Ian Deas began his journey in higher education as a first-generation, low-income college student from Charleston, S.C. This month, he was named the inaugural Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Students and Director of Student Leadership and Engagement at Princeton University, marking a University-wide commitment to prioritizing student engagement opportunities.
Formerly a Program Coordinator in the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students (ODUS), Deas has been at the University since September 2017.
Before joining the ODUS team, Deas studied biology at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C. He devoted much of his time in college to student government as vice president and later president.
Deas then served as Student Representative to the Board of Trustees of Winthrop, which gave him valuable insights into college administration.
“I got to see higher education, not just from a student lens, but also an administrative and sort of leadership lens, which was interesting,” Deas said.
These experiences, as well as the impact his own college administrators had on him, motivated him to pursue college administration.
“It wasn't until I attended college that I realized you could actually work at a college and have quite a bit of fun while doing it,” he continued.
Deas received a M.S.Ed. in Higher Education from the University of Pennsylvania. He worked briefly as a coordinator for the Education Entrepreneurship program at Penn before applying to work at the University on a whim.
“I stumbled upon campus on a snowy Sunday afternoon and fell in love with it. I applied to work in ODUS later that evening and fell further in love with Princeton during my interview process,” Deas wrote in an email.
As Program Coordinator, Deas helped support student organizations by advising events and running training on policies and procedures. He was also part of the ODUS student engagement team, which runs events like Lawnparties and Dean’s Date Celebration. A final part of his role involved working on ODUS communications.
Deas points to his development of Clever, a campus life event registration system, as one of his proudest achievements from his position as Program Coordinator.
“I was one of the drivers on that project, so it was the one of my first opportunities to really take a formalized leadership role amongst a team of staff and direct a project that impacts campus broadly,” he said.
The development of the new position indicates a renewed commitment on behalf of the University to learn how to best support student organizations.
“What we’ve realized is that student organizations provide an interesting opportunity for students to build a community, to engage with the university, and to also develop their leadership skills,” Deas said.
“This position represents a rejuvenated prioritization of that, but also the opportunity to assess the work that we're doing and determine if it is effective, and then using that information to better develop systems that guide the work of student relations,” he continued.
Deas’s colleagues in ODUS are excited to see the impact he will have in this new position.
“Ian has a thorough and nuanced understanding of the different co-curricular and leadership experiences that students have at Princeton, and I know that he will bring this knowledge, hard work, positivity, and innovation to this new role and will continue to have such a positive impact on students at Princeton,” wrote Claire Pinciaro ’13, Leadership Program Coordinator at ODUS, in an email.
Chitra Parikh ’21, current Undergraduate Student Government (USG) President, has previously worked with Deas during her time in USG and on the Projects Board. She believes Deas will excel in his new position.
“I'm looking forward to working with Ian in his new role; I believe he'll do a fantastic job in his new role, given his strong understanding of how Princeton processes work already,” she wrote in an email.
Parikh also remarked on how Deas’s new role demonstrates the importance of teaching students about leadership.
“Having a new administrator that focuses on student engagement and leadership is especially exciting not only for me personally, but also for many other students. It signals that Princeton values fostering and teaching leadership,” she said.
Emma Parish ’21, Class of 2021 President and co-Chair of the Student Groups Recognition Committee, had similar words of congratulations and excitement for Deas.
“Ian is incredibly hard working and dedicates endless amounts of time to improving the Princeton experience for all students on campus,” she wrote in an email.
“He has done an amazing job in the role of Program Coordinator and I am excited to see all the wonderful things he does as the Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Students and Director of Student Leadership and Engagement,” she continued.
In his new position, Deas looks forward to continuing to work with students like Parikh and Parish.
“I didn't know anyone when I got here, and I think both my colleagues but also students really helped to make Princeton feel like a home, so this position definitely represents the opportunity for me to continue developing those relationships,” Deas said.
Even with his promotion, he wants to make sure that students know they can rely on him for support.
“Irrespective of titles or roles, I think my goal has always been to be accessible to students. I have an open door policy, so if at any point, any student has any issues or questions or needs advice on bringing a dream to life they can certainly still stop by our office,” Deas said.
“It doesn't matter what my title is; I'm happy to have the conversation.”