Valerie Smith, a distinguished scholar of literature who led a major expansion of Princeton's interdisciplinary Center for African American Studies, has been named the University's next dean of the college.
Smith's appointment as the senior officer responsible for Princeton's undergraduate academic program is effective July 1, 2011. She will succeed Nancy Weiss Malkiel, the longest-serving dean of the college, who will step down from that position after 24 years at the end of this academic year.
Smith is Princeton's Woodrow Wilson Professor of Literature and a professor of English and African American studies. A specialist in African American literature who has been honored for excellence in teaching, she has spent 19 years on the Princeton faculty. From 2006 to 2009 she served as the founding director of the University's Center for African American Studies, building on the former Program in African American Studies and carrying out the center's mission to diffuse the study of race issues throughout Princeton's liberal arts education by expanding the center's curriculum and incorporating faculty from across the disciplines.
"As an eminent scholar, exceptional teacher and experienced leader, Val Smith is ideally suited to serve as the next dean of the college and to enrich Princeton's commitment to undergraduate education," said Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman. "During her tenure as director of the Center for African American Studies, she forged successful collaborations with departments campuswide. In that position and in her roles as scholar and teacher, she has impressed colleagues and students with her collegial and collaborative attitude, her personal warmth and her deep understanding of Princeton's animating values. I am delighted that she has agreed to take on the enormously important responsibilities of her new office."
As part of its oversight of Princeton's undergraduate curriculum, the Office of the Dean of the College is responsible for supervising the residential college system and other services and agencies designed to promote the intellectual development of undergraduates, including study abroad and fellowships. The dean of the college also oversees the admission and financial aid offices.
Provost Christopher Eisgruber, to whom Smith will report, said, "Val is just what Princeton needs: a visionary and empathetic leader who will build on the great strengths of this University's undergraduate program and cooperate enthusiastically with faculty members, students and administrators to develop new initiatives and respond to emerging needs. She resonates with the unique synthesis of a research university and a teaching college that we have here at Princeton. I expect that she will be eager to listen to viewpoints from throughout the Princeton community and to work collaboratively with students and colleagues to define priorities for the college."