Author Archives: Sarah Chen

Post thesis, seniors check off items from Princeton ‘bucket lists’

Speaking to a Nobel laureate, such as economist Paul Krugman, is among the items some seniors have listed on their Princeton to-do lists. (Photo: Beverly Schaefer)

By Sarah Xiyi Chen ’13 and Amy Olivero ’13  

Every senior on campus is now deep in the much-anticipated Post-Thesis Life, when they can sleep (or at least reduce coffee consumption by six cups), attend lectures by Paul Krugman and Anne-Marie Slaughter ’80, and finally get around to that “Princeton bucket list” created in the four years between walking through FitzRandolph Gate and running to turn in the senior thesis. 

The spectrum of activities on these lists is impressive: take a professor out for coffee, have a drink in Firestone Library, carve your name into a table at PJs Pancake House, or eat a meal at every eating club. The Daily Princetonian recommends that you read Brooke Shields ’87’s thesis in Mudd Library and “friend” beloved English professor and Rockefeller College master Jeff Nunokawa on Facebook. 

One senior, Ashley Eberhart ’13 created a blog ( to document her progress. The first item on her list? Visit Shirley Tilghman’s office hours to get more suggestions for her list. The outgoing president suggested both on- and off-campus activities such as attending a Princeton University Orchestra concert and visiting the Grounds for Sculpture in nearby Hamilton Township. 

Richard Youngblood ’13 was inspired by a reality show called Shaq Vs., in which former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal competed against professional athletes in their own fields. This idea evolved into his own version of a bucket list, which he called “Youngblood Vs.” “One day I was looking around Cap and Gown and realized that I won’t be around some of these really talented peers for much longer,” he said. 

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Social media expert boyd explores privacy, ethics in Wilson School talk

danah boyd (Photo: Courtesy danah boyd/

Internet expert danah boyd studies the intersection of technology and society, particularly in the ways that young people use social media. “I’m an ethnographer,” she explained in a Feb. 18 talk at the Woodrow Wilson School.“I spend most of my time trying to understand everyday practices and how to map what is going on in our lives.”

A senior researcher at Microsoft Research, boyd (who legally changed her name to include only lowercase letters) described the four “affordances,” or functional qualities, that accompany new technology: persistence, replicability, searchability, and scalability. In other words, information generated online will stick and spread; people can be searched, and their words can be seen by millions.

“Part of the online environment is that we often don’t know what the context is, we’re negotiating it, and again it gets complicated when you think about persistence or when you think about things spreading,” boyd said.

The idea that young people do not care about online privacy is a myth, in boyd’s view. “The first thing to realize is that a lot of young people have chosen to be in a public, which is different from choosing to be public,” she said, noting that this distinction colors the way young people try to control their social situations when online.

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Scalia speaks about originalism, fields question on homosexuality

Justice Antonin Scalia (Photo: Steve Petteway, Staff Photographer of the Supreme Court)
More than 800 students, faculty, and community members gathered in Richardson Auditorium Dec. 10 to hear Antonin Scalia, the longest-serving justice of the current Supreme Court of the United States, speak about the Constitution. They did not anticipate, however, that an exchange between Scalia and an undergraduate would attract more attention than Scalia’s lecture.
In a carefully prepared question, Duncan Hosie ’16 asked Scalia about his past comparison of gay sex to murder and bestiality in his legal opinions.
“I find this extraordinarily offense, partly because I’m gay. … Do you think it’s necessary to draw these comparisons, to use this specific language to make the point that the Constitution does not protect gay marriage?” Hosie asked.
This question, and Scalia’s answer, have made national headlines just days after the Supreme Court decided to review two cases relating to gay marriage in the first half of 2013.
“I don’t think it’s necessary, but I think it’s effective,” Scalia said. “It’s a form of argument that I thought you would have known, which is called ‘reduction to the absurd,’” eliciting appreciative laughs and applause from the audience, greater applause than Hosie’s own question drew.
“If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?” Scalia continued. “I don’t apologize for the things I raise. … I’m surprised you aren’t persuaded.”
As the speaker for the James Madison Program’s annual Herbert W. Vaughan Lecture on America’s Founding Principles, Scalia presented the themes of his recent book, Reading Law, chief of which is the importance of an originalist interpretation of the law.

