GCA Executive Vice President Maxine Griffith Transitions into New Role at University

November 15, 2017

In a message to the campus community, President Lee Bollinger announced that, “following twelve years of exceptional leadership of the University’s Office of Government and Community Affairs, Executive Vice President Maxine Griffith is transitioning into a new role at the University. Maxine will serve as a special advisor to me, with a focus on Columbia World Projects and its engagement with issues around government, city planning, and urban design.” Griffith will also teach at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation as an adjunct professor of urban planning.    

While she led her staff in a wide range of government and community affairs activities—from tracking legislation important to the University to addressing community concerns, Griffith was perhaps best known for her role in the planning and development of Columbia’s campus in Manhattanville. She was the key player in navigating the complex approval processes for the new campus— working with design and planning consultants, community leadership, and elected officials. Now two Renzo Piano–designed buildings have opened, and, with Griffith’s guidance, a number of community benefits and amenities associated with the campus have been implemented. These investments in education, employment, business development, and the arts, impact the lives of thousands of Upper Manhattan residents.

Griffith came to Columbia from her position as executive director of the Philadelphia Planning Commission and secretary (deputy mayor) for strategic planning. For many years she ran her own urban design and planning firm and had held positions in planning at both city and federal levels, including as a member of the New York City Planning Commission and as assistant deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Throughout, she had held academic appointments, including a previous stint as a visiting associate professor at Columbia. Her role at GCA was in some ways a culmination of this prior experience, capitalizing on her urban planning and design experience at various levels of government as well as on her understanding of large urban universities— and it brought her back home to Harlem, her birthplace.

Griffith made clear from the beginning that the life of the campus is inextricably bound to the life of the University’s neighboring community, and in her tenure at GCA she focused on improving communications between the campus community and the world outside its gates. Even this newsletter, redesigned under her leadership more than 10 years ago, has kept our neighbors informed of and engaged in Columbia’s programs, projects, and community initiatives. We expect she will continue to be a significant presence in our community in her new role, and we wish her the best.