October 20, 2015

Cory Way, who began his tenure as SIPA’s new associate dean for student affairs on October 1, brings to Columbia more than a decade of experience in student affairs at the graduate and undergraduate level, and a wealth of additional experience in the public sector, as a lawyer, and as a university instructor.

Way most recently served as assistant dean of Harvard College and as dean of Harvard's Kirkland House, where he was deeply engaged in all aspects of student affairs and university life. He also served as an award-wining lecturer in Harvard’s Department of Sociology. 

The new dean previously worked at the U.S. Department of Justice and in private legal practice in both New York and Washington.

Way earned a PhD and two master degrees at Oxford University in England, and he also holds an MPA from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, a JD from the University of Virginia, and an AB from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School.

“With his unique blend of experience in both student affairs and law, and his background as an MPA and PhD graduate, Dean Way will be a tremendous resource for SIPA students,” said Dean Merit E. Janow. “Having been an international student himself, he has a keen appreciation of the needs and interests of our students who come from more than 100 countries.”

Way’s interest in public policy dates to college. His senior thesis on federal sentencing guidelines led to a job at the Department of Justice, where he worked for four years before attending law school.

After two years of private practice in New York, Way elected to pursue a mid-career MPA at Harvard’s Kennedy School, and then a criminology master’s degree at Oxford. He ended up pursuing a PhD and teaching, and took advantage of an unexpected opportunity to become a student affairs dean at Oxford.

“I immediately fell in love with the job,” he says. “It’s such a great privilege to help students have a transformative experience during one of the most exciting times of their lives.”

After several years in the UK—including time as director of a professional master’s degree program at the University of Cambridge—Way returned to the United States to law practice in Washington. In one particularly rewarding case, he secured political asylum for a Rwandan genocide survivor.

“I am forever grateful for the legal training that allowed me to assist with such a life-changing moment for that client,” Way says. “But as rewarding as law practice was, I missed helping students on a daily basis, and I wanted to transition back to student affairs and teaching.”

He moved to Harvard as a fellow at the law school and soon received his joint appointment as assistant dean and lecturer in sociology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

After five years in Massachusetts, Way welcomed the chance to return to New York, where he first practiced law.

“It’s one of the greatest cities on the planet, and it’s wonderful to be back,” he says.

He’s pleased to be at SIPA, too.

“SIPA’s global focus is extraordinary and energizing,” Way says. “In Europe, I enjoyed being an international student, as well as a global citizen. One of my goals here at Columbia is to provide robust support to overseas students because I know how thrilling—but also challenging—that experience can be.”

Way’s tenure as dean began just a few weeks ago, but he has already met with many students, and praises efforts by SIPASA, the student government.

“I’ve been very impressed with how committed the student leaders are to not only their public policy education, but to improving the overall experience of their fellow students,” he said.

“I share that goal,” he added. “I want every student, however long they’re here, to have the best possible academic and student life experiences. And I would like to hear from all students and members of the SIPA community to explore about how we can build on the incredible work that is already being done.”

Way says that he has always been attracted to places, like SIPA, that have a strong sense of community.

“This is a particularly exciting place to work because I have an MPA myself and I believe so strongly in the mission of public policy schools,” he said. “Every year SIPA welcomes hundreds of students who want to change the world for the better. To help them in that journey—to have some small part of that noble mission—is both thrilling and humbling.”