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Students aid homeless shelter, computer literarcy group in fall break trip

Eric Donado ’13 and Trap Yates ’14 could have spent their fall break doing research for independent work, catching up on sleep at home, or campaigning for candidates in the November elections, the week’s original purpose.
Students went to work in the offices of Austin Free-Net, a computer literacy organization. (Photo: Courtesy of Austin Free-Net)
Instead, they led 10 other students to Austin, Texas, where they delved into the lives of the city’s homeless and its “ecosystem” of unique public and private anti-homelessness initiatives.
Sponsored by the Pace Center for Civic Engagement, this Breakout Princeton Civic Action Trip was one of six student-devised and student-led fall break opportunities for diverse groups of students to “break out” of the Orange Bubble and tackle public issues through immersion, discussion, and service.
Donado, a former Breakout leader, and Yates, a participant on Donado’s spring 2012 trip, had both followed the controversy earlier this year when a marketing company paid some of Austin’s homeless to serve as wireless Internet hotspots during the SXSW Festival.

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Admiral-turned-professor Mullen addresses the ‘strategic ecology’ of global interdependence

With an American flag pin on his lapel and no need for podium or microphone, Adm. Mike Mullen looked and sounded every inch the former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff when he spoke at the Scholars in the Nations Service Initiative (SINSI) annual event Oct. 18.
Professor Mike Mullen, pictured in his former role as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff in 2007. (Photo: Wikipedia)
Mullen, currently the Charles and Marie Robertson Visiting Professor at the Woodrow Wilson School, described the “strategic ecology” of global interdependence, in which states must cooperate in the long term with each other and also with global “neighborhoods” in solving transnational problems such as joblessness, rising urbanization, extremism, and climate change.
Starting with China and the Asia Pacific region and promising to “walk around the world,” Mullen outlined the local and global problems he observed. He moved fluidly from discussing China’s hunger for resources to North Korea’s young, untested leader to a nuclear Pakistan and Syrian sectarian violence.
“We have moved from a time of control, which is what the Cold War was, to, I think, a time of influence,” he said, emphasizing the necessity for multilateral diplomacy. “It’s a time where we can’t do this alone.”

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Bradley ’65: U.S. can ‘do better’ in politics, policy, and economics


Bill Bradley ’65, before his May 9 lecture at McCosh Hall. (Photo: Sameer Khan/Courtesy Woodrow Wilson School)
In his second State of the Union address, Abraham Lincoln said, “We can succeed only by concert. It is not, ‘Can any of us imagine better?’ but ‘Can we all do better?’” This line inspired former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley ’65 to write his seventh book, We Can All Do Better, which he introduced to an audience of nearly 200 in McCosh Hall May 9 on the first stop of his national book tour.
Bradley, a onetime presidential hopeful who now serves as a managing director at the investment firm Allen & Company, wrote the book out of frustration with America’s current political gridlock in the face of overseas war and economic difficulty, exemplified by the debt limit debacle in Washington last summer.
“When you look and see the fragility and inequality of our economy, if you see the direction of our foreign policy, if you see the paralysis in our national dialogue, it’s relevant — can we all do better?” he said. Bradley also emphasized personal responsibility, asking, “Can each of us do better? Can we find that part of ourselves that honors the selfless and project it into the world we live?”
Bradley, a history major at Princeton, relied heavily on U.S. history to create practical, cautiously optimistic recommendations in three areas — the economy, U.S. foreign policy, and domestic political institutions.

