Jennifer Rexford ’91 named Princeton’s next provost

A portrait of Jen Rexford, wearing Princeton orange

Photo by David Kelly Crow

Jennifer Rexford, the Gordon Y.S. Wu Professor in Engineering, professor and department chair in computer science, and a 1991 graduate of the University, has been named Princeton’s provost. Her appointment will take effect on March 13.

Rexford, who has overseen a period of extraordinary growth in the Department of Computer Science, will succeed Deborah Prentice, the Alexander Stewart 1886 Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs, who will be the next vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, beginning July 1.

“Jen Rexford is a proven administrator, a decorated researcher in computer science, an excellent teacher, and a wonderful University citizen who collaborates beautifully with people throughout the Princeton community,” said President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83. “She is brilliantly suited to be Princeton's next provost, and I look forward to working with her.”

As Princeton’s chief academic officer and chief budget officer with special responsibility for long-range planning, the provost ensures the continued vitality of Princeton’s academic mission and its long-term financial security.

“Princeton is a place where I grew up both as a student and a faculty member, so it feels very rewarding to have a chance to give back and at a much larger scale,” Rexford said.

Rexford earned a B.S.E. in electrical engineering at Princeton in 1991 and is a recipient of the Moses Taylor Pyne Honor Prize, the University’s highest undergraduate honor. She received a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of Michigan in 1996 and joined Princeton’s Department of Computer Science as a full professor in 2005.

Her research focuses on computer networking, with the larger goal of making the Internet worthy of society’s trust.

Prior to arriving to teach at Princeton, Rexford worked as a researcher at AT&T Labs for more than eight years, creating techniques for monitoring, traffic engineering and router configuration deployed in AT&T’s backbone networks.

Rexford is an affiliated faculty member in electrical and computer engineering, operations research and financial engineering, Center for Information Technology Policy, High Meadows Environmental Institute and Princeton Institute for Computational Science and Engineering. She received her named professorship in 2012, became acting chair of computer science in 2013 and was named chair in 2015.

Her home department has grown during the past decade from dozens of students to hundreds. In 2011, Princeton graduated 36 computer science majors. Today, computer science is the University’s largest major, graduating approximately 200 students annually. More than half of all Princeton undergraduates take the department’s introductory course and about 70% enroll in a computer science course during their four years.

Gender diversity of computer science students also has increased from 18% to 40% over that period. The department has 48 tenure track faculty members and 12 teaching faculty.

“Being chair of the computer science department for the last seven plus years, I have found it very rewarding to help my department through a period of unprecedented growth in student interest, in faculty, and in research connections all across campus,” Rexford said. “Being named provost feels like the same thing on a different scale. The University is going through so much expansion physically and intellectually. And so, I feel similarly, that being part of shepherding that process is really exciting.”

Rexford has served on the University’s Faculty Advisory Committee on Diversity. For the past three years, she has led an interdisciplinary data science faculty search committee responsible for hiring faculty who use machine learning and statistics as lens for advancing scholarship in their individual disciplines, including those in the humanities and social sciences.

Rexford helped launch and also facilitates the University’s Out in STEM group for faculty, staff and students. The group offers regular STEM gatherings where LGBTQIA+ undergraduate and graduate students across the STEM fields can meet.

Rexford is the author of “Web Protocols and Practice: HTTP/1.1, Networking Protocols, Caching, and Traffic Measurement” (Addison-Wesley, 2001), and co-editor of “She’s an Engineer? Princeton Alumnae Reflect” (Princeton University, 1993).

She served as the chair of the Association for Computing Machinery Special Interest Group on Data Communications (ACM SIGCOMM) from 2003 to 2007, and has served on the ACM Council, the board of the Computing Research Association, the advisory council of the Computer and Information Science and Engineering directorate at the National Science Foundation, and the Computing Community Consortium.

She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Arts and Sciences and National Academy of Engineering.

Among her many awards, Rexford is the winner of ACM’s Grace Murray Hopper Award for outstanding young computer professional of the year, ACM SIGCOMM award for lifetime contributions, and IEEE Internet Award. She is also the recipient of the 2011 Graduate Mentoring Award from Princeton’s Graduate School and the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning.

Rexford lives in Princeton with her wife.

The story originally was published on the main University website.