Watch the Deantini tribute film
James J. Valentini has served as Dean of Columbia College and Vice President for Undergraduate Education since September 2011. Affectionately called “Deantini” by Columbia undergraduates, he has been a member of Columbia’s faculty since 1990.
Under his leadership, Columbia College developed a multi-year strategic plan and spearheaded a $750 million Core to Commencement campaign, the first campaign devoted exclusively to College students and faculty. The College also remade the student experience through two key initiatives: My Columbia College Journey, which asks students to place greater value on personal growth and to reflect on their college experience through the lens of 13 core competencies; and Live Well | Learn Well, which encourages a campus culture that values individual well-being. Other highlights of the dean’s tenure have been a focus on expanding research, internship, fellowship and global opportunities for undergraduates; the centennial of the Core Curriculum; the launch of the Eric H. Holder, Jr. Initiative for Civil and Political Rights; and cultivating alumni engagement to create a proud and connected College community.
As the chief academic and executive officer of the College, Dean Valentini’s central focus has been to support and develop the College so that students and faculty have the greatest possible experience. The dean oversees the College curriculum, which includes the Core as well as the academic and programmatic services and policies that contribute to the undergraduate experience beyond the classroom. He frequently attends campus events and hosts “Dine with Deantini” meals with students to discuss their undergraduate experience. He is known for his dedication to Beginner’s Mind, the Zen Buddhist principle of approaching the world as if seeing everything for the first time, and for encouraging others to do the same.
Before becoming dean, Dean Valentini served as chair of the chemistry department and director of the chemistry department’s Undergraduate Studies Program. He also served on numerous College and University committees focused on curriculum matters, undergraduate affairs, alumni relations, and faculty governance, diversity and tenure, and was instrumental in creating the Science Research Fellows program.
Prior to arriving at Columbia, Dean Valentini was a member of the research staff at Los Alamos National Laboratory and a professor of chemistry at the University of California, Irvine. He is a fellow in the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dean Valentini earned his B.S. in chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh, his M.S. in chemistry from the University of Chicago, and his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, and completed postdoctoral work at Harvard.