Deborah Prentice, professor of psychology and psychology department chair for the past twelve years, has been appointed dean of the faculty, the University announced on Wednesday. She will assume her new position on July 1.
Prentice will replace David Dobkin, who had the position since 2003 and announced in February that he was stepping down.
University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 explained that Prentice was chosen because of her work as department chair, saying that she had been one of the best department chairs the University had ever had, as well as a great University citizen.
Eisgruber said that Prentice’s experience is unsurpassed, as well as her ability to understand people both intuitively and through professional expertise as a social psychologist. While a search committee convened to examine potential candidates for the position, Eisgruber made the final selection.
“[Prentice] has guided the Department of Psychology brilliantly at a critical juncture in its history, strengthening it into the country’s top-ranked department, diversifying its faculty, transitioning it to a new building and helping to launch the Princeton Neuroscience Institute,” Eisgruber said.
Eisgruber also noted Prentice’s wide-ranging knowledge of University faculty, adding that professors from every division of the University had sent messages recommending her for the deanship.
As dean, Prentice explained, she has the job of making sure that the University’s faculty remains the best in the world by both hiring the best people and making sure that they have the conditions they need to do their best work.
Dobkin noted that new initiatives will be coming forward as part of planning efforts by Eisgruber, saying that Prentice will have the task of managing the faculty in a way that maximizes the potential benefit of these initiatives.
“There are certain challenges to doing that,” Prentice said. “It’s hard to recruit and retain the best people, and everyone else is trying to do that also.”
Eisgruber, Prentice and Dobkin all said that the report and recommendations of the Trustee Ad Hoc Committee on Diversity, which Prentice served on as cochair, will be extremely important during her time as dean. In response to the trustees’ report, Prentice said, she will have the task of making the composition of the faculty, graduate school and administrative staff more closely resemble that of the undergraduate student body.
“What we want when we talk about diversifying Princeton is to be in a position to attract not just the people we usually get, but also the people we don’t usually get — the people who don’t treat Princeton as where they want to be,” Prentice said.
She explained that while the richness of the University’s campus offers many opportunities to grow in new ways and directions, top scholars from underrepresented minority groups are heavily recruited, and it is hard to convince people that the University is their place if they do not automatically think of it that way.
Eisgruber explained that Prentice’s experience as department chair will serve her well as dean of the faculty, saying that hiring practices, such as recruitment and retention, really start in the departments.
Prentice’s extraordinary experience as department chair will also serve her, Eisgruber said, because the dean mentors department chairs. Prentice noted that as department chair she had previously worked with the dean on issues such as recruitment and retention.
Prentice explained that she was interested in the dean of the faculty job because it allowed her to build on her experience as department chair for 12 years.
“When the dean of the faculty job opened up, I had an opportunity to do what I did in psychology but on a larger scale, you know, to meet more faculty in the University, learn how the University functions on a higher level, and that was appealing to me,” Prentice said.