Sarah-Jane Leslie

Leslie to step down as dean of the Graduate School

Sarah-Jane Leslie

Sarah-Jane Leslie, dean of the Graduate School and the Class of 1943 Professor of Philosophy, will step down from her position as dean effective July 1 and return to the faculty.

Leslie, a 2007 Princeton graduate alumnus in philosophy, has served as dean since January 2018, prioritizing the diversity of the graduate student body and supporting graduate students’ professional development, while preserving and enhancing the excellence of graduate education at Princeton.

She began teaching at Princeton in 2006 and was promoted to full professor in 2013 before being named to the endowed professorship in 2014. Leslie will return full-time to teaching, research and student mentorship.

“I have enjoyed my time as dean and am especially proud of the progress we have made in diversifying the graduate student body and in creating an innovative graduate professional development program, GradFUTURES,” Leslie said. “I have decided to return to the faculty to resume my career as a researcher and teacher, and have a more flexible schedule while caring for my new infant daughter, Olivia.”

“Sarah-Jane Leslie has been a dynamic and innovative leader for our Graduate School,” said Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber. “I am grateful for her distinguished service to this University and, in particular, for her leadership on issues of graduate student diversity and professional development. While we will miss her in the administration, I appreciate her desire to return full-time to the teaching and research that she does so splendidly.”

Cole Crittenden, who has been serving as acting dean during Leslie’s maternity leave, will continue in that role until Leslie’s successor is appointed. Because the spring semester is already past its midpoint, the University plans to form a search committee in late August and commence the search for the new dean as the academic year begins.

Nearly 3,000 students are enrolled in the Graduate School pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees in 42 department and programs. The dean of the Graduate School reports to Provost Deborah Prentice.

In 2019, the Graduate School welcomed its most diverse group of incoming students, 42% of whom were international citizens representing nearly 50 countries. Of the incoming students from the United States, 43% were minorities and 28% identified as low-income or first-generation college students.

To support diverse students in the academy, Leslie launched the Graduate Scholars Program, which enhances and supports the academic, social and community development of underrepresented students during their graduate studies. In fall 2020, the program welcomed 55 students from 28 departments. 

During her tenure, Leslie oversaw the creation of GradFUTURES, a campus-wide collaborative initiative to integrate and expand professional development programs that prepare students for life after earning a terminal master’s degree or Ph.D.

“I will greatly miss the hard-working staff in the Graduate School,” Leslie said. “It has been an honor and privilege to work with them all. I have also deeply appreciated the opportunity to work with our wonderful graduate students, faculty and administrative colleagues across the University, and to engage with my fellow graduate alumni in the furtherance of graduate education at Princeton.”

She added, “I look forward to rejoining my colleagues in the philosophy department and devoting myself to the teaching and research that I hold so dear.”

Previously, Leslie has served as vice dean for faculty development in the Office of the Dean of the Faculty. She is the founding director of the Program in Cognitive Science and also served as director of the Program in Linguistics. Along with those two programs, she is an affiliated faculty member with the Department of Psychology, the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies, the University Center for Human Values, and the Kahneman-Treisman Center for Behavioral Science and Public Policy.

Leslie’s research and teaching focus on the intersections of philosophy and psychology; stereotyping and bias; academic gender gaps and diversity; language and generalization; empirical philosophy of mind; and cognitive science and development.

Much of her work examines how we categorize and generalize information about the world around us. As part of this project, she investigates how the language young children hear shapes their perception of social groups, and how this relates to stereotyping and prejudice. Most recently, she has been examining gender gaps in educational and career choices.

Leslie is the author or co-author of some 50 articles and a 2020 volume, “Current Controversies in the Philosophy of Science. She has given numerous public presentations at academic institutions as well as for a broad audience and with the media.

Leslie has held several positions on University committees, including as chair, focusing on areas such as women’s leadership, diversity, appointments and advancements, and placement and professional development.

In the philosophy department, Leslie was the search/equal opportunity officer for two years, and director of graduate student placement for three years. She also served as acting chair of the department in spring 2017.

Leslie has held various formal mentorship roles at Princeton. She has served as a mentor with the Society of Fellows and is a faculty fellow at Butler College, one of Princeton’s six residential colleges. Previously, she was a faculty fellow at Rockefeller College and served as a mentor with the Princeton Women’s Mentorship Program and the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program. Also, she has served in mentoring roles for graduate women in philosophy.

Among her honors, Leslie received the Stanton Award from the Society for Philosophy and Psychology in 2015. She was a Behrman Faculty Fellow at Princeton and a 250th Anniversary Fellow at Rutgers University, from which she received her undergraduate degree, majoring in philosophy, mathematics and cognitive science.