Author Archives: Brian Geiger

Bragg ’16 Sets Sights on NCAA Championship, Olympic Trials

Adam Bragg ’16 (Office of Athletic Communications)

Adam Bragg ’16 (Office of Athletic Communications)

In June, hundreds of athletes will descend on Eugene, Ore., for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. While only the upcoming spring season will tell if Adam Bragg ’16 will qualify for the collegiate pole vault championship, he will definitely be heading to Eugene at least once this year — the U.S. Olympic Trials are set to be held there in July.

“The goal is to go out there and win a national championship for Princeton,” Bragg said, “and then compete two weeks later for a chance to represent the U.S.”

At least 24 pole vaulters will attend the Olympic Trials, but just three will make the team for the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro this August. Despite these odds, Bragg, who qualified by clearing 5.65 meters at the Fastrack National Invitational Feb. 12, is “pretty confident” in his chances, especially if his training keeps progressing as planned. Continue reading

Berntsen ’16, Miller ’16 Set Sights on Challenging Ohio Road Trip

Michelle Miller ’16 (Office of Athletic Communications)

Michelle Miller ’16 (Office of Athletic Communications)

Princeton women’s basketball goes on the road next week, playing Ohio State on Dec. 18 and Dayton on Dec. 20 in what head coach Courtney Banghart views as one of the hardest road trips of her career. Ohio State is expected to place in the top 10 teams nationally this year and Dayton, currently ranked first in mid-major rankings, fought its way to the Elite Eight in last year’s NCAA Tournament.

For Michelle Miller ’16 and Amanda Berntsen ’16, who with two other seniors and a junior form the team’s seasoned starting squad, the road trip offers a welcome challenge.

“I’m looking forward to it a lot. Any time we go play at a big BCS school it’s a lot of fun because we don’t get a ton of those games,” Miller said, noting her excitement to play against Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell, a sophomore currently ranked as the fourth scorer in all of women’s college basketball.

“This is probably the toughest part of a very hard schedule we have this year,” Berntsen said, “but there’s nothing better than good competition and playing teams that will make us better.” Playing such tough opponents will reflect favorably on the team’s Rating Percentage Index, Berntsen said, something that in combination with the team’s record (8-1 heading into tonight’s home game against Fordham) will be important for the Tigers’ seeding if they return to the NCAA Tournament in March. Continue reading

Summer Points Pay Off at the Charles for Men’s Lightweight Crew

On Oct. 18, the men’s lightweight crew team finished as the top collegiate squad at the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston for the third consecutive year. Captain Isaiah Brown ’16 views a large part of the team’s success as attributable to “Summer Points,” a system of training incentives that Brown credits for making the lightweight Tigers “one of the fittest teams out there.”

What exactly does this system entail?

“Different workouts are worth different amounts of points — the goal is to average an hour of cardio per day, but you can run, row, bike, erg, or lift, and these different activities get you points based on the quantity and intensity,” Brown said. “There are multiples for doing a race, working out with a teammate, working out at a different altitude.”

The team keeps track of everything in a Google document viewable by all rowers. The goal for the roughly 100-day long summer break was to average 1,000 points per day; 100,000 points also happened to be a requirement to be in contention for a boat at the Charles. Continue reading

Young Talent Kickstarts Men’s Cross Country Team’s Season

The West Windsor Fields were far from their top condition for the Princeton Inter-Regional Meet on Saturday — it poured for the entirety of the day before, and strong gusts prevailed throughout the day — but the Princeton men’s cross country team wasn’t concerned.

“I think a lot of us ran personal bests on Saturday despite a wet course and all the wind,” said Brett Kelly ‘16, co-captain of the Tiger men’s squad. “The race really built our confidence.”

Steven Sum ’19 (Office of Athletic Communications)

Steven Sum ’19 (Office of Athletic Communications)

The team finished second at the meet out of 11 teams, placing behind No. 19 Indiana and ahead of ranked squads from Providence, UNC, and Virginia Tech. Such a strong performance against top teams means the Tigers themselves likely will be nationally ranked soon.

