Matto named new director of Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers

Rutgers scholar and educator replaces John J. Farmer Jr., who stepped down from post

Political scientist Elizabeth Matto has been named director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, the school announced Wednesday.

Matto, a longtime faculty member, succeeds former New Jersey Attorney General John Farmer Jr., who decided earlier this year to step down.

A political scientist with a doctorate in American politics from the George Washington University, Matto brings expertise as a scholar and educator of democratic education. Serving on the institute faculty for 15 years, Matto is the founding director of Eagleton’s Center for Youth Political Participation, a research and educational center celebrating and supporting political learning and engagement among young people through research, public service and education.

She said she is eager to take on the role.

“For nearly 70 years, the institute has served as Rutgers University’s resource for the teaching and practice of politics, leading the way in producing and sharing research and public service work that improves American democracy,” Matto said. “My vision is to carry the institute’s mission forward by centering civic learning and engagement in ways that are creative, collaborative and expansive, while being accessible and relevant to the needs of students, higher education and our democracy. It is a privilege to lead the Eagleton Institute in the next chapter of its history.”

The appointment, which became effective Sept. 1, was praised by Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway.

“At a moment of such import for the future of our democracy, I can’t think of a person more ideally suited to taking on the leadership of Eagleton than Elizabeth, who has already done so much as both a scholar and practitioner in helping young people recognize the urgency of their own engagement in civic and political life,” he said.

Rutgers-New Brunswick Chancellor Francine Conway, who led the search, was equally excited.

“Dr. Matto is an exceptional political scientist who helps students clearly understand how democracy works and how their civic engagement can help shape the policies that will affect present and future generations,” she said. “The Eagleton Institute of Politics has a proud tradition of strong and committed leaders who connect students with real-world learning experiences and cultivate an ethos for public service. With her leadership of Eagleton’s Center for Youth Political Participation and deep commitment to Eagleton’s goals, Elizabeth is the right leader to guide Eagleton into the future during a consequential time for democratic education.”

Matto was the lead editor on American Political Science Association publications “Teaching Civic Engagement Across the Disciplines” and “Teaching Civic Engagement Globally.” A book author, Matto wrote “Citizen Now: Engaging in Politics and Democracy” and the forthcoming “To Keep the Republic: Thinking, Talking, and Acting Like a Democratic Citizen.”

In 2022, Matto was invited to serve on a Presidential Task Force for the American Political Science Association focused on rethinking the political science major.

At Rutgers, Matto is the co-chair of the Presidential Employee Excellence Committee created by Holloway. She also is Holloway’s delegate on civic learning initiatives organized by the Institute for Citizens and Scholars, including the Faculty Institute on Dialogue Across Difference and Civil Discourse in the Classroom.