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Science, ethics discussed at Madison Program conference

How does science inform public policy? Can regulating science undermine essential human values?
On April 13 and 14, 22 scholars and writers, including prominent physicist Freeman Dyson and former University president Harold Shapiro *64, sought to answer these questions in a public conference on “Governing Science: Technological Progress, Ethical Norms, and Democracy,” hosted by the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions.
Participants and conference attendees discussed the role science plays in the “elevation” and “reduction” of man, the abuses and limits of science, and how to govern science ethically in a democratic republic.
The conference concluded with a panel discussion headed by Robert P. George, founder of the James Madison Program and the McCormick Chair in Jurisprudence, featuring Shapiro and Donald W. Landry, a professor of medicine at Columbia University.
The panelists examined the importance of trust in governing science and discussed questions from George and the audience about the ethics behind government grants; politicization and globalization of science in issues such as climate change; science education; and the role of government science councils such as the National Bioethics Advisory Commission, which Shapiro chaired from 1996 to 2001.
Shapiro remained optimistic about science education and the level of support research has from the government, foundations, and universities, calling it a “miracle” that American society invests as much as it does in scholarship.
Ultimately, the panelists concluded, the greatest challenge in governing science might lie in the very fact that scientific thought is constantly changing.
“Something that puzzles me is people’s unwillingness to accept the uncertainty of our condition,” Shapiro said. “Part of life is to learn to deal with that uncertainty.”

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Olmert discusses territorial issues, nuclear Iran in campus speech

Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert during his March 28 lecture on campus. (Photo: Sameer A. Khan/Courtesy Woodrow Wilson School)
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke about his country’s future to a packed audience in McCosh 50 on March 28. Olmert discussed the necessity of Israeli territorial concessions, encouraged American and international efforts to stop Iranian nuclear development, and answered some controversial questions from the audience.
President Tilghman introduced Olmert, who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2009 and the mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003, as well as in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, for nine terms beginning in the 1970s. A former head of the liberal centrist Kadima party, he resigned from his position in 2009 while under investigation for corruption.
Olmert began his talk with humor, saying, “It’s always amazing to see how sexy is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in almost every corner of the world.”
He discussed the intense difficulty of making decisions “in a position where you are the last stop,” adding, “It is more difficult to be the mayor of Jerusalem than the prime minister of Israel.”
To the Jewish people, he explained, Israel’s territorial possessions, particularly its historic and religious capital of Jerusalem, are “indelibly linked” to their history and experiences. However, according to Olmert, holding some disputed territories has butted against has butted against Israel’s core liberal values of equality and democracy.

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Nye ’58 lectures focus on presidential styles, objectives, and ethics

Scholar and international affairs expert Joseph S. Nye Jr. ’58 spoke to packed audiences in Robertson Hall Feb. 21 and 22, discussing American presidential leadership in foreign policy as part of the 2012 Richard Ullman Lecture Series.
Nye, a former dean of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, worked with collaborator (and current Princeton professor) Robert Keohane to develop the theory of neoliberalism in their 1977 book Power and Interdependence. He also has held posts that included chairman of the National Intelligence Council in 1993-94 and assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs in the Clinton administration.
Nye’s first lecture focused on the efficacy of seven presidents who presided over what Nye called the “American era.” He separated the definition of leadership into two categories — style and objectives — with two subtypes each. Leaders, he said, can have inspirational or transactional styles and transformational or incremental objectives.
According to Nye, the differences between broadly transformational and transactional leadership can also be described in terms of “soft power” and “hard power,” with the ideal mix of the two being “smart power,” which uses “contextual IQ” to combine resources and understand the situation.

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Former ambassador, experts discuss developments in Syria

i-16f0b5286c4f9bdb8bbd95c5fa4aedd4-wb_campus.jpgFormer U.S. Ambassador to Syria Richard Murphy headlined a Feb. 7 panel discussion on political developments in Syria that drew a standing-room-only audience at Robertson Hall. Woodrow Wilson School visiting lecturer Marwa Daoudy and graduate student Karam Nachar, a Syrian grassroots organizer, joined Murphy on the panel.

Murphy, whom Wilson School professor Daniel Kurtzer introduced as “one of the great practitioners of the art of diplomacy,” opened the discussion of the ongoing Syrian revolution against President Bashar Assad’s regime, which has escalated in brutality since the revolution’s inception last March during the Arab Spring.

As a young consulate aide in Syria in the 1960s and later as the U.S. ambassador in the 1970s, Murphy witnessed the rise to power of Assad’s father, Hafez Assad, and the “iron hand” with which his regime governed.