Steven Sum ’19 crossed the finish line of the 8,000-meter course in 24:12.4 (6th overall), followed by Michael Sublette ’16 (24:18.8, 8th), Noah Kauppila ’18 (24:17.5, 11th), Sam Berger ’16 (24:25.4, 21st), and Jeremy Spiezio ’19 (24:26.5, 24th).

“We competed really well on Saturday,” said head coach Jason Vigilante, noting the win was part of an exciting start to the season — on Sept. 11, the Tigers defeated Harvard and Yale for a first-place finish in the HYP meet at Cambridge.

The West Windsor race showcased the talent of freshman runners Sum and Spiezio, who have been contributing throughout the season. “Jeremy was our fourth guy at HYP and Steven was our fifth,” Vigilante said. “I have to be very careful with them and do everything I can to make sure we don’t push them too hard as we go through.” Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Writer, Editor Landon Y. Jones ’66

Landon Jones ’66 (Courtesy Landon Jones)

Landon Jones ’66 (Courtesy Landon Jones)

While the diploma of Landon Jones ’66 may say that he graduated from Princeton with a degree in English, the St. Louis, Mo. native who claims to have actually “majored in The Daily Princetonian.” His dedication to journalism eventually led to a career at Time, Inc., which honored Jones last week with the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award at the company’s annual Luce Awards.

On one assignment for The Prince, Jones had the opportunity to interview Malcolm X in the Firestone Library. Despite the activist’s fiery reputation, Jones found Malcolm X to be thoughtful and good-natured. “It was a lesson to me that sometimes what you expect is not what you get, and as a journalist you need to keep your eyes open to that,” he said.

After a brief stint at Life, Jones returned to Princeton to serve as the editor of the Princeton Alumni Weekly from 1969-75. From writing articles to working on the layout to proofreading, Jones performed any and all roles at the magazine. Rather than just continue with business as usual, however, he applied his experience as a student journalist to more accurately capture the politicized environment of the campus.

“I took it from a fairly conservative [magazine] to reflect the way the campus was changing, from Vietnam, to female empowerment, to sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll,” he said.

After his work with PAW, Jones wrote for Time and People before becoming the editor of Money magazine from 1984-89, and, later, serving as the editor of People from 1989-97. Continue reading

Football Gains Cultural Experiences, New Bonds in Trip to Japan

posterWhile the rest of the Ivy League’s football teams are gathering for spring practice, Princeton football has passed that stage in the calendar. Over the spring recess, the Tigers traveled across the Pacific to take on the Kwansei Gakuin University Fighters in Osaka, Japan. The “Legacy Bowl” was an exhibition game held March 21 in recognition of Kwansei Gakuin University’s 125th anniversary.

The Tigers prepared for their match against the Fighters, described as the Alabama of Japan (due to winning four consecutive national collegiate football titles and a record 27 total collegiate titles), while adjusting to reduced caloric intake due to smaller portion sizes, jet lag, and other obstacles.

“Usually we have a big projector, but we had to crowd around our coach’s laptop in a hotel room to watch game film,” said quarterback Garrett Gosse ’16.

The Tigers ultimately came out on top, scoring five touchdowns and a field goal in a 36-7 victory. Chad Kanoff ’17 paced Princeton with strong play at quarterback, completing 15 of 20 passes for 207 yards and earning game-MVP honors.

The score differential does not, however, truly capture the benefits of playing against the Fighters. “A big part of Japanese culture is discipline and respect, so even though we were winning by a lot in the fourth quarter, they were still trying as hard as they could,” said tight end Dylan White ’16. “From a football perspective, it’s awesome — it gets guys who usually aren’t playing a lot more experience.” Continue reading

NSA Director Speaks on Agency’s Duties, Leaks

Adm. Michael S. Rogers spoke in Richardson Auditorium March 10 in a rare public appearance for the director of the National Security Agency and the commander of the U.S. Cyber Command.

Admiral Michael S. Rogers (National Security Agency)

Adm. Michael S. Rogers (National Security Agency)

Noting that the “rights of the individual and privacy are inherent characteristics of our very self as a nation” while also bearing in mind the increasing number and potency of threats from cyberspace, Rogers cited his desire to begin a conversation with the public about striking a balance between individual rights and the nation’s security.

