9-4-13 Message from Interim President Robinson

Dear Colleagues,

It is a pleasure and privilege to usher in the academic year—the 52nd in the Graduate Center’s history. I trust that the summer has been both recuperative and productive. As Bill Kelly assumes the role of Interim Chancellor of CUNY, we find ourselves at an exhilarating moment in our institution’s history, a time of both significant achievement and evolutionary change. Before the semester envelops us all in classes, seminars, meetings, and deadlines, I thought it useful to highlight some of this achievement and change.

A college or university is as accomplished as its students and faculty, and by this all-important measure, we are prospering as never before. This week we were joined by more than 650 new Ph.D. and master’s students, all selected in the most competitive admissions season in our history. We also welcome back more than four thousand continuing students, who are pursuing an immensely wide and compelling array of interests and projects, while garnering recognition in all manner of ways: just the other day we received news that five had been awarded Fulbright Fellowships to conduct research in places as diverse as Denmark, Morocco, and India. This is but one token of recognition for our students’ talent and industry.

Meanwhile, new faculty members maintain our traditional strengths or explore new areas of particular promise and significance. Jeremy Kahn joins the GC from Brown as a Distinguished Professor in Mathematics; Megan Vaughan, appointed a Distinguished Professor of History, comes to us from Cambridge; and Fernando Degiovanni (Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literatures and Languages), from Wesleyan, joins us as an associate professor. In January David Joselit, Carnegie Professor in Art History at Yale, will be joining our program in Art History, and Peter Eckersall, currently at the University of Melbourne, will join us as a professor in the Theatre program. As much as the GC sits at the center of New York’s academic and cultural life, students and faculty constitute the heart of the GC, and I urge you to follow their ongoing success stories in the new digital 365 Fifth newsletter.

The fall semester also marks a turning point in two major initiatives. The Initiative for the Theoretical Sciences (ITS) welcomes its first permanent appointment in Vijay Balasubramanian, from the University of Pennsylvania, who joins us as Presidential Professor of Physics. In addition, Andrea Cavagna and Irene Giardina (Biology and Physics, respectively), a husband/wife research team from Sapienza University, Rome, will be in residence for the 2013–14 academic year as visiting professors, as will physicist Dov Levine, joining us from Technion in Israel.

Under the leadership of Don Robotham, the Advanced Research Collaborative (ARC) welcomes its inaugural group of fifteen Distinguished Fellows, who come to the GC from a variety of universities here in the United States and abroad (the Netherlands, Israel, and Brazil), as well as from several CUNY campuses (La Guardia, Hunter, Queens, City, and Brooklyn). Leaders in their respective fields, these Distinguished Fellows will carry out interdisciplinary research in immigration, inequality, and religion, working not only with host faculty but also with some thirty students who have been awarded highly competitive ARC Student Fellowships. The focal point of student involvement will be a praxis seminar—a unique opportunity for doctoral students to advance research at an early stage in their studies.

The GC is about creating knowledge, especially by fostering interdisciplinary research that advances the public good, but it is also about teaching and educating more broadly. In fact, our rich public programming is one of the principal ways we discharge our mission to the people of New York City—and beyond. This year, our public programming concentrates on New York’s creative economy: Cultural Capital begins on September 10 and features seventeen events over the fall semester—including discussions with economists and geographers, critics and writers, in addition to a film series. I encourage you all to attend.

These are all conspicuous signs of what matters most at the GC—a vibrant intellectual culture that is generated by the energy and imagination of our students and faculty. Less conspicuous, if invaluable to ensuring our continuing success, have been the transitions that took place over the summer. As you know, Louise Lennihan has taken my place in the Provost’s Office, ably assisted by Ann Henderson overseeing the sciences, and now also by David Olan, who moves from EOship in Music to Acting Associate Provost and Dean for the Humanities and Social Sciences. Professor Mario Kelly, former EO of Educational Psychology, has also joined the Provost’s Office as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. Meanwhile, Jane Herbert has joined my office and will serve as chief of staff. We shall all rely upon their leadership and stewardship, much as we rely upon the behind-the-scenes work of Mike Byers’s dedicated staff, who serially moved, cleaned, and painted so many offices this summer with so much patience and good humor.

This is a remarkable institution, not least of all because we have worked collectively to achieve so much in so little time. I look forward to continuing that work with you, and wish you all the best for this academic year.

Kind regards,


Chase F. Robinson
Interim President

Submitted on: SEP 5, 2013

Category: President's Office - Community Message