Dean Priestley's spring message thanks students for remarkable commitment to scholarship and community

Written by
Graduate School Communications
Feb. 6, 2024

Graduate School Dean Rodney Priestley sent his spring message to the University's 3,300 graduate students on Tuesday, February 6. The full text of the message is below.

Re: Spring News and Updates from Your Graduate School

Dear Graduate Students,

This time in graduate school is your gift. Don’t let the world make you small.
We need you desperately to imagine yourselves and your work in the most expansive of terms.

Professor Eddie Glaude shared this message last week at a Graduate School event. As he finished speaking, I realized I was as energized for the spring semester as your fellow students who heard his words. As Princeton scholars, we share endless curiosity and courage to learn and discover, better serve our world, imagine expansively, and think big.

Indeed, this time we have together as members of the Graduate School community is a gift for you in your scholarly development and for me as your dean. As we begin the spring term, I want to share news and reminders that can help you make the most of your precious time. Most of all, I want to remind us all to be inspired by our opportunities to do the work that we do.

Thank you!

While the spring semester may mean different things to different people, to me, it means graduate admissions season. One of my spring highlights is meeting with each department/institute and learning about the outstanding applicants to their graduate program.

Because of your remarkable commitment to scholarship and community, more aspiring students than ever want to join our Graduate School community and pursue their graduate education at Princeton. This year, there is an incredible 37% increase in applications to our graduate programs. We look forward to welcoming a subset of these talented individuals to Princeton as your colleagues. 

Much of the Graduate School's work is done in partnership with graduate students, including GSG and other graduate student organizations. I’m grateful to the leadership of the GSG executive board and assembly for their work and advocacy in support of graduate education and graduate students. I also appreciate the student leaders of over 75 graduate student organizations on campus.

In addition, the Graduate School works closely with many graduate student “associates” and “fellows” whose work supports our community in meaningful ways:

  • The Student Affairs Community Associates program allows graduate students to work together to help enhance graduate student life, build a community, plan events and programs, and support residential matters.
  • The Access, Diversity, and Inclusion Diversity Fellows program allows graduate students to work together to support an inclusive graduate school community and enhance the cultural, academic, and professional experience of all historically underrepresented students. 
  • The GradFUTURES Professional Development Associates program allows graduate students to engage with the GradFUTURES team to assist with expanding professional development initiatives at the department and divisional levels.
  • The Financial Wellness Fellows program allows graduate students to engage with the campus community to cultivate financial literacy and wellness.

Thank you to all student leaders for your partnership and support of our community and graduate education at Princeton. I look forward to hosting many of you at the Wyman House this semester.

Spring gatherings

In addition to the High Table held last week with Professor Glaude, the Graduate School will host several additional High Tables this spring. High Tables are joint intellectual and social events in which graduate students learn about and discuss the scholarship of faculty members over dinner and conversation at the Wyman House. This semester, we will invite a few graduate alums to attend each High Table to help foster intergenerational dialogue. High Tables are one of my favorite activities. I encourage you to sign up.

Similar to first-year receptions held during the fall semester in the Wyman Garden, we will also host a few latter-year receptions in late spring. Stay tuned for more information on these events. Other activities happening in the spring semester include:

  • The annual GradFUTURES Forum Professional Development Conference will be held from April 5, 8–12, featuring many engaging keynote speakers, skill-building workshops, and networking sessions. This year’s Forum will also include Princeton’s 2nd annual Internship-Fellowship Fair & Resource Showcase exclusively for graduate students on Friday, April 5.
  • The Graduate School staff and I look forward to celebrating all of you during Graduate Student Appreciation Weekin the first week of April and hosting our annual Tigerfest event in late spring.
  • Inclusive Academy, to be held on May 17th, will feature panels, speakers, and workshops that enhance knowledge and understanding of topics critical to success in a diverse society, including leadership, public speaking, and networking.
  • We also look forward to celebrating our graduate students who have completed their Generals this year at the “You’ve Earned Your Stripes” event during Reunions on May 23. The Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni (APGA) invites all graduate students to join them at Princeton Reunions, free of charge for graduating students, for a weekend full of memorable events and entertainment. Finally, we look forward to celebrating and congratulating our recent graduates during the Hooding & Recognition Ceremony and the Commencement Ceremony at the end of May.