“I’m interested in a dialogue about how we will work our way through this challenge as a nation,” Rogers said. “What we are comfortable with, and what we are not comfortable with.”

Rogers briefly described the NSA’s chain of command and oversight mechanisms, including its accountability to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the U.S. federal court that oversees judicial warrants for certain kinds of domestic intelligence gathering.

“Every nation has their approach to this. I right now probably have more oversight and more responsibility to people outside my organization than any of my foreign counterparts, in some ways,” Rogers said.

In the question-and-answer portion, Rogers was asked about the NSA’s data-collection practices and its respect for the privacy of U.S. citizens. One exchange was tense. Continue reading

Students’ Open-Source Tech Project Enables New Voice-Command Apps

Computer science students Shubhro Saha ’15, left, and Charlie Marsh ’15. (Courtesy the Jasper Project)

Computer science students Shubhro Saha ’15, left, and Charlie Marsh ’15. (Courtesy the Jasper Project)

For Shubhro Saha ’15, the idea of developing an open-source platform for voice-controlled computer applications was born out of a simple desire: to have his house act like billionaire Tony Stark’s in the Iron Man films. “I was sitting around last June and I wanted to live like Tony Stark — I wanted the experience of sitting in a room and talking to my walls,” Saha said.

Jasper, the platform that Saha created with fellow computer-science major Charlie Marsh ’15, operates like a customizable Siri, allowing users to create their own voice-command tools. Its release earlier this month led to broad interest from programmers, as well as coverage from Forbes, Wired, and a number of niche technology sites.

The idea grew from a collaboration last summer: After Saha built a prototype of his idea, he reached out to Marsh to see if he’d also be interested in working on Jasper. Saha first met Marsh when the two worked on a project for COS 333: Advanced Programming Techniques.

When Saha video chatted with Marsh to demonstrate the prototype of Jasper, Marsh was “incredibly impressed” with the progress Saha had made. “From there I was sold,” Marsh said. “I really wanted to be involved.” Continue reading

Bernanke Speaks About Challenges of Chairing the Fed

Ben Bernanke was a tenured professor at Princeton and chaired the economics department from 1996 until September 2002, when he went on public-service leave to serve on the Federal Reserve board. Four years later, he was appointed as the Fed chairman.

Former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, pictured in a 2010 visit to campus. (Denise Applewhite/Office of Communications)

Former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, pictured in a 2010 visit to campus. (Denise Applewhite/Office of Communications)

“The biggest thing I’d ever run before [the Federal Reserve] was the economics department at Princeton, so there were a lot of new things to think about,” Bernanke said in a speech at McCosh 50 on April 2. While his work as department chair gave him “a lot of experience working with prima donnas,” Bernanke said that leading the Fed was filled with new challenges.

“The thing that surprised me the most about the job was how much of it involved dealing with political figures,” Bernanke said. “The Fed is independent and apolitical, that’s very true — there were no politics in our decision-making. But it’s still very important for the Fed to coordinate with and explain itself to Congress and the administration.”

Bernanke was invited to campus by the Whig-Cliosophic Society to receive the 2014 James Madison Award for Distinguished Public Service. Past recipients of this award include Golda Meir (1974), Bill Clinton (2000), and Antonin Scalia (2008). Continue reading

O’Shea ’16 Wins Jeopardy! College Tournament; Next Stop: Mathey Trivia Night

Terry O’Shea '16, pictured with Alex Trebek, is a lifelong Jeopardy! fan. (Photo: Courtesy Jeopardy! Productions Inc.)

Terry O’Shea ’16, pictured with Alex Trebek, is a lifelong Jeopardy! fan. (Photo: Courtesy Jeopardy! Productions Inc.)

Terry O’Shea ’16 won the 2014 Jeopardy! College Tournament, making her the tournament’s first ever Princeton and Ivy League champion. Despite filming the final round about a month ago, O’Shea has had to keep quiet about her success until the final episode aired Feb. 21. The wait did not, however, diminish the excitement when the news broke.

