This semester, Columbia Law School welcomed to its team several new administrators: Chief Financial and Strategy Officer Brendan Mallee, Dean of Registration Services Hazel May, and Dean of Students Yadira Ramos-Herbert, who was previously serving as the Law School’s interim dean of students.
A few weeks into their new roles, each of them recently sat down with us to talk about their careers and what they hope to accomplish in their new positions at Columbia. They also shared a few tidbits about their off-duty pursuits.
Interviews were lightly edited for clarity and space.
Title: Chief Financial and Strategy Officer
Previous Role: Chief of Staff to the CFO, Columbia University
Brendan Mallee started his career at Columbia working on capital projects for the University’s facilities. He then moved over to the treasury, where he was responsible for issuing and managing bonds for the University, which helped to fund projects like the development of the Manhattanville campus and the Northwest Corner Building. He most recently spent four years as chief of staff to the University’s CFO.
What are your goals for your new position at the Law School?
One, I feel very focused on being a good steward of the institution. The Law School has a vibrant future ahead of it, but only if we are very diligent in the way that we manage our resources, and provide support for our academic and research community.
[Another] one of the things I want to do is make sure we’re continually modernizing the way legal education is delivered and supported, whether that be with our libraries, making sure that they are cutting-edge, 21st-century libraries, or our facilities. There’s constantly a need to upgrade facilities and integrate new technology into our classrooms and into our workspaces. We need to make sure we’re pursuing that path, and quite aggressively. The Law School is world renowned, but it doesn’t remain that way unless we make investments and make strategic choices to preserve that legacy.
What do you enjoy most about your new job?
Well, I love people, so I think this is a great role that interacts with so many different people coming from so many different perspectives every day. That’s what I really love about this job. Whether you’re talking to students about café renovations…or you’re talking to faculty about classroom technologies, the wealth of knowledge and experience here is just fantastic and tremendous. [In addition,] we have great staff here supporting faculty and students at the Law School, and I want to make sure that they are also supported in their mission, that we are constantly challenging the way we do things and pursuing better and refined processes.
Any fun facts you want to share about yourself?
I love the outdoors. I love to hike, go rafting, be in the water, be in the mountains. So much of your spirit is renewed by nature, and that’s something I really love doing on a regular basis.
I [also] like to collect bricks. The Hudson River Valley had a lot of brickmaking culture, especially Irish. My great-grandfather was a bricklayer, so I’ve always been captivated since I moved to this area by finding all these bricks with different names on them. Each one has a story about where they were made and who made them…It’s an interesting way to access the history of the Hudson River Valley. It’s a way to connect to my great-grandfather.
Title: Assistant Dean and Dean of Registration Services
Previous Role: Senior Associate Dean of Academic Planning and Administration, Columbia College Office of the Dean
Hazel May is no stranger to Columbia University, having worked in different capacities at the Columbia College’s Office of the Dean for 13 years. Her new office, Registration Services at the Law School, puts all of that experience to good use, as it assists students with registering for courses, understanding academic rules and requirements, and applying for bar certification. Registration Services also manages the requirements for examinations and proctoring arrangements and serves as liaison to the central University for academic records.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I started as a [sociology and social policy professor] in the U.K [May holds a Ph.D. is sociological studies and taught at three English universities]. I went through the process of writing and teaching and discovered that I did not have the vocation that is necessary.
But I remained deeply committed to higher education, and so, I took a sideways step into administration. I was extremely lucky when I moved to the U.S. that I was able to secure a role in academic affairs for Columbia College, and I was there for nearly 13 years. What I particularly enjoy is supporting students and the faculty who teach them. I’ve found that having the academic background that I have helps enormously to understand the ebb and flow and the nuances of the academic world. That has been extremely important preparation for me, so a detour that was not wasted.
What do you think students should know about you?
I’m the steward of the faculty policies, and I see myself having a duty of care to students and faculty in that this office is the place to get professional advice and guidance regarding the policies and student options. I am always open to conversation and discussion. For example, if a student doesn’t understand a policy, or disagrees with a policy or an outcome, they can always come discuss it with me. It might not change the outcome, but as an educator, I would like them to at least understand why the policy exists and how it has been implemented in the way it has been. So the key things are that I’ve got an open door—anyone can make an appointment to come and talk to me—I’m an educator, and I’m driven by the pursuit of equity and transparency.
Any fun facts about yourself you want to share?
I was a competition swimmer in high school, and I always wanted to be a forensic pathologist but failed chemistry. I ended up doing my sociology dissertation on the sociology of homicide, and here I am now at the Law School, a long way away from that. I read an autobiography of the British Home Office forensic pathologist, and I really got into the science of it. But at the age of 16, the chemistry failed me. It’s happened to many a good soul.
Title: Assistant Dean and Dean of Students
Previous Role: Director, Academic Counseling and Student Outreach, Columbia Law School
After nine years serving as an attorney, Yadira Ramos-Herbert came to the Law School to follow her passion for mentoring students and young lawyers. In her first three years in the Office of Students Services, she directed diversity and inclusion programming, in addition to providing academic support and managing the Peer Mentor Program, among other tasks.
What do you want to achieve in this new role?
The goals for this office are to really make sure that we provide a supportive environment that really respects and values students—to do everything we can to make sure that they feel supported and remain student-focused, student-centric, at all times.
I also want us to be seen as responsive to student needs, so not resting on things that have worked but always challenging ourselves to listen and be flexible, and be in constant communication and engagement with students, so that the programming really evolves as our students come in and bring their new sets of experiences.
What is the most important thing you would like to impart to students?
I really value and appreciate what makes each of them unique. [In] their legal education and their career, they don’t have to feel like they’re on the “express train” and there’s no stop. They can take risks, they can take on challenges, and do things in a way that maybe is not often times associated with attorneys, who are maybe seen as risk-adverse, or following the same path over and over again. They can bring their whole selves to their experiences, academically and professionally.
Any fun facts about yourself you want to share?
I love to run. On March 19th I ran the New York City half [marathon], and it was perfect weather for [me to achieve] a personal best: 1:55. Not super fast, but it’s a number I wanted.
I run three to four times a week. I’ve run three marathons. I’m running New York City this fall again. My first two [marathons] were three weeks apart—I did Chicago and then New York in the same 30 days. That was fun.
Posted on April 10, 2017