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

Elizabeth C. Matto, founding director of the Eagleton Institute’s Center for Youth Political Participation, has been named director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics, replacing  former New Jersey Attorney General John Farmer Jr., who decided earlier this year to step down.

photo of woman wearing a black top
Political scientist Elizabeth C. Matto will lead the Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics.
Eagleton Institute of Politics/Rutgers University

“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,” said Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway.

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. Matto launched the center in 2017 after years of directing the institute’s Youth Political Participation Program.

“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,” Rutgers-New Brunswick Chancellor Francine Conway 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 (2017) and Teaching Civic Engagement Globally (2021). In addition, Matto is the author of Citizen Now: Engaging in Politics and Democracy and the forthcoming To Keep the Republic: Thinking, Talking, and Acting Like a Democratic Citizen.

“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.”

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.

The appointment, which became effective Sept. 1, was made after an internal search by Conway.

With the leadership transition, the institute looks ahead to a successful academic year centering on civic learning and engagement, the 2024 presidential election and commemorating its 70th anniversary in 2026.