Valerie Smith, the first director of Princeton’s Center for African American Studies and a faculty member for 19 years, will become the next dean of the college in July, the University announced Dec. 14.
Smith, a professor of English and African American studies who is a specialist in African-American literature, will succeed Nancy Weiss Malkiel, who is stepping down after 24 years as the dean responsible for the University’s undergraduate academic program.
Provost Christopher Eisgruber ’83, who chaired the search committee, said Smith’s ability to collaborate and to listen were hallmarks of her leadership of the Center for African American Studies from 2006 to 2009. During that time the center took on a higher profile as its curriculum expanded and faculty were incorporated from disciplines across campus and recruited from outside the University.
In an interview with PAW, Smith cited two areas of special interest to her: supporting the University’s global initiatives and expanding student involvement in opportunities abroad; and enhancing the residential colleges, which she called the “real centerpiece of the life of the University ... where social life and academic life come together.” She said she hopes to create an “even more vibrant community in the life of the colleges.” Smith declined comment on other issues, saying she would need time to study them as dean.
President Tilghman said Smith is “ideally suited” to become dean, praising her work as a scholar and teacher and citing her “collegial and collaborative attitude, her personal warmth, and her deep understanding of Princeton’s animating values.” Smith received the President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2009.