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Open letter of appreciation to Dean Russel

The Graduate Student Government was saddened to hear of the upcoming retirement of Dean Russel, who has served as dean of the Graduate School for 11 years. Since he took up the office of dean in 2002, Dean Russel has worked closely and tirelessly with the GSG in pursuit of improving the graduate student experience at Princeton University.

In a retrospective look back on Dean Russel’s career and influence, the current GSG Executive Board reached out to former GSG chairs and presidents to recall their experience with Dean Russel.


Leslie Medema MPA '04, GSG chair from 2003-04, fondly remembered working with Dean Russel as chair of the GSG and as a member of the CPUC Priorities Committee. She recalls learning “a tremendous amount from those processes and how he handled advocating for the Graduate School while balancing the many priorities of the school,” noting the difficulty such a position holds — particularly when “emotions flared on our end.” Leslie wishes Dean Russel “much rest and grand adventures” in his retirement, thanking him “for all he has done for the graduate programs and for Princeton University.”

Dr. Shin-Yi Lin '11, GSG chair from 2005-08, would like to thank Dean Russel for “being such a passionate advocate for our graduate students,” and for appreciating “the professionalism and respect with which he consistently interacted with student leaders.” She notes how lucky she was to “get an insider's view of how aggressively he advocated for graduate students behind the scenes,” a view almost at odds with his reserved public persona. During her time with the GSG, Shin-Yi worked with Dean Russel on many critical reforms — particularly “replacing DCC/ET-DCC with DCE status, providing family-friendly benefits (reducing the cost of dependent coverage, formalizing a parental leave policy and providing child-care subsidies), improving the diversity of our student body and expanding funding for social events.” Dean Russel was also “instrumental” in helping launch the Princeton Research Symposium in 2004, which Shin-Yi is “happy to see continues today as an annual event for the University community.” Finally, she would like to personally thank Dean Russel and his wife Priscilla for the “warmth and kindness” they showed her, her husband Matt Weber '09 and their growing family both “throughout my time at Princeton, and afterwards since we've joined the alumni community.” Shin-Yi wishes Dean Russel all the best as he wraps up his time as dean of the Graduate School!

Kevin Smith MPA '12, GSG president from 2011-12, was honored to work alongside Dean Russel on behalf of the graduate student body and encouraged by Dean Russel’s “steadfast work ethic and his focus on improving the graduate student experience both inside and outside the classroom.” All this and more support the sentiment that Dean Russel is, in the words of former GSG President (2012-13) Chad Maisel MPA '13, a “terrific advocate” for graduate students and the GSG alike.

During Dean Russel’s 11 years of tenure, the graduate school has broadened its reach to improve graduate student well-being — for instance, by sponsoring and co-sponsoring dozens of social events each year. In recent years, Dean Russel has continued his active involvement with the GSG as a guest at both our Assembly and Executive Board meetings. In addition, he was influential in last year’s change to the Open Access Dissertation policy, which gives graduate students more control over when their dissertation becomes available online and thereby benefits those who seek to publish a book on their dissertation topic. The current GSG looks upon Dean Russel’s retirement as a loss of a valued advocate, but also looks forward to fostering a similar relationship with his successor — who faces great shoes to fill.

Dean Russel has continually shown care and concern for the views of graduate students and true interest in improving the graduate student experience. We will miss him and his genuine interest in the success of graduate students and his continued open door. On behalf of Princeton graduate students — past, present and future — the GSG wishes Dean Russel the very best in his retirement. Dean Russel, we thank you very much for your years of service and dedication to the graduate students!

The GSG Executive Board: Friederike Funk, Kyle Keller, Rachael Barry, Julia Wittes, Simon Fuchs, Shane Blackman, Mary Kang, April Williams, Andreana Kenrick and Quentin Berthet