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Elizabeth Armstrong GS ’93 named head of Butler College

Butler College
Butler College
Photo Credit: Naomi Hess / The Daily Princetonian

Effective July 1, 2020, associate professor of sociology and public affairs Elizabeth Mitchell Armstrong GS ’93 will begin her term as head of Butler College. 

She will succeed Nicole Shelton, professor of psychology, who has served as head of Butler since 2012.


Dean of the College Jill Dolan and Dean of Undergraduate Students Kathleen Deignan announced Armstrong’s appointment on Monday, May 4.

“[Armstrong’s] important contributions as a teacher, a faculty adviser, a scholar and a University citizen make her an exceptional choice to succeed Nicole Shelton as the faculty head of Butler,” Dolan said in the announcement. “I look forward to sharing in the creativity, warmth and generosity Betsy will bring to her work with the college.”

Photo by Sameer A. Khan/Fotobuddy via Office of Communications

Armstrong received an MPA from the Woodrow Wilson School in 1993, and has been a University faculty member in the sociology department and the Wilson School since 2000. Beginning in 2001, she became a faculty fellow and first-year/sophomore adviser in Rockefeller College. She is also affiliated with the Office of Population Research, the Center for Health and Wellbeing, the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies, and the Program in the History of Science.

In an interview with The Daily Princetonian, Armstrong said she understands the importance of the residential college system in promoting growth in students.

“College is a very important stage of life developmentally, so certainly students undergo a lot of important growth … while they’re in college,” Armstrong said. “The residential colleges are a place where students can kind of foster that personal growth in addition to the intellectual work that they're doing in the classes.”


“The head of the college’s role is really to nurture that intellectual, social and personal development of the members of the college,” she continued.

Dean of Butler College David Stirk expressed his excitement to begin collaborating with Armstrong.

“We are very excited at the prospect of working with Professor Betsy Armstrong, who will be arriving at Butler with tremendous experience as a long time faculty adviser for first and second year students, and a host of great ideas for building a residential college community,” Stirk wrote in an email to the ‘Prince.’

One of Armstrong’s goals as Head of Butler is to encourage students to explore their diverse interests.

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“I’d like to think about the colleges as a place where students can also be curious about subjects outside of their area of expertise and foster a mindset that's less focused on what your studies will do for you in terms of career, and more just pure, interesting curiosity,” Armstrong said.

She plans to use “some of the college programming to enable students to explore subjects outside of their own comfort zone, just in the spirit of exploration and curiosity.”

Armstrong also looks forward to interacting with the Butler community.

“I’m really most excited about meeting the students,” Armstrong said. “I really love to see what my students do outside of the classroom, and so I’m very excited to get to know the Butler students to learn more about what their passions and interests are, and to learn also what's distinctive about Butler.”

Although Stirk looks forward to working with Armstrong, he will miss Shelton and her endless dedication to the residential college.

“The staff of Butler is sad to see … Professor Nicole Shelton’s eight year term as the Head of Butler College come to an end,” Stirk wrote. “She has been a fantastic Head of College and a true asset to the entire residential college system at Princeton.”

Shelton worked as head of Butler for two four-year terms, the maximum a faculty member can serve, and she will continue teaching in the psychology department.

Shelton said she has greatly appreciated the chance to lead Butler and interact with the college’s students.

“Being head of Butler has been the most rewarding experience in my 20 year academic career,” she wrote to the ‘Prince.’ “The position gave me the opportunity to meet and collaborate with amazing students who I would have never met in my psychology office.”

“The students brought so much joy to my life as we worked together developing programs for Butler,” she added. “From the conversations over Thanksgiving dinner at The Butler House, to setting up tables for the Butler/Wilson 5K, to the impromptu chats at ‘Bees Who Tea,’ each moment was an example of the importance of family and being there for one another.”

Butler College Council Co-Chair Heather Gaulke ’22 described Shelton’s commitment to supporting Butler students.

“Head Shelton always brings such a positive energy to every event I have seen her at,” she wrote. “She truly was dedicated to the Butler community, and was always there to lend a helping hand. Her uplifting presence will most definitely be missed.”

Gaulke serves as a copy editor at the ‘Prince.’

Shelton wished Armstrong all the best as she begins her tenure as Head of Butler.

“I hope Professor Armstrong finds as much love and joy as I did in this position,” she wrote. “I know she will be an excellent head of college, and I look forward to seeing the initiatives that she plans for the community.”