Jill Dolan, dean of the college and the Annan Professor in English and professor of theater in the Lewis Center for the Arts, will step down as dean at the end of the 2023-24 academic year.
Dolan, who joined the Princeton faculty in 2008 and has served as dean of the college since 2015, will take a two-year sabbatical during which she will continue her research and writing, then retire from the faculty in 2026.
“With personal warmth and a profound commitment to the liberal arts, Jill Dolan has guided Princeton’s undergraduate college through a period of challenge and change while sustaining its core values and superb quality,” said President Christopher L. Eisgruber. “She has been a wise and wonderful dean, as well as a generous colleague, whose good work has benefited this University and its students tremendously throughout her time in office.”
Dolan said, “It’s been an enormously rich and exciting experience to be part of the multi-pronged effort of overseeing the undergraduate academic experience at Princeton.”
As dean of the college, Dolan 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.
During her years as dean, Dolan said, she is most proud of helping the president achieve his priorities around increasing the socioeconomic diversity of the undergraduate population. Today, more than 20% of Princeton first-years are lower-income students eligible for federal Pell grants and 17% are first-generation college students.
Dolan has overseen major initiatives enacted by her team, including a four-year expansion in enrollment that will increase the size of the undergraduate student population by about 10%. Paired with Princeton’s generous, no-loan financial aid program, the enrollment expansion will ensure that more talented students from all backgrounds and sectors of society have access to a Princeton education. Dolan also conducted fundraising for and — with Khristina Gonzalez, senior associate dean of the college and the Bob Peck ’88 Director of the Emma Bloomberg Center for Access and Opportunity — directed the establishment of the Emma Bloomberg Center.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dolan facilitated Princeton’s shift to online teaching with colleagues from the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning. With Deputy Dean of the College Elizabeth Colagiuri, she guided academic calendar reform, moving fall term exams ahead of the December holidays to improve teaching and learning. With her colleagues on the Council of College Heads, Dolan also oversaw the shift of the residential college program to all four-year colleges for academic advising, as well as living and eating, and she participated in the design and construction of three new residential colleges.
“Jill Dolan is a wonderful dean of the college, who shepherded Princeton University’s undergraduate program through a period of profound change, from COVID-19 to ChatGPT, and the expansion of the student body and the opening of new residential colleges,” said Jennifer Rexford, provost and the Gordon Y.S. Wu Professor in Engineering. “We are all the beneficiaries of her wisdom, empathy and leadership.”
A return to research
Dolan is an expert on contemporary American feminist and queer theater and performance. She served for six years as the director of Princeton’s Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies and is a faculty affiliate of the Program in American Studies.
During her sabbatical, Dolan said, she will continue her research and writing about underrecognized playwrights and other lesser-known artists. She looks forward to writing about the profound changes in American theater, especially after COVID-19, and she plans to write about similar sea-changes in higher education. Her research focuses on preserving opportunities for wonder and what Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel calls “radical amazement” in live, communal exchanges, whether at the theater or in the classroom.
As she steps away from her own administrative role, Dolan said she will most miss University colleagues, and especially the 150 people who work with her in the Office of the Dean of the College. “One of my priorities has been to make us feel like a team,” she said. “It’s been great to get to know all the people working in the College and to appreciate how hard they work for Princeton students and faculty and other staff. I’ll miss working with them and being the cheerleader-in-chief for the work that they do.”
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 Graduate Center, where she also served as executive director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies.
Dolan has received several awards for her teaching, and for her criticism and research in theater and performance studies; women’s and feminist studies; LGBTQ 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 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 member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and 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 eight books include “Theatre and Sexuality,” “Utopia in Performance: Finding Hope at the Theatre,” “The Feminist Spectator as Critic,” and a critical study of the plays of Wendy Wasserstein.
Dolan earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in performance studies at New York University. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Boston University.
Rexford will convene and lead a search committee for Dolan’s successor. The goal is for the position to be filled by next summer.