Celebrating Dean Boyce's Legacy

Columbia Engineering congratulates Mary C. Boyce on her appointment as Provost of Columbia University and thanks her for eight years of visionary leadership.

As dean of engineering, she has elevated the School to be among the top engineering programs in the nation, attracted incredible faculty and student talent, increased the number of women at all levels, expanded and reimagined spaces for learning and research, and advanced Columbia Engineering’s international reach and impact.

Celebrating the Vision

With her vision, Columbia Engineering for Humanity, Dean Boyce ushered in a new era at the engineering school, one marked by collaboration, interdisciplinary research, and a focus on how students, faculty, and partners could impact society for the better. See how the vision has expanded over the years, in and outside of the classroom, to drive our work with industry, government, academia, and local and global communities.

Our vision defines who we are.


A New Vision: With faculty and school leaders, Dean Boyce launched an inspiring new vision for the School, Columbia Engineering for Humanity. This vision guides the interdisciplinary research and education efforts of our school as it pursues breakthroughs in translational and fundamental research that will lead to a more sustainable, healthy, secure, connected, and creative world.

A World-class Reputation: While our undergraduate program—in conjunction with Columbia College—remains one of the top five in the nation, our graduate program has steadily risen to be a powerhouse in engineering. A pioneer in online learning, Columbia Engineering continues to be the number one resource for online engineering Master’s programs (US News & World Report).

A Hub for Leading Talent: During Dean Boyce’s tenure, the faculty has expanded by more than 100 members and has attracted world-leading experts in computational engineering, data science, game theory, precision medicine, climate modeling, sustainable infrastructure, artificial intelligence and robotics, and more. In recent years, faculty have been inducted into the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and have won prestigious honors such as the Turing Award.

A Welcoming Environment for All: Over the years, Dean Boyce has doubled the number of female faculty and doubled the number of female faculty with tenure. The School also achieved gender parity with females making up more than half of its entering undergraduate classes. The number of underrepresented minorities and first-generation college students continues to rise and in 2020, Columbia Engineering established the James R. Priest Scholarship, in honor of Columbia’s first Black graduate, for students who exhibit leadership in the Black community at Columbia.

An Innovation Ecosystem in Upper Manhattan: Dean Boyce’s focus on expanding entrepreneurship, innovation, and design has led to exciting new programs and partnerships such as Design Challenges and venture and pitch competitions, start-up funding and new incubators. This cultivation includes the large- scale build-out and renovation of our spaces, from state of the art individual and shared research labs, to classrooms and education labs, to student and maker spaces. Columbia itself is a living lab—a city within a city—that provides the ultimate environment for onsite research such as the COSMOS project, a national testbed for innovation in wireless technology.

A Culture of Collaboration: With increased collaborations as well as faculty joint appointments and co-teaching assignments across the University’s initiatives and centers, the engineering school has been quick to realize the great promise of pandisciplinary and convergence research. New joint MS programs such as the MS in Business Analytics with Columbia Business School (CBS), as well as the dual executive MS and MBA programs, also with CBS, are extending engineering insights to other industries and fields.

An Ivy League Education, Regardless of Need: Dean Boyce’s steadfast commitment to Columbia’s need-blind admissions, student support, and world-class research has been buoyed by exceptional fundraising. Working closely with the School’s fundraising team, she has raised more than $300 million in gifts and pledges for the Engineering for Humanity Campaign and grown the School endowment by nearly 70% since 2013. Columbia Engineering has also created 18 new professorships, as well as fundraising opportunities based around community building, such as class year and cohort-based scholarships.

A Global Community with Local Ties: Dean Boyce has expanded Columbia global partnerships and connections from its base in Upper Manhattan. Her attention to the needs of international students has led to new initiatives like the popular Professional Development and Leadership Program, which helps prepare students for career success anywhere in the world. Dean Boyce has also expanded the Columbia Engineering Outreach program to bring STEM education and programs to local students, while the highly visible L Train project brought together Columbia and Cornell Engineering to renovate a much-used NYC subway tunnel and avoid a shutdown.

