Joyce Rechtschaffen, Princeton University’s assistant vice president for government affairs, has announced plans to retire in March 2024. Rechtschaffen, a Princeton Class of 1975 graduate, has led the University’s Office of Government Affairs in Washington, D.C., since 2006.
“For nearly two decades, Joyce Rechtschaffen has been the gold standard among American universities' government affairs officers,” Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber said. “She delivered a rare combination of first-rate intelligence, political savvy, technical expertise, unmatched experience and complete dedication to the University's mission. Joyce has taught me a lot about Washington, and it has been a pleasure to work with her.”
Julie Groeninger, currently director of government affairs, has been named to succeed Rechtschaffen as assistant vice president for government affairs.
“The appointment of Julie Groeninger will enable Princeton to go from strength to strength,” Eisgruber said. “She is already a star who is respected by her peers and by key policymakers throughout Washington. I look forward to continuing my work with her as she moves into this new leadership role.”
The Office of Government Affairs, overseen by Vice President for Communications and Government Affairs Gadi Dechter, manages federal relations on behalf of the University, advocating for Princeton within Congress and the executive branch for policies and programs that advance the University’s core research and teaching missions.
The office also works closely with higher education associations and other colleges and universities to support issues of importance to education and research institutions across the country.
Rechtschaffen said it has been a “privilege to work under the leadership of two University presidents — President Eisgruber and President Emeritus Shirley M. Tilghman — who are committed to federal advocacy that advances the University’s mission.”
She added: “It also has been a joy to collaborate with amazing University colleagues, as well as wonderful faculty and students.”
Rechtschaffen has worked on a wide range of policies and programs that are central to Princeton’s teaching and research mission, including University management of the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and funding for basic research in the natural sciences, humanities and social sciences.
She often joined colleagues at the nation’s leading research universities to work with lawmakers on proposals ranging from education policy to funding for agencies such as the National Science Foundation.
“I am deeply proud of our work to secure funding for the nation’s science and humanities agencies that, in turn, becomes the basis for grants providing for the breakthrough research conducted by our faculty and students,” Rechtschaffen said. “In particular, we have made enormous progress in educating policymakers about the critical need to fund fusion energy research to help address the climate change crisis, while highlighting the great contributions of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory to that effort.”
In 2020, Rechtschaffen received the 2020 Legacy Award from the Association of American Universities (AAU) “in recognition of her distinguished contributions to, and national leadership in, the higher education community.”
Rechtschaffen has also played an important role in supporting Princeton’s efforts to make higher education more affordable, particularly for lower-income students. She helped lead the University’s advocacy, along with colleges and universities across New Jersey, to double the maximum federal Pell Grant for low-income students.
“I greatly enjoy briefing lawmakers about Princeton’s unwavering commitment to expanding educational opportunity for low- and middle-income students,” she said. “It is an honor to present our record of increasing the number of Pell Grant recipients on campus, as well as our leadership role in eliminating the need for students to take out loans.”
Rechtschaffen’s work on immigration policies has been integral to the University’s ability to welcome students, faculty and staff from across the world. She said an important part of her role is addressing proposals that could impede universities’ ability to teach and conduct research.
“For example, we worked under the leadership of President Eisgruber and with colleagues throughout the University to defeat proposals that would have severely limited the ability of international students, researchers and staff to study, teach and work at U.S. universities and curtailed international collaborations,” she said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Rechtschaffen was part of the team that established the COVID testing laboratory on campus, which was essential to supporting the University community during the height of the pandemic.
Rechtschaffen’s role has also included bringing together faculty, administrators and students with policymakers to share research and insights on pressing issues such as climate change, as well as hosting programs for Princeton students and alumni in Washington, D.C.
Before joining the Office of Government Affairs, Rechtschaffen spent 17 years as a staff member in the U.S. Senate. She worked for former Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman as staff director on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and counsel to the Clean Air and Nuclear Regulation Subcommittee of the Committee on Environment and Public Works. In those roles, she worked on legislation establishing the Department of Homeland Security, the 9-11 Commission and the Director of National Intelligence. She also worked on the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 and climate change legislation.
Prior to that, she was a senior attorney with the Environmental Enforcement Section of the U.S. Department of Justice and practiced litigation at a law firm. Rechtschaffen earned her bachelor’s degree from Princeton, majoring in the School of Public and International Affairs, and earned her law degree from Harvard University.
Following Rechtschaffen’s retirement, Groeninger will lead Princeton’s Office of Government Affairs, where she has done pivotal work on a number of key issues since 2011, including fusion research, a NASA telescope project and federal immigration policies.
In 2022, she received the President’s Achievement Award, which annually honors employees' “commitment to excellence and exceptional performance.”
Groeninger works closely with leadership at the University and the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and currently co-chairs the Energy Sciences Coalition, a consortium of universities, national laboratories and industry partners that supports the Department of Energy Office of Science.
She has served as chair of the AAU’s Council on Federal Relations, Task Force on Immigration and Task Force on Innovation, and she currently co-chairs the Science and Security Working Group. She is a recipient of the AAU “Ripple Effect Award” in recognition of her public service contributions to the higher education community.