On February 13, 2024, Nancy Cantor was named the 14th president of Hunter College of the City University of New York, to take office effective August 12. She is recognized nationally and internationally for her leadership in emphasizing the role of universities as anchor institutions in their communities, especially by forging diverse, cross-sector collaboratives and leveraging publicly engaged scholarship to advance racial equity and equitable growth. As chancellor of Rutgers University–Newark from 2014-24, she has led one of the nation’s most diverse research universities, promulgating efforts to leverage the university’s many strengths, particularly its exceptional diversity, tradition of high-impact research, and role as an anchor institution in Newark, New Jersey, through strategic investments in five broad areas in which the university’s strengths align with those of cross-sector partners: educational pathways from pre-K through college; equitable growth through urban entrepreneurship and economic development; cultivating creative expression through the arts and culture; strong, healthy and safe neighborhoods; and science in the urban environment.
Prior to her leadership of Rutgers-Newark, Cantor was chancellor and president of Syracuse University, where the breadth, depth, and success of her efforts to foster mutually beneficial collective impact initiatives between the university and community earned her one of higher education’s highest honors, the Carnegie Corporation Academic Leadership Award, in 2008. Previously, Cantor had 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. While at Michigan, she was closely involved in the university's defense of affirmative action in the cases Grutter and Gratz, decided by the Supreme Court in 2003. A leading voice on inclusion, diversity, and full participation, she speaks and writes frequently on these issues. She is co-editor with Earl Lewis of the Our Compelling Interests book series published by the Princeton University Press.
She has served on national bodies including the National Science Foundation Committee on Equal Opportunity in Science and Engineering, The Century Foundation Task Force on Preventing Community Colleges from Becoming Separate and Unequal, the National Research Council Advisory Committee for the Office of Scientific and Engineering Personnel and as co-chair of its Committee on Women in Science and Engineering, the Congressional Commission on Military Training and Gender Related Issues, the advisory group of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Lincoln Project on Excellence and Access in Public Higher Education, the Aspen Institute Task Force on College Opportunity for High Achievers, and the Ford Foundation’s Steering Committee of the project Building Knowledge for Social Justice.
In her role as a social psychologist, Chancellor Cantor is recognized for her scholarly contributions to the understanding of how individuals perceive and think about their social worlds, pursue personal goals, and how they regulate their behavior to adapt to life's most challenging social environments. Chancellor Cantor lectures and writes extensively on the role of universities as anchor institutions in their communities, along with other crucial issues in higher education such as rewarding public scholarship, sustainability, liberal education and the creative campus, the status of women in the academy, and racial justice and diversity. Her thought is informed by broad leadership experience at all levels within public and private universities, as well as national and international organizations, positioning her as a sought-after advisor and speaker on urban economic and community development. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the National Academy of Medicine of the National Academies. Among the boards and committees of which Cantor currently is a member are: the American Institutes for Research, the Ford Foundation’s International Fellows Program Advisory Council, Presidents Subgroup of the Anchor Institutions Task Force, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, co-chair of the steering committee of the Presidents Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, and co-chair of the Newark Anchor Collaborative.
She has been honored with numerous awards, including the Ernest L. Boyer Award from New American Colleges & Universities, the Anchor Institutions Task Force Community Engagement Award, the Robert Zemsky Medal for Innovation in Higher Education, the Woman of Achievement Award from the Anti-Defamation League, the Making a Difference for Women Award from the National Council for Research on Women, the Reginald Wilson Diversity Leadership Award from the American Council on Education, and the Frank W. Hale, Jr. Diversity Leadership Award from the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education.