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Colburn to step down as VP for communications and public affairs, join University of California system as SVP for external relations

June 23, 2021 6:35 p.m.

Brent Colburn, Princeton’s vice president for communications and public affairs, will step down from his position at the end of the summer and join the University of California’s Office of the President as the senior vice president for external relations and communications. Colburn’s appointment to his new position was approved by the University of California Board of Regents on June 23 and will take effect on Aug. 30.

Brent Colburn

Brent Colburn

“I’d like to thank President Eisgruber and the board of trustees for giving me the opportunity to serve the students, faculty, staff and alumni of this incredible institution,” said Colburn. “Princeton’s commitment to service, and to increasing both access and affordability in higher education, is deeply shared by the University of California, and I look forward to continuing this vital work in my new role.”

Colburn will depart after nearly four years as part of the University’s leadership team, having helped transform Princeton’s communications and outreach functions in support of its strategic initiatives. During his tenure, he also helped steer the University through a number of challenges, including the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Brent Colburn has been a superb leader and a treasured colleague during his time at Princeton. His good work has improved our organization and our community,” said President Christopher L. Eisgruber. “Though we will miss him at Princeton, we wish Brent well in his new role. We look forward to partnering with him and his California colleagues to advance our shared commitments to teaching, research and service.”

The University of California system encompasses 10 campuses, five medical centers and three affiliated national laboratories. Serving over 280,000 students and two million alumni, the system’s 227,000 faculty and staff are led by President Michael V. Drake, M.D., a 2019 honorary degree recipient from Princeton. As senior vice president, Colburn’s broad portfolio will include all University-wide internal and external communications and outreach, as well as state and federal governmental relations, in service of UC’s tripartite mission of education, research and public service.

“The depth and breadth of Brent’s experience and his clear commitment to public service are remarkable,” said UC President Michael V. Drake, M.D, noting that Colburn was the hiring committee’s unanimous choice following a nationwide search. “We are very fortunate to have him join the University of California; he will be a tremendous asset to advancing UC’s influence and impact.”

Prior to coming to Princeton, Colburn’s experience in public service included numerous senior roles in the federal government, where he served as the assistant to the Secretary of Defense for public affairs, chief of staff at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and director of external relations at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

He also served as the vice president of communications for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a philanthropy founded by Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg focused on education, science and social justice, and earlier in his career worked in a range of positions in national politics, including as national communications director for President Barack Obama’s successful re-election campaign in 2012.

Colburn will continue in his current role through the middle of August. Information regarding the search for his successor and the status of his responsibilities during any interim period will be shared prior to his departure.

“Any success we have had in the past few years is because of the hard work, dedication, and talent of my colleagues in the office of communications and public affairs,” noted Colburn. “Like so many people before me, I am better because of my time at Princeton. I hope I am leaving Princeton a little better, too.”

Colburn is married to Nichole Mayer, a professional chef and San Francisco native. Along with their dog, Dusty Baker, they will be relocating to the Bay Area for this new role.