UW News

June 2, 2021

Maya Tolstoy named dean of the UW College of the Environment

UW News

Maya Tolstoy has been named the Maggie Walker Dean of the College of the Environment, University of Washington Provost Mark Richards announced today. Tolstoy’s appointment as dean, set to begin Jan. 1, 2022, is subject to approval by the UW Board of Regents.

Tolstoy succeeds Lisa J. Graumlich, who is stepping down at the end of the 2020-2021 academic year to serve as president-elect of the American Geophysical Union.

Currently a professor at Columbia University’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Tolstoy is a marine geophysicist specializing in seafloor earthquakes and volcanoes.


Maya Tolstoy

“Professor Tolstoy has extensive experience in both scientific and academic leadership, including important work on issues of gender, racial, and ethnic diversity,” Richards said. “Her commitment to experiential learning and interdisciplinary approaches to addressing critical issues such as climate change will serve the College and the University well. We could not be more pleased to have her join us next year to lead the College of the Environment.”

Tolstoy has served as the interim executive vice president and dean of the faculty of Arts and Sciences at Columbia, a role in which she oversaw five schools with more than 3,000 faculty and staff, and 11,000 full-time students, across 28 departments. She also has led faculty governance groups, including the Columbia Senate’s Commission on the Status of Women and the primary faculty governance committee of Arts and Sciences at Columbia. In those positions, she steered initiatives on developing a faculty voting process, and initiated a variety of studies on issues impacting faculty.

In addition, Tolstoy led a two-year effort to document the experiences of women and BIPOC faculty across Arts and Sciences at Columbia, which resulted in a public equity report that was the subject of a news story in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“The UW College of the Environment is unparalleled in the combined breadth, depth and strength of its environmental scholarship. It has a complete pipeline from foundational research through applied research and solutions,” Tolstoy said. “Set in one of the best research universities in the world, with vital and strong ties to the community, it is exceptional in its ability to meet the urgency of the moment. There has never been a more important time for this work, and I am thrilled and honored to join the extraordinary team of faculty, staff and students as the Maggie Walker Dean of the College of the Environment.”

The namesake deanship, recently created by Seattle philanthropist Maggie Walker, elevates the importance of climate change, increases the visibility of the College and supports recruitment of talented faculty, students and staff. Tolstoy is the inaugural dean to hold this position.

Tolstoy has led 18 research expeditions at sea as chief or co-chief scientist and has 66 peer-reviewed scientific publications, including 10 in the journals Science or Nature. She also has led or co-led over $22 million worth of federally funded research.

The recipient of the Wings Worldquest Sea Award honoring women in exploration, Tolstoy also was a finalist for NASA’s 2009 Astronaut selection. She recently completed a six-year term on the National Academy Committee on Solid Earth Geophysics and was honored by the American Geophysical Union as the Birch Lecturer in 2016.

Born in New York, and growing up mostly in Scotland, Tolstoy earned her bachelor’s degree in geophysics from the University of Edinburgh and her doctorate from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. Tolstoy’s interest in marine seismology was ignited during an undergraduate internship, which included the opportunity to sail on a research vessel, an experience that propelled her career as a scientist, teacher and academic leader.