Joel Towers Appointed 10th President of The New School 

Joel Towers, President-Elect

NEW YORK, May 20, 2024—The New School Board of Trustees today announced the appointment of Joel Towers, University Professor of Architecture and Sustainable Design and the former Executive Dean of Parsons School of Design at The New School, as the tenth President of the university. 

President-elect Towers will assume his new position as President of The New School on August 1, 2024. He succeeds Donna E. Shalala, who has guided the university as Interim President since August 2023, and Dwight A. McBride, who served as the ninth President of The New School from 2020 - 2023. 
“During his 20 years at The New School, President-elect Towers has prioritized excellence in teaching and learning, with a deep commitment to our students and a passion for the mission of The New School,” said Linda E. Rappaport, Chair of the Board of Trustees and Co-Chair of the Presidential Search Committee. “Joel brings a track record of success in sound financial stewardship and consensus-building, as well as a clear understanding of both the complexities and possibilities for our storied and unique academic institution. In this pivotal moment for The New School and for higher education more broadly, he inspires enthusiasm and critical thinking for what our university can do as we build on our mission and many achievements. My Board colleagues and I look forward to working with Joel and are grateful for the time and energy so many invested to help us reach this important decision.” 

Dominique Bluhdorn, Trustee and Co-Chair of the Presidential Search Committee, said, “Joel brings a rare combination of qualities: a deep understanding of The New School, an important record of academic and leadership success, the intellectual vision to tackle complex strategic issues, and an unwavering dedication to student-centric higher education. We are excited about The New School's future under Joel's leadership.”

With more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students and 126 degree programs, The New School is the only university with world-renowned, comprehensive design, social sciences, humanities, and performing arts schools. Its distinctive strength derives from its core commitments to research and scholarship, creativity, and social engagement. The New School’s colleges and graduate schools include Parsons School of Design, Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, the College of Performing Arts, The New School for Social Research, the Schools of Public Engagement, and Parsons Paris.

“I am deeply humbled and honored to become the next president of this extraordinary university that has inspired and supported me for the past 20 years,” President-elect Towers said. “As I look to The New School’s future, I’m fully dedicated to the work ahead. We will continue to strengthen our commitment to academic excellence and freedom, and foster openness and mutual respect. I look forward to collaborating with all our faculty, students and staff to advance knowledge, research and creative practice, hold complexity, and contribute in profound ways to a world desperately in need of creativity, care, and collaboration.”

President-elect Towers is currently a University Professor of Architecture and Sustainable Design at Parsons School of Design in The School of Constructed Environments. He is also the Co-Director of The Tishman Environment and Design Center at The New School. His work focuses on sustainability, resilience, and the development of policy and design-based solutions to climate change and the construction of healthy environments. 

In 2009 President-elect Towers was appointed Executive Dean of Parsons School of Design, serving as head of the college for a decade. Under his leadership, Parsons completed major curricular reforms, launched new graduate and undergraduate programs, and built an integrated 26,000 sq. ft. cross-disciplinary Making Center facility. With the intent to expand the school’s reach and research capabilities, he supported multiple industry leading design and research labs and expanded the ranks of full-time faculty. Today the school is one of the most internationally diverse in the United States with nearly half of the undergraduate student body coming from other countries. Under President-elect Towers’ leadership, Parsons consistently ranked as the top school for Art and Design in the United States, a position it continues to hold today.  

President-elect Towers joined Parsons in 2004 as a member of the full-time faculty and the first Director of Sustainable Design and Urban Ecology. In 2006 he was named Associate Provost for Environmental Studies and founded The New School’s Tishman Environment and Design Center, which fosters the integration of bold design, policy, and social justice approaches to environmental issues to advance just and sustainable outcomes in collaboration with communities. From 2007-2009 he was the founding Dean of The School of Design Strategies and Associate Dean of Parsons. In 2019 President-elect Towers was appointed by Mayor de Blasio  to co-chair of The New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC). Climate change presents urgent, immediate, and long-term challenges to New York City. To confront these challenges and build a more resilient and equitable future for all New Yorkers, the NPCC was created by local law in 2012 to regularly assess the current state of the science on climate change and provide actionable policy-relevant recommendations for adaptation and mitigation to the Mayor and City Council. The panel recently completed its most recent report, NPCC4.

President-elect Towers received a B.S. in Architecture from the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and a Master of Architecture from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation. Prior to joining The New School, he worked with William McDonough Architects, where he directed projects including The Hannover Principles: Design for Sustainability that helped codify that firm’s environmental thinking. In 1992, he co-founded Sislian Rothstein and Towers Architects (SR+T). Over 18 years, SR+T completed award winning projects and was a testing ground for the integration of research, scholarship and creative practice.

“On behalf of the entire New School community, we also express our profound thanks and deep gratitude to Interim President Shalala for her strong leadership, abiding commitment to our students, and steady hand in guiding our university over this past year,” Ms. Rappaport said. “She has helped the university to become an even stronger institution that will thrive for decades to come.”

The search for the next president of The New School began in October 2023. The Presidential Search Committee, which included student, faculty, administration, and trustee representation, was charged with presenting to the Board of Trustees a forward-looking academic leader who embraced The New School’s longstanding commitment to academic freedom, tolerance, and experimentation. The Board engaged the community early in the process by soliciting input and nominations, and provided regular updates during the seven-month process.

The naming of The New School’s next President follows the university’s 88th Commencement exercises. The ceremony celebrated the achievements of the 2024 graduates, who will carry forward the university’s commitment to making the world a better and more just place.

Founded in 1919, The New School was established to advance academic freedom, tolerance, and experimentation. A century later, The New School remains at the forefront of innovation in higher education, inspiring more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students to challenge the status quo in design and the social sciences, liberal arts, management, the arts, and media. The university welcomes thousands of adult learners annually for continuing education courses and public programs that encourage open discourse and social engagement. Through our online learning portals, research institutes, and international partnerships, The New School maintains a global presence.


79 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10003


Media Contacts:

Amy Malsin,
The New School

[email protected]

Follow @TheNewSchool 

Bookmark and Share