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Dean of the Graduate School William Russel to retire in spring

Dean of the Graduate School William Russel announced Wednesday he will step down at the end of this academic year. Russel led the school for 11 years.

Russel is the second high-ranking administrator to retire since the appointment of new University President Christopher Eisgruber '83. Director of Athletics Gary Walters '67 announced in August that he would retire at the end of this school year.


Following Shirley Tilghman's resignation as University President last September, Russel had expressed he had no immediate plans to retire.

In an interview, Russel said his resignation was not related to the presidential transition.

Cindy Lau GS, one of Russel's chemical engineering advisees, noted that she had expected his resignation soon since he had stopped accepting new graduate students about five years ago.

Eisgruber has appointed a search committee to find Russel's replacement, chaired by electrical engineering professor and vice dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Claire Gmachl. The faculty members on the committee will beAfrican-American studies and religion professor Eddie Glaude, mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Mikko Haataja, music professor Wendy Heller, economics professor Bo Honore and molecular biology professor Jean Schwarzbauer.

Two graduate students will also be part of the committee, although they have yet to be elected.

A chemical engineering professor, Russel joined the Princeton faculty in 1974 and will transfer to emeritus status after a one-year sabbatical immediately after he finishes his deanship.


Since Russel began his tenure as dean in 2002, the enrollment of the Graduate School has grown from around 1900 students in 39 departments to 2600 students in 42 departments.

Notable changes include the establishment of a Ph.D. program in quantitative and computational biology and summer stipends for humanities and social science graduate students. Under Russel, the graduate school has also increased professional development programming for its students through the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, the Princeton Writing Program and Career Services, as well as increasing support for Ph.D. students who do not complete their dissertations within five years. Russel also collaborated with other graduate school deans across the country as an executive committee member of the Council of Graduate Schools and the Association of Graduate Schools.

As dean of the graduate school, Russel worked closely with the graduate student government, former Graduate Student Government president Chad Maisel GS said. Maisel also praised his initiative and availability.

“Probably more than anything, he was, additionally to his responsiveness to issues as they arose, always with an open door,” Maisel said.

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He recalled Russel’s support in the passage of a referendum that increased the graduate student budget for student activities and in the GSG-USG collaboration on Restaurant Week.

According to current GSG president Friederike Funk GS, Russel also attended GSG meetings and listened to their suggestions. These included the implementation of a dissertation completion enrollment status for Ph.D. students who did not complete their dissertations in five years and the dissertation embargo policy to allow students greater control over the publication of their work.

Eisgruber noted that Russel’s close attention to graduate student needs has been crucial in sustaining the relatively short amount of time doctoral students require to complete their dissertations.

Along with his administrative duties, Russel also continued to work with graduate students as a chemical engineering advisor.

“I was often asked if we got to meet with our advisor a lot because of his administrative role, but we actually got to meet with him every week, occasionally more, which is more than some advisors who didn’t have an administrative role,” Lau said.

While Russel expressed pride in the general improvement in graduate student life, he noted that the job market is still fairly tight for doctorate students going into academia, and University efforts to develop a broader suite of offerings for graduate students has only recently started.

According to the Report of the Trustee Ad Hoc Committee on Diversity released Thursday, the Graduate School student body is not as diverse as the undergraduate student body. The report expressed concern that the lack of diversity will inevitably affect the next generation of faculty professors.

"At its current pace, the diversification of the University’s graduate ...populations will continue to fall behind the demographic shifts that are reshaping the United States," the report read.

Prior to serving as dean, Russel served the University in a number of capacities, including as chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering from 1987 to 1996, as director of the Princeton Materials Institute from 1996 to 1998 and as an executive member of the Princeton Environmental Institute from 1996 to 2000.

In addition to his leadership positions, Russel is conducting research on colloidal dispersion. He received the 2007 Award in Colloid and Surface Chemistry from the American Chemical Society, the 1999 Bingham Medal from the Society of Rheology and the 1992 William H. Walker Award for Excellence in Contributions to Chemical Engineering Literature.