New staff to support you

The Graduate School, over the past year, has welcomed many new members to our team to support graduate students and graduate education at Princeton:

  • Tracy Meyer joins the Graduate School in a new role as Director of Communications and External Engagement. Tracy will help tell the stories of graduate students and the Graduate School. We look forward to communicating more about you and your contributions to Princeton and the world.
  • Heidi Freeman joins the Graduate School as an Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, supporting graduate students and departments in the humanities and social sciences. She will also advise graduate student organizations, organize the Hooding and Recognition Ceremony, and focus on mental health initiatives. The Student Affairs team is responsible for the nonacademic side of student life and works to provide holistic support for graduate students.
  • Nourine Bhimani joins the Graduate School in a new role as Assistant Director of Experiential Programming in GradFUTURES. Nourine will scale access to our experimental learning programs, including our fellowship, micro-internship, pre-matriculation internship, summer internship, etc., for all graduate students.
  • Joseph Butler joins the Graduate School as Assistant Dean for ADI. Joseph will support the school’s goal of expanding access and fostering an environment of inclusion. Joseph will support students and departments in the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  • Jess Schoell joins the Graduate School as the coordinator on the ADI team. The ADI team helps expand access to those who can pursue graduate education at Princeton and supports an inclusive campus environment.

I am also happy to announce that Professor Hendrik Lorenz of Philosophy will join the Graduate School as a Vice Dean and Mellon Fellow for two years. Professor Lorenz will focus on strategic initiatives for the Graduate School. Initial initiatives will include examining the graduate admission process and mentorship. Regarding the latter, in summer 2020, the Graduate School released the Graduate Student Mentoring Report. Professor Lorenz will work to ensure the implementation of the recommendations in the report and consider new ways to improve mentorship for graduate students.  

I am thrilled to welcome these new colleagues to the Graduate School to support you!

Planning for the future of your Princeton Graduate School

In 2015, Princeton released “The Task Force on the Future of the Graduate School” final report. The report, a culmination of months-long work that involved faculty, staff, and students, outlined recommendations for the Graduate School. Nearly ten years later, the Graduate School and the University have made significant progress on the recommendations found in the report. The document, therefore, no longer serves as a strategic guide for the Graduate School—it is outdated. As a result, the Graduate School will launch a new strategic planning process in 2024. We look forward to partnering with you throughout the process.

A visit with President Eisgruber

Recently, President Eisgruber wrote about the issues currently confronting higher education and his vigorous defense of excellence, inclusivity, and free speech in his annual State of the University letter. I encourage you to read the letter and visit with President Eisgruber when we host a meeting with graduate students later this semester at the Wyman House. Watch your email for more details.

Audacious wishes

The Dean’s Leadership Council is a group of approximately 20 graduate alumni from various years, disciplines, and subsequent career paths who are a valuable source of counsel and support for the Graduate School. In November 2023, we convened the Dean’s Leadership Council on campus for the first time since the pandemic. I am grateful to the students who met with council members. As a prelude to the strategic planning process, we asked council members to share one audacious wish for the Graduate School. The top wishes were: 1) a graduate student center, 2) continued commitment and action towards inclusivity, 3) maintain what is unique about Princeton graduate education, and 4) improved wrap-around support for graduate students, including professional development and mentorship. As we progress in the strategic planning process, I look forward to hearing your audacious wishes.

New graduate student housing

This spring, we are excited about the opening of the Meadows Apartments as the latest addition to our residential community for graduate students. These new units add 600 beds for graduate students and their families to live on campus. The Student Affairs team of the Graduate School will be adding an Assistant Director for Student Affairs and Residential Life who will live at Meadows and provide programming and support to help create a thriving new community.

Support for inevitable challenges       

At Princeton, we are not immune to the turbulence roiling our nation and world. I recognize that we live in challenging times and that societal and world conditions personally impact members of our Graduate School community. Many other challenges that weigh on us are private and involve only our families and friends and our hopes and dreams. The Graduate School staff, particularly colleagues in Student Affairs, can assist all students. There is also a University website that rounds up resources to support all of us in our difficult times.

We want every graduate student to feel welcomed and supported at Princeton; we want you to know you belong on this campus. I ask everyone to heed the call for respect and care for your fellow community members. We will continue providing opportunities to do what scholars do best at universities: explore, learn, and engage in constructive dialogue on complex and difficult topics.

Graduate school can be exhilarating but also daunting, as the path to a graduate degree is never straight but may be filled with curves, detours, and even roadblocks. Earlier this year, I asked colleagues about their regrets from their own time as graduate students. Not asking for help was a common regret. As we encourage and support you to be bold and courageous in your scholarship, we are also here to help smooth the path. Consider us a partner in your journey.

Again, I wish everyone a rewarding spring semester, and I also urge you to take time to have fun, enjoy the soon-to-be warmer weather and flowering campus at its finest, and appreciate this special time in your life. I look forward to seeing you at our events, at Procter Hall, and around campus, and I look forward to meeting with as many of you as possible during my office hours this spring. Please sign up here: myPrincetonU.


Rodney D. Priestley

Cc: Chairs, Directors of Graduate Studies, and Graduate Program Administrators