Reflections on 6 1/2 years as Wilson School dean

After 6 1/2 years as dean of the Woodrow Wilson School, Anne-Marie Slaughter ’80 stepped down in January to take a job as chief of policy planning in the State Department. She also took a public-service leave from her position as a member of the faculty. In early February she answered questions from PAW on her tenure as dean and her attraction to government service.

How do you compare the Woodrow Wilson School of today with the institution as it existed when you arrived as dean?

The school is bursting with energy, initiative, and ideas – from faculty, staff, and students alike. It has always been an extraordinary place; my job was in part to show the world who we are and what we do – to take faculty research and make it more accessible to the media and policymakers; to bring in practitioners who could help bridge between
Princeton and Washington for both faculty and students; to create a critical mass of faculty members in areas of strength and areas of particular need; and to enable anyone in the school community with a good idea to realize it.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?   

I am proudest of the remarkable faculty members we were able to recruit while I was dean: from completely rebuilding our international-relations faculty so that it is now, in my mind, the strongest international-relations group in the country, to adding world-renowned sociologists, historians, economists, and scientists. We also expanded the range of disciplines represented in the School to over 10 and brought a number of Princeton faculty members from other departments on board. The last initiative I was working on was to increase ties with the engineering school; one of our faculty members is being jointly appointed with CEE [civil and environmental engineering] now, and Ed Felten has been on board for several years.

Your tenure as dean coincided almost exactly with the Robertson lawsuit. What has been the impact of the litigation on you personally, and on the school itself?

The litigation was a long, ugly, completely unnecessary process that diverted thousands of hours of faculty and staff time and tens of millions of dollars from the school’s mission.

With the Robertson lawsuit settled, what is the biggest challenge facing your successor as dean?

The budget crisis.

What are your goals in moving from academia into government service? Are we entering a time when government service may be seen as more attractive to Princeton graduates?

I have been preaching not only the virtues but also the vital importance of government service since I got to Princeton; I had participated in a project at the Kennedy School on the declining attractiveness of government to many young people and then witnessed first-hand the impact of incompetent government with Katrina and frankly Iraq. I am honored and excited to have a chance to serve and to try and make a difference in helping to shape our nation’s foreign policy. But I remain a proud member of the Princeton faculty and will be back at the end of my leave.

How do you look back on the Princeton Project on National Security – do its recommendations hold up today?

The Princeton Project has held up remarkably well; ideas from it could be found in all the presidential candidates’ foreign-policy platforms, and I and many of my new colleagues in government are already building on many of its recommendations – many of which they helped to shape.

What should alumni know about the interim dean, Mark Watson?

He is talented, diplomatic, wonderfully efficient, creative, and has been a terrific associate dean. I loved working with him and am confident that I am leaving the School in very good hands until a new dean is selected.