Cherrey selected as Princeton's vice president for campus life

Cynthia Cherrey

Cynthia Cherrey Photo: Courtesy of Tulane University

Cynthia Cherrey, the vice president for student affairs at Tulane University who helped lead the New Orleans school through one of the most challenging periods in its history, has been named the vice president for campus life at Princeton University. Her appointment is effective Aug. 1.

Cherrey, who also is the dean of students and a clinical professor in the A.B. Freeman School of Business, has been at Tulane since 2003. Following Hurricane Katrina in September 2005, Tulane was forced to close for a semester after sustaining at least $650 million in damages. Cherrey worked as part of the senior leadership team on recovery and renewal efforts. She has played a key role in integrating service learning into the curriculum and accelerating a residential college plan.

At Princeton, she will succeed Janet Dickerson, who is retiring after 10 years at the University on June 30.

"Cynthia's broad experience leading campus life initiatives, thoughtful approach to management and deep connection with students made her the immediate favorite of the search committee," said Executive Vice President Mark Burstein, to whom Cherrey will report. "As the first person in her family to go to college, Cynthia also clearly resonates with efforts ably led by Janet Dickerson to create a more inclusive student community at Princeton."

During her tenure at Tulane, Cherrey has been responsible for the areas of Housing and Residence Life, Career Services, Student Employment, Dining Services, Bookstore, Greek Life, Student Programs, Counseling, Testing, Tutoring, Campus Recreation, Multicultural Affairs, Orientation, Leadership, and International Students and Scholars. Under her leadership, the Division of Student Affairs created new offices of Student Resources and Support, Violence Prevention, Orientation, and Parent Programs to deliver services and educational programs to the university community, and helped increase student diversity and retention.

"Cynthia has extensive experience building an integrated university community centered on common values and commitments," said Mariam Rahmani, a Princeton senior who was among the faculty, staff and graduate and undergraduate students on the search committee. "That she helped lead Tulane through a most tragic and trying time when Katrina devastated the school and its surrounding community shows her devotion to education and her ability to perform in the best and worst circumstances, not to mention the fiber of her character.

"Moreover, throughout her career Cynthia has shown that she thoughtfully identifies and strives to understand problems that arise as institutions of higher education try to balance the curricular and co-curricular and negotiate the benefits and challenges of diversity, issues that resonate with Princeton today," Rahmani added. "She tackles issues from numerous different angles in order to treat them more comprehensively. She truly cares about students and their needs. I am confident that Cynthia will be a part of the leadership -- a team that at Princeton includes administration, faculty, staff and students -- that continues to move this university forward."

From 1989 to 2003, Cherrey worked at the University of Southern California, serving ultimately as an associate vice president for student affairs and as a clinical associate professor in the Rossier School of Education. She received several honors there, including the Mahogany Leadership Award from the Black Student Assembly and Faculty of the Year by the Order of Omega. She led undergraduate courses in communication studies and graduate courses in educational administration and policy. At Tulane, she has taught primarily a freshman class on leadership and politics.

"I am thrilled to have Cynthia Cherrey join the Princeton University community," said Nicole Shelton, an associate professor of psychology who served on the search committee. "Cynthia will be a compassionate advocate for students from all backgrounds and will inspire and help students to cultivate the competence they need to flourish as effective students and citizens of the world. One of the many reasons I think she will be an excellent vice president for campus life at Princeton is because she has a full appreciation for the University's goal for students to balance the pursuit of challenges outside of the classroom and the rigor of the classroom. As a faculty member, I look forward to working with Cynthia as she moves Princeton further along in fully integrating students' academic and non-academic endeavors."

Cherrey said, "I look forward to working with students and with academic and administrative colleagues to ensure that every student has an exceptional academic experience, and to help all students find their home in this great place of Princeton."

She will oversee the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students, the Department of Athletics, University Health Services, the Office of Religious Life and the Pace Center. She also will seek ways, in collaboration with the Graduate School, to enhance the quality of graduate student life. In addition, Career Services will move from being part of the Office of the Dean of the College to the Office of the Vice President for Campus Life.

"Cynthia has significant experience managing Career Services and great interest in supporting its important work," Burstein said. "Dean (Nancy) Malkiel and I thought that a transfer of responsibilities at this time would enhance our focus on this key Princeton office."

Cherrey has more than 30 years of experience in academic and student affairs. In addition to working at Tulane and USC, she has held positions at the University of Denver and the University of North Texas.

Michael Jennings, the Class of 1900 Professor of Modern Languages and chair of the Department of German, who also served on the search committee, said, "Princeton has succeeded in recruiting someone who will be an extraordinary leader of campus life at a critical moment for this institution. Cynthia brings not just a wealth of experience but remarkable qualities as a listener and a leader."

An authority on organizational leadership, Cherrey has been president since 2000 of the International Leadership Association, a global network of leadership scholars and practitioners. She has published numerous journal articles and book chapters in areas of leadership, organizational development and higher education. She also has served as co-editor of a publication series and co-written a book about leadership. She has been a speaker at conferences and events in the United States and abroad.

Cherrey was an invited participant in the W.K. Kellogg Leadership project to advance leadership knowledge, education and practice for the 21st century. She is a senior fellow at the James McGregor Burns Academy of Leadership, and was a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship.

A native of Minnesota who grew up as one of eight children on a family farm, Cherrey is a graduate of St. Cloud State University. She earned her Ph.D. in communication studies with a concentration in organizational leadership and management from the University of Denver.