As Christopher Eisgruber ’83 begins his new duties as University president, new University provost and former economics and Wilson School professor David Lee GS ’99 will focus on finishing many of the projects begun by his predecessor. The new provost has no plans to make significant departures from the agenda Eisgruber pursued, he saids in an interview with The Daily Princetonian.
One of Lee’s major challenges thus far has been getting acquainted with every aspect of the University.Lee said that he is primarily focused on finishing up many of the projects that Eisgruber started during his time as provost, though he did not elaborate on specific initiatives.
“I’m coming in at a point where a lot of the initiatives are already well-developed,” Lee said. “I’m not going to certainly change direction on things that have been well-developed and deliberated.”
As provost, Eisgruber guided the University through the 2008 recession with cost-cutting measures. He implemented a “stay even” financial policy that increased the cost of undergraduate fees while also upping the amounprt of financial aid available. In the academic sphere, he helped strengthen the University’s international presence by increasing study abroad opportunities and naming a vice provost for international initiatives.
Eisgruber also supported the use of online course platforms in University teaching. Lee said he considered online courses another tool for enhancing the quality of Princeton's undergraduate education, but not necessarily a central aspect of its mission.
“In anything that we do here at Princeton, we need to focus on our core mission. Of course, one of those core missions is being one of the most outstanding undergraduate colleges in the world, so that shapes how we use the various tools that are available to us,” Lee said. "I think that the fact that we can provide online material, if faculty choose to do so — it’s not really part of the main mission of the University, but it’s something [that’s a] why not, with the caveat that we have to be careful. This is sort of a new space, it’s a developing space, and so we have to be careful about any implications it mave have on us pursuing our core mission”
Eisgruber, who sits on Coursera's board of advisers, supported online University courses through the platform.
One of Lee’s priorities will be overseeing the University’s curriculum development in certain fields. Lee is working with Eisgruber and Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science Vince Poor ’77to expand the availability of entrepreneurial courses from the roughly 10 that are already available, according to Eisgruber. However, Poor said that he does not envision the program evolving into a certificate, as the field of entrepreneurship does not require credentialing as other fields do.
Another project Lee will be involved with is the transfer to Princeton Prime, a software package that allows the University to track expenditures and manage accounts. The package will be implemented in July 2014 after a two-year development process, Eisgruber said. The project will be supervised by Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Carolyn Ainslie.
“One of the things it will do is allow for more sophisticated budget planning, and that’s where it will empower the provost,” Eisgruber explained.
The provost also chairs the Priorities Committee, which sets tuition, board, graduate student stipends and faculty and staff stipends, in addition to approving funding requests that are put forth by various groups on campus. Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering professor Clarence Rowley ’95, who serves as a faculty member on the committee, said that the provost is usually very influential in the committee decisions.
“[The provost] is by far the most important role,” Rowley said. “He’ll set the tone for the meeting … He’ll provide his recommendation [to the committee].” The committee will meet twice a week during the fall semester beginning next week.
Lee was appointed Provost in June and took over July 1. As provost, he will chair the Academic Planning Group and meet with the Faculty Advisory Committee on Appointments and Advancements, the Faculty Advisory Committee on Policy and the Faculty Committee on the Library and Computing and the University Research Board, according to the Provost’s Office website.
Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated who will be supervising the Princeton Prime project. Vice President for Treasurer and Finance Carolyn Ainslie is overseeing the project. The 'Prince' regrets the error.