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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