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MIT names Colombo dean for student life

Costantino "Chris" Colombo, new Dean for Student Life.
Costantino "Chris" Colombo, new Dean for Student Life.
Photo / Donna Coveney

Costantino "Chris" Colombo, dean of student affairs at Columbia University's two undergraduate schools since 1998, has been named MIT's dean for student life, effective Aug. 18.

"Chris Colombo is a wonderful addition to the Institute community," MIT President Susan Hockfield said. "He combines enthusiasm for working with students with an impressive record of building and supporting vibrant communities. His deep experience with academic environments that foster living and learning will make him a great dean for our very strong Student Life team."

Colombo, who will live on campus with his wife, Bette, and sons, Michael and Paul, will replace Larry Benedict, who last year announced he would retire after having served as MIT's dean for student life since 2000.

"We are extremely fortunate to have Chris Colombo joining our community," said Chancellor Phillip Clay. "Chris has done an exceptional job of building the student affairs operation and culture at Columbia and of transforming the way in which services are provided to students.

"He is enthusiastic about the opportunity to build on the traditions at MIT--many of which were instilled by Larry Benedict--and to interact with students on a daily basis," Clay added.

Clay noted that as part of his work at Columbia, Colombo had successfully integrated the student life divisions of the university's two undergraduate schools, Columbia College and the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, and had worked effectively to build staff capacity in a collaborative style that engaged student leaders.

Colombo said he is "extremely excited" about joining the MIT family and looks forward to working with students, faculty and staff.

"As dean for student life I will have the opportunity to continue the great work already begun by the Institute," he said. "Living on campus with my family will give me ample opportunity to interact with students. I look forward to moving to Cambridge later this summer."

Colombo, a native of New York, received a BS from the University of Maryland and a master's degree in applied behavioral science with a concentration in organizational development from the Johns Hopkins University.

As dean of student affairs at Columbia, Colombo was responsible for the development, implementation and oversight of programs and services to support the educational, social and personal development of students--as well as for building a strong sense of community among students in the university's undergraduate schools.

Prior to being named dean of student affairs for the undergraduate schools, Colombo served Columbia as dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid (1995-1998) and as dean of students for the School of Engineering and Applied Science (1992-1998).

From 1975 to 1992, Colombo worked at Johns Hopkins in a variety of positions, including dean of students and Dean of Homewood Schools Services.

Professor Steven Lerman, vice chancellor of MIT and chair of the search committee that recommended Colombo, noted that the position attracted a large field of particularly well-qualified candidates, which complicated the committee's task of selecting the right person for the job.

"However, in our national search, Chris Colombo emerged as uniquely qualified to lead student life at MIT," Lerman said. "His enormous experience and proven ability to advocate for students, provide extraordinary leadership, develop new programs and manage large organizations within a major research university make him ideally suited to be the next dean for student life here. Everyone on the search committee was enthusiastic about his candidacy and welcomes him to the MIT community."

Noah Jessop, president of the Undergraduate Association, said he was "delighted" that Colombo would be joining MIT.

"Having had the opportunity to meet with him on one of his visits to campus, I can attest that he fervently cares about his students, understands how to represent them in the context of an academic institution, and tirelessly thinks about the betterment of the community around him," Jessop said. "I expect he is exactly the kind of advocate students want and need; we are fortunate to welcome him to MIT."

In addition to Lerman, the search committee comprised Alison Alden, vice president for human resources; Stephen Baker, president of the Association of Independent Living Groups; John diFava, director of facilities operations and security; Kerry A. Emanuel, professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences; Martin Holmes, outgoing president of the Undergraduate Association; Ann E. McCants, professor of history; Muriel Medard, professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; Paul Nerenberg, graduate student in physics; Elizabeth Reed, senior associate dean in the Division of Undergraduate Education; and Marcus A. Thompson, professor of music.

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