Regional Studies Task Force

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from President Christopher L. Eisgruber

In nearly every domain of human activity, people today confront problems that transcend international boundaries. The demand for knowledge to address these problems is growing — and it will continue to do so. Students, policymakers, and leaders in all sectors of our society increasingly recognize a need for knowledge about societies and cultures different from our own. In support of the University’s teaching and research mission and its informal motto — “In the nation’s service and in the service of all nations” — Princeton University must build strength in the study of contemporary cultures, economies, political institutions and societies throughout the world.  

Princeton starts from a strong foundation. The University has a distinguished history of research and teaching about contemporary societies throughout the world. Enhancing Princeton’s capacity in these fields will, however, require careful planning and thoughtful choices about how to support scholars and train students who seek to combine disciplinary excellence with a deep understanding of local detail. 

I am accordingly asking this task force to assess the University’s strengths and challenges in contemporary regional studies, and to comment on how best the University can support current fields and seize emerging opportunities. More specifically, I would like the committee to answer the following questions:

  1. What are Princeton’s current strengths and weaknesses in fields related to regional studies? What new challenges and opportunities will it face in the next decade? 
  2. How do Princeton’s efforts in regional studies compare to those at peer institutions? What lessons should Princeton draw from the experience of those institutions?
  3. What are Princeton’s highest priority needs in the field of regional studies? Should Princeton focus its energies on particular regions of the world, and, if so, which ones (or how should Princeton select these areas)? Could Princeton redeploy existing resources in regional studies to launch new initiatives or support existing ones more effectively?
  4. Would Princeton benefit from exploring new appointment strategies to augment its teaching strength in regional studies? For example, to what extent should Princeton create more opportunities for long-term visitors or distinguished practitioners to serve on its faculty?
  5. How can Princeton do more to increase the integration and impact of its various efforts in regional studies? What role should the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS) play in the future of regional studies at Princeton, and what relationship should it have to the University’s regional studies programs?
  6. To what extent should Princeton increase its cross-disciplinary undergraduate programming in regional studies and related fields? Should it, for example, offer an international studies major or certificate?  
  7. How best can Princeton support doctoral and other graduate programs in regional studies? For example, should it either create a cross-departmental allocation of graduate slots, or an interdisciplinary graduate certificate, or both?
  8. What kinds of foreign language training and support must Princeton provide in order to support a world-class program in regional studies?
  9. How should Princeton define and evaluate the success of its programs, including any new investments that it might make, in regional studies?



  • Mark Beissinger, Henry W. Putnam Professor of Politics; Director, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies

Faculty members

  • Anne Case, Alexander Stewart 1886 Professor of Economics and Public Affairs
  • Stephen Kotkin, John P. Birkelund '52 Professor in History and International Affairs; Acting Director, Program in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies
  • David Leheny, Henry Wendt III '55 Professor of East Asian Studies; Acting Chair, Department of East Asian Studies
  • Douglas Massey, Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School; Director, Office of Population Research; Director, Program in Population Studies; Director, Program in Urban Studies
  • Helen Milner, B.C. Forbes Professor of Public Affairs; Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School; Director, Center for Globalization and Governance
  • Jamie Rankin, Senior Lecturer in German; Director, Princeton's Center for Language Study
  • Carolyn Rouse, Professor of Anthropology

Staff members

  • Mark Dingfield, Director of Finance Administration and Transformation Program, Finance Administration, Office of the Vice President for Finance and Treasurer