Peter John Loewen will begin his term as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences on Aug. 1.

Peter Loewen named dean of Arts and Sciences

Peter John Loewen, director of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto, has been named the 23rd dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Provost Michael I. Kotlikoff announced May 24.

Loewen’s five-year appointment as the Harold Tanner Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), approved May 23 by the Executive Committee of the Cornell Board of Trustees, begins Aug. 1.

“Professor Loewen has distinguished himself through his thoughtful and effective leadership of the Munk School at the University of Toronto,” Kotlikoff said. “He is an accomplished scholar with broad academic experience, and his energy, collaborative approach and commitment to faculty, students and staff greatly impressed the search committee. I believe that Peter will be an extraordinary leader of the College of Arts and Sciences, and I look forward to working with him to further the excellence of the college.”

Loewen, the Robert Vipond Distinguished Professor in Democracy in the Department of Political Science and the Munk School, is also the director of the Policy, Elections and Representation Lab (PEARL); associate director of the Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society; a senior fellow at Massey College; and a fellow with the Public Policy Forum, a Canadian think tank and registered charity.

Loewen said his selection as dean of A&S is a “deep honor.”

“Cornell’s commitment to ‘… any person … any study,’ and the way that’s animated by its commitment to having knowledge across disciplinary boundaries and across colleges, is very exciting to me,” he said. “The consequential universities of tomorrow are the ones that can speak to the biggest questions that we’re facing from as many perspectives as possible. And Cornell can do that better than any other place.”

Providing a transformative undergraduate education, and being a part of students’ lives during a time of transformation and self-discovery, is “the most important thing universities can do,” Loewen said.

“We have this incredible privilege of having students spend some of the most formative years of their lives with us,” he said, “involving us in their process of figuring out who their future selves are going to be.”

Loewen received his bachelor’s degree in political science (with a minor in economics) in 2002 from Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, and his Ph.D. in political science in 2008 from the Université de Montréal. He held postdoctoral fellowships at the University of British Columbia and the University of California, San Diego.

Loewen’s teaching and research interests include the future of democratic societies and the politics of technological change. His work has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nature Medicine, Nature Human Behaviour, American Political Science Review and other journals.

He has edited four books and has been a contributor to the Washington Post and Toronto’s Globe & Mail.

Loewen, who will also hold an academic appointment as professor in the Department of Government (A&S), said he hopes to teach in addition to his responsibilities as dean.

“How we collectively deal with the huge demographic and technological changes that are happening are really big questions for democracies to wrestle with,” he said. “Those are questions that will be thrilling to engage graduate and undergraduate students in at some point in the classroom.”

Loewen’s partner, Yvette Lam, will join the university as a major gifts officer in Alumni Affairs and Development. Loewen and Lam have two children, 9-year-old Wolfgang and Dagny, 5.

Loewen succeeds Ray Jayawardhana, who left Cornell last summer to become provost of Johns Hopkins University. Rachel Bean, the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor in the Department of Astronomy and senior associate dean for math and science, has been serving as interim A&S dean since last July.

“I know I speak for all of her colleagues when I say how grateful we are for Rachel’s deft leadership during this period of transition,” Kotlikoff said. “Her ability to balance her administrative duties with her teaching and research was impressive and invaluable. There is no more committed and selfless leader than Rachel in supporting the College of Arts and Sciences, and she has my personal gratitude for everything that she has done over the past academic year.”

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Rebecca Valli