Jill Dolan named Princeton's dean of the college

June 2, 2015 9 a.m.
Jill Dolan

Photo by Hope VanCleaf, Lewis Center for the Arts

Jill Dolan, the Annan Professor in English and professor of theater in the Lewis Center for the Arts, has been named Princeton's next dean of the college. Dolan, who also directs the University's Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies, is a distinguished scholar of theater and performance studies.

Dolan will become dean of the college on July 1. She replaces Valerie Smith, who is stepping down at the end of this month to become president of Swarthmore College.

"Jill Dolan is a thoughtful teacher and distinguished scholar who cares deeply about Princeton's students and about liberal arts education," President Christopher L. Eisgruber said. "She is also a skilled administrator who knows how to bring people together and get things done. Jill will be a superb dean of the college, and I am delighted that she has accepted this appointment."

Dolan has been on the Princeton faculty since 2008. She helped expand the University's offerings in the field of performance studies, which examines theater and other dramatic or dance performances in a wider social and historical context. She has led the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies since 2009 as it broadened its study of gender and sexuality, as well as race, class, ability, ethnicity and other intersecting aspects of identity.

Dolan has served on a number of University and departmental committees, including the Priorities Committee for three years and the search committee for the next vice president for campus life. She also was a board member of Princeton's Center for Jewish Life.

Princeton's dean of the college is the senior officer responsible for the undergraduate curriculum, residential college system, and other services and resources designed to promote the intellectual development of undergraduates. The dean of the college also oversees the admission and financial aid offices.

"I'm eager to work with the president, the provost and the dean of the faculty, as well as the students, the faculty and the terrific team in the Office of the Dean of the College to think creatively about the many directions from which we can enhance our campus," Dolan said. "I look forward to leading imaginative, forward-thinking discussions about our curriculum and our teaching practices, and to staging conversations among faculty, students and staff to develop the most compelling ideas about how we might help students shape their lives. Our teaching, research and extracurricular engagements should model ways of being in the world that inspire our students toward innovative professional choices and intensely engaged lives."

Provost David S. Lee said he looks forward to working with Dolan in her new position.

"Jill is all at once curious, rigorous, honest, collaborative, a good listener, full of wisdom, passionate about our educational mission and a model university citizen," Lee said. "I am excited to work with her closely in support of her role in shaping and guiding undergraduate education at Princeton."

Dean of the Faculty Deborah Prentice, who led the dean of the college search committee, said Dolan is a skilled and effective leader.

"Jill impressed the committee with her holistic vision of undergraduate education, her deep understanding of the student experience, and her broad and diverse administrative background," Prentice said. "We appreciated her empathy, her emphasis on dialogue, and her conviction that every single student at Princeton should feel seen and heard."

Dolan said she is particularly interested in finding more ways the University can support and engage all students.

"This year's campus activism demonstrates a pressing need for faculty and staff to address issues of inclusion, and to help all students find nourishing, attentive and varied communities both inside and outside the classroom," she said.

She added that she is eager to be "visible and active across campus" to meet with and learn from students and faculty.

"I want to understand what students across majors and disciplines should know about their fields and which pedagogical methods will let us best teach which contents," Dolan said. "I see this role as central to educational innovation, and look forward to exploring how our faculty's teaching practices might deliver their content in the most inspiring ways."

Prior to arriving at Princeton, Dolan spent nine years at the University of Texas at Austin, where she held the Zachary T. Scott Family Chair in Drama and headed the Department of Theatre and Dance's graduate program in performance as a public practice. She previously was on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center, where she also served as executive director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies. She was recognized with teaching awards for her work at the University of Texas and University of Wisconsin, and served in various administrative capacities at both schools.

Dolan has received a number of awards for her teaching, dramatic criticism and research in the areas of theater and performance studies; women's and feminist studies; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer studies; and American studies.

In 2013, she received the American Society for Theatre Research's Distinguished Scholar Award in recognition of her outstanding career achievement in the field of theater studies.

She was awarded the 2011 George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism for her blog "The Feminist Spectator," which was the basis for her recent book "The Feminist Spectator in Action: Feminist Criticism on Stage and Screen." That same year, she received a lifetime achievement award from the Women and Theatre Program and the outstanding teaching award from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education.

Dolan is a past president of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education and the Women and Theatre Program. She is a member of the National Theatre Conference and the College of Fellows of the American Theatre at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Her books include "Theatre and Sexuality," "Utopia in Performance: Finding Hope at the Theatre" and "The Feminist Spectator as Critic." She is finishing a critical study of the plays of Wendy Wasserstein.

Dolan earned her doctoral and master's degrees in performance studies at New York University. She has a bachelor's degree in communications from Boston University.