The New School taps architect Joel Towers as its tenth president

Changing of the Guard

The New School taps architect Joel Towers as its tenth president

Joel Towers has been at The New School since 2004. (Courtesy The New School)

The New School Board of Trustees announced recently that Joel Towers has been appointed as The New School’s tenth President. Towers has been at The New School for twenty years as an architecture professor, research center director, and former executive dean of Parsons School of Design.

The search committee for a new president began its outreach in October 2023 and was co-chaired by Dominique Bluhdorn. Towers had unanimous support for the appointment by the Presidential Search Committee according to Linda E. Rappaport, chair of the board.

As executive dean, Towers completed major curricular reforms, launched new graduate and undergraduate programs, and established the Making Center, a 26,000-square-foot workspace designed by Rice+Lipka Architects on West 13th Street. The facility houses “new 3D-printing technologies, a complete ceramics ‘wet lab,’ updated printmaking facilities including a large-scale photo printer, and white boards, pin-up areas, and configurable work spaces for developing and sharing ideas.”

He will succeed Donna E. Shalala, who served as The New School’s interim president since August 2023, and Dwight A. McBridge, The New School’s ninth president who held the role from 2020 to 2023.

In a letter shared to the New School Community, the Board of Trustees cited the new president-elect’s institutional knowledge and demonstrated experience on climate and environmental justice projects as driving factors behind his appointment. Five years ago, in 2019, Towers was appointed by the Mayor of New York City to Co-Chair the New York City Panel on Climate Change. Towers has a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Michigan and a Master of Architecture from Columbia University’s GSAPP.

The appointment comes at a “pivotal moment in our history,” Rappaport said in a statement. This past semester, students and faculty went on strike for “higher wages, improved health care benefits, access to childcare funds and improved support for international students.”

Earlier that February, the student union filed a complaint against New School leadership with the National Labor Relations Board, the third of its kind.

Joel Towers’s appointment begins August 1.