Daniel Diermeier was named Vanderbilt University’s ninth chancellor in late 2019 after an extensive search by the Board of Trust.
A visionary leader and internationally renowned political scientist and management scholar, Diermeier stepped into the role in July 2020 and immediately committed to safely and successfully bringing students back to campus during the COVID-19 pandemic. Vanderbilt was one of a very small number of the nation’s best universities to do so. In the years since, Chancellor Diermeier has led an ambitious program of expansion and improvement in the spirit of Vanderbilt’s motto, Crescere aude, or “dare to grow.” Under his leadership, the university has risen in stature, topped the $1 billion mark in research expenditures, successfully launched a $300 million capital campaign for Vanderbilt athletics and reaffirmed its long-standing commitment to free expression and civil discourse. Diermeier has driven efforts to become the destination for leading faculty and the most promising students, to create a culture of radical collaboration and personal growth for Vanderbilt’s faculty, students and staff and to expand Vanderbilt’s global presence. In 2022, Vanderbilt launched the Discovery Vanderbilt initiative, a multimillion-dollar investment to catalyze and expand the university’s capacity for innovation and discovery across disciplines.
Diermeier has worked to increase Vanderbilt’s innovation partnerships with corporations and the U.S. military, as well as collaboration with Nashville and other communities in Middle Tennessee. He drove development of the Vanderbilt Project on Unity and American Democracy and the annual Vanderbilt Summit on Modern Conflict and Emerging Threats. Under his leadership, Vanderbilt was selected as the host of the Clinton Global Initiative University in early 2023 and launched a yearlong celebration of the university’s Sesquicentennial.
In addition to his role as chancellor, Diermeier is University Distinguished Professor in the Owen Graduate School of Management and Distinguished University Professor of Political Science in the College of Arts & Science. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Guggenheim Foundation. He has published five books and more than 100 research articles in academic journals—mostly in the fields of political science, economics and management, but also in linguistics, sociology, psychology, computer science, operations research and applied mathematics.
Throughout his career, Diermeier has proven to be a bold innovator, combining excellence as a leader, researcher and teacher with an entrepreneurial mindset.
His first faculty position was as an assistant professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1994. In 1997, Northwestern University recruited him to its Kellogg School of Management to build its political economy program. He rose quickly through the ranks at Kellogg, receiving promotion to professor just four years after earning his Ph.D.
In 2000, he was appointed Kellogg’s IBM Professor of Regulation and Competitive Practice. Later, he was appointed director of the Ford Motor Company Center for Global Citizenship. He also held appointments at Northwestern in economics, political science, linguistics and law. He won multiple teaching awards, including the L.G. Lavengood Outstanding Professor of the Year Award and the Alumni Professor of the Year Award. He was a 2007 recipient of the Aspen Institute’s Faculty Pioneer Award, called “the Oscars of the business school world" by .
Diermeier co‐founded the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems and served as the founding academic director of the CEO Perspectives program, one of the leading development programs for C‐level executives. He also served as chairman and co‐founder of the Northwestern Global Health Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to developing low‐cost medical devices.
In 2014, Diermeier was appointed dean of the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, where he was also named the David Lee Shillinglaw Distinguished Service Professor. As dean, he led the transformation of the Harris School into the third-ranked public policy school in the nation. His achievements included launching a strategy that doubled enrollment while increasing selectivity; a 50 percent growth in faculty; a major fundraising effort that included funding for the Keller Center, the school’s $80 million, LEED Platinum-certified home; and the recruitment of diverse students, faculty and staff, including bridge programs that led to a notable increase in minority students.
After his successes at the Harris School, the University of Chicago named Diermeier provost in 2016. In that role, Diermeier was responsible for all academic and research programs, as well as oversight of the university’s budget. His first priority was to improve the university’s financial performance without impeding its progress toward greater eminence. Another major theme of his tenure was the expansion of diversity and inclusion. He appointed more women to leadership positions, engaged in a faculty‐led initiative to increase the numbers of underrepresented minorities and women in the STEM faculty pipeline, and significantly increased the number of African American and Hispanic undergraduates who were the first in their families to attend college.
Diermeier also led major expansions of the University of Chicago’s faculty in engineering and applied science, while continuing improvements in economics, policy, business and urban studies. He oversaw sustained investment in the humanities and social sciences. During his tenure, the university’s undergraduate college experienced significant growth, while increasing selectivity and yield. Diermeier also focused on improving doctoral and non‐degree education.
With Diermeier as provost, the University of Chicago increased its level of global engagement, culminating in the opening of the Francis and Rose Yuen Campus in Hong Kong. The university also increased engagement locally with the City of Chicago and neighboring communities through initiatives including the Urban Labs, a faculty-led research center working with city governments to address urgent issues.
Over the course of his career, Chancellor Diermeier has served as a board member for the University of Chicago Medical Center, Argonne National Laboratory, the Civic Consulting Alliance, the Marine Biological Laboratory, the National Opinion Research Center, the Field Museum of Natural History and the Management Board of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He has been an adviser to governments, nonprofits and leading companies, including Abbott, Accenture, Allianz, the City of Chicago, the Government of Canada, Ernst & Young, Exelon, the FBI, Hyatt, Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic, Metro Group, PricewaterhouseCoopers, State Farm, UnitedHealth Group and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
A first-generation college graduate, Diermeier earned a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Rochester. He also holds master's degrees in political science from the University of Rochester and the University of Munich, and he earned a master's degree in philosophy from the University of Southern California.