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Nancy Cantor


Nancy Cantor is the Chancellor of Rutgers University–Newark. A distinguished leader in higher education, she is recognized nationally and internationally as an advocate for re-emphasizing the public mission of colleges and universities, both public and private, viewing them not as traditional “ivory towers,” but as anchor institutions that collaborate with partners from all sectors of the economy to fulfill higher education’s promise as an engine of discovery, innovation, and social mobility.

Having led a highly inclusive and democratic strategic visioning process at Rutgers University–Newark in her inaugural year, she is now leading implementation of the institution’s first strategic plan, which is designed to leverage the university’s many strengths, particularly its exceptional diversity, tradition of high-impact research, and role as an anchor institution in Greater Newark.

Prior to her current position, Ms. Cantor was Chancellor and President of Syracuse University, where she led multi-faceted initiatives that built on the university’s historical strengths, pursuing cross-sector collaborations in the City of Syracuse that simultaneously enriched scholarship and education, spurring transformation of that older industrial city. These local engagements in areas such as environmental sustainability; art, technology, and design; neighborhood and cultural entrepreneurship; and urban school reform demonstrated the impact and importance of engaged scholarship and the inter-connectedness of the pressing issues of our world. The breadth, depth, and success of these efforts earned Chancellor Cantor one of higher education’s highest honors, the Carnegie Corporation Academic Leadership Award, in 2008. They also earned Syracuse the distinction of being among the first institutions to earn the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s classification as a university committed to Community Engagement and annual distinction on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.

Prior to her appointment at Syracuse, Ms. Cantor served as chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Michigan, after having served as dean of Michigan’s Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies and Vice Provost for academic affairs; professor of psychology and senior research scientist at the Institute for Social Research at Michigan; and Chair of the Department of Psychology, at Princeton University.

Ms. Cantor has worked with The American Assembly since 2004, when she served as co-chair of the Creative Campus Assembly in 2004.  This ‘Assembly’ drew together a strong group of national educational and arts leaders and its influence still reverberates across America’s campuses. 

As a participant and featured speaker at the Retooling for Growth Assembly in 2007, and as host for the Legacy Cities in Upstate NY program in 2013, she opened enumerable doors for the Assembly and Assembly participants. Her latest collaboration with The Assembly was as host and keynote speaker for the “Legacy City Preservation: a National Conversation on Innovation and Practice” event in Newark, which gathered forty national experts on preservation, and over two hundred attendees for the public portion of the program, garnering significant TV and print media exposure.