Philosopher Debra Satz named dean of Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences

Satz will assume her new position on Sept. 1. She will succeed Richard Saller, who has served as dean for 11 years and is returning to full-time teaching.

Professor Debra Satz, who has served in numerous administrative roles including as senior associate dean for the humanities and arts from 2010 to 2017, has been named dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, Provost Persis Drell announced today.

Satz, a philosopher who is the Marta Sutton Weeks Professor of Ethics in Society, will assume her new position as the Vernon R. and Lysbeth Warren Anderson Dean on Sept. 1. She will succeed Richard Saller, who has served as dean for 11 years and is returning to full-time teaching.

Debra Satz

Professor Debra Satz will succeed Richard Saller as dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences. (Image credit: School of Humanities and Sciences)

“I am so pleased that Debra will lead Humanities and Sciences at this juncture, as we look to more deeply leverage all of the school’s strengths in our vision for Stanford’s future,” Drell said. “Debra is a stellar humanist and visionary, with expertise in ethics and society so important to us today. She also is a dedicated, demonstrated leader with extensive administrative service to her profession, to the school and to Stanford. She will be a strong and articulate voice in the university’s leadership team. She is committed to cross-cutting collaboration in all she does, so vital for the school and campus going forward.”

In April, Satz was named to the 2018 Class of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her numerous awards include Stanford’s Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching for “her extraordinary teaching that combines the importance of rigorous thought with serious engagement in the moral dilemmas facing humanity.”

Search committee chair Professor Aron Rodrigue said Satz’s “integrity, commitment and devotion to all aspects of the academic enterprise are widely admired. She will be a terrific dean of H&S facilitating and initiating synergies across disciplines and will contribute greatly to the excellence that is the hallmark of Stanford’s mission.”

Engaging students in a broad liberal arts education, the School of Humanities and Sciences is the largest school at Stanford, with 4,800 undergraduate and graduate students. The school comprises 23 departments – from music, English and history to economics, psychology, mathematics and physics – as well as 23 interdisciplinary programs. H&S provides the widest range of academic study, offering 49 undergraduate majors, 43 master’s degrees, 33 doctoral degrees and 58 minors.

With more than 550 faculty distributed across the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, H&S scholars have been recognized for their outstanding research and creativity with the Nobel Prize, MacArthur Fellowship, Pulitzer Prize and membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences, among other awards and honors.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to work with such an amazing group of faculty across the school,” Satz said. “H&S is Stanford’s ‘jewel in the crown’ – with research spanning from the analysis of Markov chains to the mass expulsions in late medieval Europe. Our school also contains extraordinary teachers, a wonderful and committed staff, enthusiastic students who want to change the world and alumni who are doing so. I’m excited to work to continue the school’s strong trajectory.”

Among her roles at Stanford, Satz served as chair of the Stanford Faculty Senate in 2016-17 and was the faculty director of the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society from 2008 to 2015, where she led university-wide initiatives on topics such as the ethics of food and the environment and the ethics of war. A dedicated teacher, she is the J. Frederick and Elisabeth Brewer Weintz University Fellow in Undergraduate Education, through the Bass University Fellows Program, appointed from 2013 to 2018. She also co-founded a program with colleague Professor Rob Reich where Stanford faculty members teach classes each quarter to addicts released from prison. This year she has been on sabbatical as a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

Satz is known for her work in political philosophy, where her research has spanned topics on the moral limits of markets, the interpretation of equality of opportunity and the nature of rational choice. She is the author of several books, including Why Some Things Should Not Be For Sale: The Moral Limits of Markets (2010) and Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy and Public Policy (with Dan Hausman and Michael McPherson) (2017), as well as numerous articles. She is the current editor of the journal Philosophy and Public Affairs.

A first-generation college student, Satz earned her BA in philosophy from City College of New York in 1978, where she was named the outstanding graduate in philosophy. She earned her PhD in philosophy from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1987.

Satz began her teaching career as a lecturer at Harvard University and an assistant professor at Swarthmore College, before joining Stanford in 1988 as assistant professor of philosophy. She became the Marta Sutton Weeks Professor of Ethics in Society, professor of philosophy and professor, by courtesy, of political science in 2007.

Media Contacts

Media contact: Lisa Lapin, University Communications: (650) 725-8396, lapin@stanford.edu