College gets new dean, provost

by Deborah Bernstein | 11/16/98 6:00am

Susan Westerberg Prager, professor and former dean of the Law School at the University of California at Los Angeles, will assume the job of Dartmouth's provost this February, filling a position vacated by President James Wright.

Prager will be replacing Acting Provost Constance Brinckerhoff, who has been serving as the College's chief academic officer and second-highest ranking administrator since Wright became president Aug. 1.

Prager told The Dartmouth Friday that she looks forward to helping implement changes to an "already impressive" school.

"The challenge is to keep all the good things strong and then add to them," she said.

As provost, Prager will oversee the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration, the Thayer School of Engineering and the Dartmouth Medical School. She will also be responsible for the College's libraries, computing and other academic support programs.

The creation of a search committee for a provost closely coincided with Prager's decision to leave UCLA Law School, where she served as dean for 16 years.

Prager said the role of private institutions, like Dartmouth, in representing diversity is especially important "in a period when some of our public institutions have been constrained from pursuing diversity goals as vigorously as in the past."

She said as Dartmouth's provost search process went on, she realized she brought skills in collaboration and team-oriented projects that were good for the job of provost and the College.

"As a legal scholar, dedicated teacher and bold academic leader, Susan Westerberg Prager brings to Dartmouth the right combination of experience and commitment," Wright said. "She will have an opportunity to put our vision and leadership skills to work at an important time in the life of this institution."

Prager said she supports Wright's desire to look at improving interdisciplinary study between the College's undergraduate and graduate programs.

Prager said she is certain the "the faculty's commitment to ensuring Dartmouth's historic devotion to teaching" will not waver as this process is explored.

She also said there is a need to discuss racial issues on campus and praised this week's campus events for their tone and organization.

"The one thing that impresses me most about the situation is that the tone is one of raising important issues in a way designed to further education and discussion," Prager said.

In a more rural community like Dartmouth, the campus also has a responsibility to look into providing different social options, she said. Prager said she looks forward to discussing with students different needs for additions to student life.

Prager graduated from Stanford University where she received B.A. and M.A. degrees in history. She obtained her J.D. degree from UCLA, where she was Editor-in-Chief of the Law Review. In 1979, she was named associate dean of the UCLA Law School.

Prager served as Dean of the UCLA Law School from 1982 through June 1998. While there, she oversaw the enhancement of programs in international and comparative, environmental, public interest and business law.

As a member of the Board of Trustees for Stanford University for 14 years, she worked on the committee that recommended Gerhard Casper for Stanford's presidency.

Prager served on the governing board of the Law School Admissions Council, which develops the Law School Admissions Test. In 1986, she served as president of the Association of American Law Schools.

Prager said her experiences at UCLA have prepared her well for Dartmouth. She said law schools are comparable to liberal arts institutions, in that students from many intellectual and educational backgrounds come there to study.

However, she said she thinks Dartmouth functions as more of a community than big schools in urban environments, like UCLA and that will be a change.

She praised the Dartmouth Plan as a way "for students to take steps to plan the pieces of their lives." The D-Plan is the College's unique quarter system that allows flexibility in a student's enrollment.

Prager served on the California Commission on Campaign Financing and the City of Los Angeles Mayor's Finance Task Force.

Following her undergraduate studies at Stanford, she worked in the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives and the California Legislature. She has testified in front of a subcommittee of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee as it considered legislation prohibiting affirmative action in federal programs.

Prager has a 20-year-old daughter who studies at the Art Institute of Chicago and a 13-year-old daughter.

With a brother-in-law who is an alumnus, she said she has a familial appreciation for the positive feelings students have about Dartmouth.

In addition, Prager visited the campus during the search process, taking an admissions tour and sitting in on an information session. She was impressed with the enthusiasm of the students and told her daughter that if she did not get the job, she wanted her to apply here.