College announces new hires, promotions

By Campus Editor

A string of promotions and newly-hired personnel have been announced during the summer that could affect several departments throughout the 2015–2016 academic year.

The emailed announcements, which were sent out June 15 through July 18, detailed four faculty and staff personnel changes at the college.

The moves include the appointment of Miriam Smith as executive director of Alumni Relations, Suzanne McBride as interim chair of the Communication & Media Innovation Department, David Jones as executive director of the Center for Book, Paper & Print and Jeff Schiff as interim chair of the Fashion Studies Department.

Beginning Aug. 3 as a new hire, Smith will fill the previously vacant position of executive director of Alumni Relations & Annual Giving, according to Jonathan Stern, vice president of Development & Alumni Relations.

Smith, who most recently held the title of manager of Alumni Engagement & Giving at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, received the job offer after a national search launched in the winter of 2014, Stern said.  

He cited Smith’s creative arts background, previous experience with alumni relations and strong communication skills as traits he thinks make her a good fit for Columbia.

Smith’s responsibilities will include engaging with alumni and overseeing an annual giving program, according to Stern, who will work closely with Smith to “reshape” the college’s alumni relations.

“She brings a great spirit, energy and creativity from what I know,” Stern said. “I really look forward to partnering with her and helping to advance many initiatives for the college that are going to help our alumni.”

Following a failed national search last spring for a chair of the CMI Department, which was created by the merger of the former Journalism Department with the Public Relations and Advertising programs, the appointment of McBride, associate chair and associate professor of Journalism, as the new interim chair was announced in a July 16 email from Dean of the School of Media Arts Robin Bargar.

McBride will serve as interim chair for at least one year while an internal search for a permanent replacement is conducted, Bargar said. McBride will assume her new role on Aug. 16.

“I feel confident that what we do in our department is valued and we’re going to have a really good year, but we are going to need some strong leadership, so that is going to be my challenge,” McBride said. “[I want] to make sure that students feel they have an advocate. I also want staff and faculty in the department to feel the same way.”  

McBride said professors from the Journalism, Public Relations and Advertising programs have been developing a new major: Digital Strategy & Social Media, which she will help create.

She noted that a formal proposal for the new major is being drafted and expressed hope that it will be approved by the board of trustees in time for the Fall 2016 Semester.

“There aren’t any schools across the country who offer a program like that, and we see a real demand for students and alums to do social media work,” she said. “I think a lot of people are interested in doing that kind of work. “

Jones is the founder and former director of Anchor Graphics, which will merge with the Center for Book & Paper Arts during the Fall 2015 Semester to become the Center for Book, Paper & Print. At that time, Jones will take on the role of executive director of the newly merged department.

Having worked at the college since 1990, Jones received a master’s degree in interdisciplinary arts in 2015 and will co-direct the center with Melissa Potter, an associate professor in the Interdisciplinary Arts Department.

His duties as executive director will include managing the center’s staff and fundraising, organizing staff meetings and representing the center within the college community.

“[Following the merger,] our footprint is bigger,” Jones said. “We have a larger staff, and getting everyone on the same page is my biggest challenge. [Along with] developing programs that don’t interfere with the curriculum but enhance our visibility.”

Jones said his goal for the center is to reestablish its brand to increase its visibility on campus.

The appointment of Schiff, former associate chair of the English Department, as the new interim chair of the Fashion Studies Department, was announced in a June 18 email from Stan Wearden, senior vice president and provost.

Although Schiff does not have a fashion background, he was chosen for the position based on his academic management and leadership skills, Wearden said.

Wearden added that the more time he spent with Schiff, who served on the Strategic Plan Steering Committee, the more he seemed right for the job.

“I felt like this was a good time to have a really objective look at the [department],” Wearden said. “You rarely get that luxury of being able to have somebody who’s a good manager [and] leader, but has a fresh vision from outside to come and help guide things along.” 

Schiff will hold his new title for one year starting Aug. 1 while a national search for a permanent chair is carried out. The search committee will be seeking a candidate with a fashion background, Wearden said.

“The faculty of the department have the content expertise—they’re the fashion studies, merchandising and design experts,” he said. “For a continuing chair, you want somebody who shares that expertise.”

Wearden said the department has been receptive to Schiff’s new appointment and he looks forward to Schiff helping faculty in the department to organize a chair search committee, prepare for program review and assist in the Strategic Plan’s implementation.

“[Schiff is] a thoughtful, rational person,” Wearden said. “He’s not at all timid about being decisive, but he also listens really well and that was one of the things I was most impressed with. He’s really good at hearing differing points of view and then being able to summarize what he hears and pulling it together.”