Persis Drell to resign as Stanford provost next fall

May 3, 2023, 10:37 a.m.

Persis Drell, the 13th provost of Stanford University, will resign from her role next fall. For the last six years, she has been serving as the University’s chief academic officer and chief budget officer. She will maintain her title as the James and Anna Marie Spilker Professor in the School of Engineering, teaching materials science and engineering and physics next fall.

In an email sent to faculty, she stated that her decision to step down “was not an easy one” but did not outline any other reasons for her resignation. She thanked faculty members for their support and specifically thanked Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne for the opportunity to further the University’s mission together.

“Much has been accomplished, and while more remains to be done, there are strong leaders who are stepping up to take on the responsibility of shaping the future of the institution,” she said. “Even though I will step down as provost later this year, Stanford is still my home. I look forward to seeing and working with many of you in new ways in the years ahead.”

Drell, who has served as Provost for six years, has led The University’s operational responses to the Covid-19 pandemic and worked with President Tessier-Lavigne on a variety of initiatives, including the creation of Stanford’s Long-Range Vision. She has also pioneered Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access in a Learning Environment (IDEAL), a series of cross-campus initiatives which aim to advance inclusion, diversity of thought and experience and equity in the University’s education and research, according to Stanford’s announcement.

Drell has also helped develop the undergraduate Civic, Liberal and Global Education (COLLEGE) program. Despite being a Provost, she has continued to advise undergraduates in their research and teach through the COLLEGE program.

Khandaker Aqib ’25, an Undergraduate Senate (UGS) senator-elect, attested to Drell’s work in supporting student groups and initiatives. In the past, Drell sponsored a night of Iftar during Ramadan.

“It was great to see leadership that supported minority groups on campus and was hands on during such a special time for us Muslims,” Aqib said.

“Persis has led vigorously with spirit, candor, good humor, deep thoughtfulness and steadfast dedication to Stanford’s mission of teaching and research,” Tessier-Lavigne said in the Stanford Report. “She has worked with our faculty to support and continually advance the academic excellence of Stanford, and she has had a major impact on nearly every aspect of university life.

The provost is responsible for the academic programs of the university. The deans of the seven Stanford schools, vice provosts and other administrators involved in teaching and research report directly to the provost. To select her successor, Tessier-Lavigne will establish a faculty-led advisory committee chaired by Debra Satz, Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences.

“I hope that the process in which the position is filled is completed with much transparency and inclusion of the concerns and input that students have, especially considering how important this role is in influencing student life, wellbeing, and success,” Gurmenjit Bahia ’24, UGS Faculty Senate Representative, wrote.

Aqib echoed Bahia’s statement in that he hopes the next Provost will be one who prioritizes student welfare.

“I hope the new provost sees Stanford students for the extraordinary amazing people they are instead of people they make rules over. Stanford would be nothing without its amazing students and I hope the new provost stays grounded to that.”

Grace Lee is a University desk editor and was formerly a Magazine editor.

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