Praise for Mary C. Boyce

Armen Avanessians MS’83, Chief Investment Office of Quantitative Investment Strategies at Goldman Sachs

"As an engineering graduate, I’m incredibly proud of all Mary has accomplished at SEAS. As a Columbia University graduate, I’m inspired by all she will achieve as Provost."

Shawn Edwards BS’90, MS’95; P’17, Chief Technology Officer at Bloomberg LP

“I’m grateful to Dean Boyce for being a truly inspirational leader. She rallied all of us around her vision of engineering for humanity. She transformed the engineering school as dean. I can’t wait to see what she does as Provost.”

President Lee C. Bollinger, President of Columbia University

“Mary is an accomplished scholar, an effective leader, and a consummate University citizen. I am delighted she has agreed to serve as Provost and look forward to working even more closely with her in the years to come.”

Ira Katznelson, Former Provost of Columbia University, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, Deputy Director of Columbia World Projects

“I am delighted to pass the mantle to Mary Boyce, an outstanding scholar and a bold, transformative leader.”

Georgia N. Papathomas BS’73, MS’74, PHD’78; former Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Johnson and Johnson Pharmaceuticals

"I fondly remember my first meeting with Mary and knowing immediately that I had met the most amazing leader and the best role model of my career. Her vision of “Engineering for Humanity” has elevated the importance of SEAS and all of Columbia. Her quiet but powerful leadership has attracted the best minds and has inspired everyone around her to strengthen their scientific and leadership skills and contribute their maximum."

Jennifer Yu Cheng BS’03, Deputy Vice Chairwoman and Group President, CTF Education Group

“Dean Boyce’s leadership, character and love for SEAS and the Engineering community have left a meaningful legacy and led SEAS to dramatic new heights. Her vision for Columbia Engineering for Humanity has also brought to life a new, multidisciplinary role for engineering in the service of society and meeting the challenges of tomorrow.”

Jason Kang BS’16, Co-founder and CEO of Kinnos

“Dean Boyce has had an incredible impact on my life. Without her support, I never would've been able to embark on this amazing journey I've had with Kinnos. She has done such a wonderful job transforming Columbia into a leader for impact on humanity and I'm so proud to be a Columbia alum.”

The Arruda-Boyce Model

The Arruda-Boyce Model

Long before she was our dean, Mary C. Boyce was a renowned mechanical engineer, an expert in soft materials widely recognized for her creativity and unique approach to hybrid materials and those that can change shape and form.

She doesn’t just study materials, however; she also co-created one of the most famous models for predicting the mechanical behavior of a special subset: soft polymers, the quirky building blocks of compounds from vehicle tires to silicone spatulas to blood clots. Unlike traditional engineering materials like metals and concrete, this group previously lacked an effective way to simulate their unusual, and particularly complex, behaviors. Known as the Arruda-Boyce Model, it’s since become ubiquitous across the field of mechanical engineering. So ubiquitous, in fact, that many commonly used computer-aided-design (CAD) software tools have a built-in option to access it.

“There are many ways to measure academic impact, but few faculty end up with their name featured in a pull-down menu used by tens of thousands of people,” says Hod Lipson, the James and Sally Scapa Professor of Innovation in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “Now that’s real impact!"

Dean Boyce with students

Educating Leaders

From the start, Dean Boyce was committed to improving engineering education for the 21st Century. In addition to increasing research opportunities and global experiences for students, she advanced a culture of innovation, design, and entrepreneurship with programming that included design challenges based on timely issues and a Senior Design Expo for capstone projects. She also upgraded numerous student spaces for study and socializing and established dynamic new forums, such as Tech Talks, where students could further engage with faculty and alumni. Dean Boyce’s leadership and her vision for how a foundational degree in engineering and applied science could positively impact society profoundly impacted the student experience. Take an inside look at one of our recent Senior Design Expos.