Cecilia Rouse, the Woodrow Wilson School’s new dean
Cecilia Rouse, the Woodrow Wilson School’s new dean

As economics and public affairs professor Cecilia Rouse takes over as the new dean of the Woodrow Wilson School, her first task is the implementation of major changes already under way at the school. 

Rouse, a well-known scholar of the economics of education and a faculty member for two decades, took over the post Sept. 1. Rouse’s academic and real-world experience — she served as a member of President Barack Obama's Council of Economic Advisers from 2009 to 2011 and on the staff of the National Economic Council in 1998–1999 — “epitomize[s] the best of the school’s tradition of applying rigorous social-science research to inform public policy,” President Tilghman said. 

The previous dean, Christina Paxson, left to become president of Brown ­University. 

Changes in the undergraduate curriculum that take effect this year call for more field experience, a multidisciplinary emphasis, and a different approach to the hallmark junior policy task forces. And starting with the Class of 2015, the Wilson School no longer will have selective admission. 

Rouse declined to say in an interview whether she voted for those changes. “The faculty voted to implement these changes. I look forward to fulfilling the desires of the faculty, and to make sure they’re implemented as successfully as possible,” Rouse said.

She plans to evaluate how well the school’s new approach is working after one or two classes have graduated under the new curriculum.

Wilson School administrators do not know how many students may choose the school as a major, but “we are prepared, and we look forward to accommodating however many students we have,” Rouse said.

Rouse said she plans to meet with faculty, students, alumni, and staff to “do some reconnaissance and figure out the next phase for the school.” 

Wilson School professor Alan Krueger, who is now chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, described Rouse as “organized, energetic, and diplomatic. Like Chris Paxson, Ceci is an excellent problem-solver, and, like Chris, she solves problems without breaking any eggshells.” 

Rouse intends to use some of the lessons she learned while serving in Washington, where she moved in 2009 with her two daughters while her husband, Ford Morrison, son of professor emeritus Toni Morrison, stayed in Princeton. Her sister, Carolyn Rouse, is a Princeton anthropology professor.

“I used to tell new people at the Council of Economic Advisers, ‘For the first two weeks when you go to meetings, don’t say anything. Just listen,’” she said. “That always served me well in Washington, and that’s what I’m going to do here, too.”