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Nemat Shafik is named the first woman to be president at Columbia University

Nemat Shafik, pictured at a Eurogroup meeting at the EU Council in Brussels on May 16, 2011, will be the first woman to serve as president of Columbia University.
Geert Vanden Wijngaert via AP
Nemat Shafik, pictured at a Eurogroup meeting at the EU Council in Brussels on May 16, 2011, will be the first woman to serve as president of Columbia University.

Columbia University announced Wednesday that Nemat "Minouche" Shafik, an economist who has served as president of the London School of Economics since 2017, will be its next president. Shafik, 60, will be the first woman to lead the Ivy League institution when she replaces current president Lee Bollinger in July.

Other elite universities including Dartmouth, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania also appointed women as their presidents in recent months.

The board of trustees called Shafik "the perfect candidate" in a letter to the Columbia community, describing her as a "brilliant and able global leader, a community builder, and a preeminent economist, who understands" higher education "and the world beyond it."

Shafik has extensive experience in financial institutions across the globe, serving as the World Bank's vice president, the International Monetary Fund's deputy managing director and the Bank of England's deputy governor. She was also the first woman to be president of the London School of Economics and the first woman to be permanent secretary of the U.K. Department for International Development.

In the letter, the trustees wrote that what set Shafik apart beyond her accomplishments was "her unshakable confidence in the vital role institutions of higher education can and must play in solving the world's most complex problems."

Shafik's family came to the U.S. from Egypt in the 1960s when she was 4 years old, and she attended schools in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina before earning her undergraduate degree in economics and politics at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She then earned a master's degree in economics from LSE and a Ph.D. in economics at Oxford University.

Shafik will assume the presidency as universities await Supreme Court decisions involving race-conscious admissions and face controversies over the high cost of education and free speech on campuses.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Kaitlyn Radde