Murphy recounted some of his early experiences to highlight Syria’s present-day situation. He described one consulate party where a skit portraying the king of Jordan as a “dancing monkey on the leash of Western imperialism” caused the Syrian officials to shout with laughter. “Syria has always been a destroyer,” Murphy said, referencing the country’s nearly three decades of occupying Lebanon and its history of cooperating with Iran, Hezbollah, and terrorist groups.

He particularly excoriated Bashar Assad for his nearsightedness and pride. According to Murphy, Assad “did not foresee that the Arab Spring would sweep into his country” and “takes pride in standing alone,” despite being vilified for his use of force against his own people.

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Mascot vote pits Whales against Knights at Whitman

It is official–the students of Whitman College have spoken, and they have chosen to be known forevermore as the “Whitman Whales.”
The University’s newest residential college is now the only one with its own mascot. Though Whitman College Council Arts Chair Jackson Dobies ’14 first introduced the idea of a mascot specifically for use in intramural sports, the vote between mascot choices evolved into more than a decision over what graphic to put on a jersey.
Rather, the election between the Whales, Wolves, and Knights engendered spirited debate about college pride and community – and drew a stunning 405 participants, a majority of the students affiliated with Whitman.
Puns played a prominent role in the debate. The “Whitman wail” is a communal cry of despair that occurs at midnight before every Dean’s Date, and members of the college refer to themselves as “Whitmanites,” adding humor to the idea of “Whitman Knights.” Alliteration was another consideration, with Knights the clear loser in that contest.

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Former ambassador Bodine sees fragile future in Yemen

Ambassador-in-Residence Barbara Bodine discussed Yemen’s development, challenges, and future for an audience of about 80 students and community members in Robertson Hall Oct. 11. The speech opened a Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS) series on Arab political development.
Bodine, the U.S. Ambassador to Yemen from 1997-2001 and a lecturer in public and international affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School, began her talk by comparing Yemen 30 years ago to the country today.
i-16f0b5286c4f9bdb8bbd95c5fa4aedd4-wb_campus.jpgThen and now, she said, the country was “politically precarious, economically precarious, and beset by external forces that wish it ill.” It also had the same ruler, the initially unpromising president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Bodine sees some common threads in the Arab Spring events of this year – “demography, economy, technology, and democracy” – and demography, in her view, is a particularly salient issue in Yemen. More than 50 percent of the population is under 15 years old, youth unemployment has reached 60 percent, and fertility rates are among the highest in the world at six to seven children per family.
“There is high correlation between youth disproportion and civil instability,” she said, pointing out that young Arabs have no memory of the creation of Israel, a non-theocratic Iran, or perhaps even the first Gulf War, and their worldviews have been influenced by the availability of satellite television.
Bodine also stressed how close Yemen was – and still is – to becoming a “failed state” and examined how Saleh managed to retain control even during last spring’s political and social upheaval. She cited the opposition coalition’s total disorganization and Saleh’s own relative popularity as reasons for his current, if tenuous, grasp on power.

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Professional speechwriters share advice with students

From left, Thayer Scott ’93, Adam Frankel ’03, Graham Buck, and Nancy Mensch Turrett ’81 were among the speechwriters who shared stories at a Sept. 23 dinner with Princeton students. (Habin Chung ’12)
The advice of White House speechwriter Adam Frankel ’03 was very simple. “Follow your passion,” he said at a dinner discussion on campus Sept. 23. “But it’s better to be lucky than good.”
Frankel, a senior speechwriter for President Barack Obama, joined other speakers to discuss their careers with 19 interested students at “Perspectives on Speechwriting and Communications,” an event hosted by the American Whig-Cliosophic Society and the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students.
Part of a series titled “The Road Less Traveled: Exploring the Creative Professions,” the dinner talk featured three alumni: Frankel; Thayer C. Scott ’93, previously chief speechwriter for former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and founder of Executive and Policy Communications; and Nancy Mensch Turrett ’81, the global president for health at Edelman, a leading independent public relations firm.
Other speakers included Graham Buck, a speechwriter for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and John Weeren, President Tilghman’s speechwriter and assistant.
Attendees applied for an invitation by answering the question, “Why does a career in speechwriting interest you?” Nearly all of the students chosen were editors and writers for campus publications or members of the University Press Club.

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