Josef Sorett Appointed Dean of Columbia College

May 24, 2022

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

I am delighted to announce that I have appointed Josef Sorett to serve as the next Dean of Columbia College and Vice President of Undergraduate Education, effective July 1, 2022.

Professor Sorett, who first came to Columbia in 2009, is a brilliant scholar, a beloved teacher, and a dedicated administrator. He is currently Professor of Religion and African American and African Diaspora Studies, Chair of the Department of Religion, and Director of the Center on African-American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice. Josef received his BS in Health and Exercise Science from Oral Roberts University, his MDiv in Religion and Literature from Boston University, and his PhD in African American Studies from Harvard University.

Josef’s scholarship explores the vital and complex role that religion has played in shaping the cultures of Black communities and movements in this country. His research straddles the disciplines of history, literature, religion, art, and music. His first book, Spirit in the Dark: A Religious History of Racial Aesthetics, examines the influence of religion on debates about Black art and culture in the 20th century. His latest work, The Sexual Politics of Black Churches, investigates the politics of sexuality within Black churches and the communities they serve. Josef’s interests extend across time periods and regions, analyzing conversations about marriage equality in the present alongside debates about the Black Arts movement of the 1960s.

Josef’s courses, including those in the Core Curriculum, African-American Studies, and gospel music, are immensely popular. In his classrooms, students grapple with profound questions about culture, identity, and race. They are challenged to think freely and critically about the people and ideas that have shaped our world. For his dynamic and inclusive approach to pedagogy, and based on heartfelt and enthusiastic nominations from students and peers, Josef received the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching at this year’s Commencement.

Above and beyond his work as Chair of the Department of Religion and as the Founding Director of the Center on African-American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice, Josef’s leadership in critical University administrative initiatives has been considerable, most notably as Chair of the Inclusive Public Safety Advisory Committee, an important part of the University’s ongoing efforts to address anti-Black racism, and as a member of the Task Force on the Relationship of the Arts & Sciences and the College.

Josef is a consummate Columbian, who brings to this position a deep commitment to the unique and special role of the Core Curriculum in our undergraduate education and to ensuring our students have the best possible experience, inside and outside of the classroom, at the College.

I extend my thanks to the members of the search committee for their careful and thorough work. And, on behalf of the entire Columbia community, I offer Jim Valentini our collective gratitude for his leadership over the last decade.

Please join me in congratulating Josef Sorett on this well-deserved appointment.


Lee C. Bollinger