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Donna Shalala named New School University interim president

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Bringing an impressive résumé of leadership as a former Washington insider, top academic administrator and, most recently, congresswoman, Dr. Donna Shalala has been named interim president of The New School.

The news was announced Thursday in an e-mail to the New School community from Linda E. Rappaport, the chairperson of the school’s board of trustees.

Shalala will begin her new role on Aug. 15, perfect timing for the start of the new academic year.

“A nationally recognized leader in higher education and government,” Rappaport wrote, “Dr. Shalala is superbly qualified to preserve and promote The New School’s historic legacy and distinctive combination of academic excellence and social values. She will also be a leader and collaborator in laying important groundwork for our next permanent president.”

“I am deeply honored by the opportunity to join this extraordinary institution,” Shalala said. “The New School has a unique and distinguished role in American higher education, developing students who will have an impact on the world and boldly address the most pressing social issues of our time. I am excited to join the university and look forward to what we will accomplish together.”

Shalala, 82, brings decades of leadership in higher education to The New School. She served as president of the University of Miami, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and president of Hunter College of the City University of New York. A scholar and teacher, she has held tenured professorships at Columbia University, CUNY and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and most recently was a faculty member at the University of Miami. She continues to be devoted to scholarship and teaching.

Starting her involvement with government — as a participant in a new government program — she was one of the country’s first Peace Corps volunteers. For eight years she served in President Bill Clinton’s cabinet as secretary of Health and Human Services. Before that, she was an assistant secretary for the Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Jimmy Carter.

From 2015 to 2017, she was the executive director of the Clinton Foundation. During her tenure, she shut down the Clinton Global Initiative to avoid conflicts of interest if Hillary Clinton won the 2016 presidential election.

Most recently, Shalala was the Democratic congressmember for Florida’s 27th District, which includes half of Miami. Elected in 2018 at age 77, she served a two-year term before narrowly losing a rematch against Republican Maria Elvira Salazar in 2020.

Considered one of the most honored academic leaders of her generation, Shalala has been elected to seven national academies, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Political and Social Science and the National Academy of Public Administration. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former Guggenheim Fellow.

Shalala is the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award; the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights; and a National Public Service Award. She was elected to the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, N.Y., and has received numerous honorary degrees.

She was named one of the “top five managers in higher education” by BusinessWeek, one of “America’s Best Leaders” by U.S. News & World Report, and “one of the greatest public servants of the past 25 years” by the Council on Excellence in Government.

She is also a trailblazer for Lebanese Americans in government and academic leadership.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Shalala received her undergraduate degree from Western College for Women, in Oxford, Ohio, and a Ph.D. from The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

Dwight A. McBride, who came from a deep background in higher education, has been New School president since April 2020, his tenure coinciding with the COVID pandemic. Board Chairperson Rappaport praised McBride for leading the Greenwich Village university through “unprecedented times.”

“I want to express my gratitude to President McBride for leading the university, advancing our mission and position as an academic leader, and helping to further shape and strengthen The New School’s ongoing focus on equity, inclusion and social justice,” Rappaport said. “He guided the university through unprecedented times, and his contributions will continue to inform our future work. The New School is fortunate to have had him as our president.”

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