ever stronger institution, at a time when many of the established news organizations have been severely challenged. I hope all of you will see the end of my term as dean as an opportunity to continue, and to enhance further, the vital role that Columbia Journalism School plays in the profession worldwide, and in so many individual lives.

President Bollinger will chair the committee that conducts the search for my successor; right away, he will appoint its members and begin to hold meetings. The committee will certainly want to hear the Journalism School community’s suggestions about candidates for the job.

Sincerely,

Nick Lemann