“The Princeton reaction has been overwhelmingly supportive. I’ve gotten emails and Facebook messages from so many people, people I’ve lost touch with, some people I’ve never met,” O’Shea said. “I even received an email from a Princeton alumnus to congratulate me. He had also been on the show, and he wished me luck during the Tournament of Champions.”

At Princeton, O’Shea is tentatively majoring in English with a certificate in French. She works as the assistant prose editor for The Nassau Literary Review, the co-editor-in-chief for The Public Journal, and is a member of the Bee Team. The Princeton organization that had the most immediate impact on her exceptional Jeopardy! performance, however, can be found taking over the Mathey College Common Room on select weeknights.

“I’m a regular at Mathey Trivia Night. Twice so far the organizer has asked a question about what the fruit of a rose plant is called,” O’Shea said. “It’s called a hip, and that was a $2,000 question during the tournament.” Continue reading

Princeton University Ballet Prepares for NYC Debut

Princeton University Ballet is collaborating with student groups from Columbia and Harvard in a pair of New York City performances this weekend. (Photo: Courtesy Princeton University Ballet)

On Feb. 15 and 16, Princeton University Ballet (PUB) will take part in the first Ivy Ballet Exchange, a collaborative performance between ballet companies at Princeton, Columbia, and Harvard. Hosted in Columbia’s Miller Theatre, this will be PUB’s first performance off of the Princeton campus since the student-run organization was founded in 2008.

“We are performing for a much larger audience and performing in a much larger theater; we don’t really know what to expect, but we want to put forth our best,” said Jiae Azad ’15, vice president of PUB and a contributing choreographer for PUB’s pieces in the program. “We’re really emphasizing cleaning the pieces, making them the best we can, [and] representing what PUB is in the best way possible.” 

PUB dancers are excited to perform in the collaborative show. Due to the small size of the dance community, meeting with the other collegiate companies will be part introduction, part reunion. The move to New York has also drummed up excitement among PUB alumni. 

“Many of our alumni live in New York because it’s a great dance hub, so even if they’re working other jobs, they can still access classes or watch performances,” said Caroline Hearst ’14, president of PUB. “We’re kind of meeting them where they are instead of asking them to come to campus, and that’s exciting to them.” 

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Students Debut Documentary Films on Campus

Three student-produced documentaries premiered at the James M. Stewart ’32 Theater Jan. 17. The films were produced as part of a course on documentary filmmaking taught by Emily Abt, an award-winning filmmaker named by Variety as one of its “top 10 directors to watch.”

“Most of the students came in with no prior filmmaking experience, but they all really stepped up,” Abt said.

Students taking the course had to learn the basics of filming, cinematography, and editing within a few weeks. They also had to deal with challenges specific to working with film. “You either get the scene or you don’t, you get the shot or you don’t, so there’s no faking it.” Abt said. “There’s a very sharp learning curve in the class. These guys all know how to shoot and edit and conduct interviews now; there are a lot of skills that are quickly acquired.” 


A scene from “In the Plaid,” a documentary about the Princeton University Band, produced by students in a fall “Documentary Filmmaking” course at the Lewis Center. (Image from the film courtesy of the Lewis Center for the Arts)

The documentaries, produced by small teams of students over the fall semester, cover a range of topics. 

In the Plaid,” directed by Angeline Jacques ’16, filmed the Princeton University Band on the day of the Princeton-Yale football game. For Jacques, a prospective architecture major, the most surprising aspect of creating the documentary was the sheer amount of time required. 

“The time commitment involved was definitely a big factor,” Jacques said. “With film you kind of need to have your heart in it the whole time.” Jacques also noted that during filming, the biggest challenge that her team faced had much to do with it’s featured subject, “a large group of people that basically doesn’t stop moving for nine hours on football days.”

Natalie Gasparowicz ’16, the film’s editor, noted the need for effective teamwork. “There’s something magical about filmmaking, how you cooperate and compromise about certain things, and it’s a lesson in itself,” she said. 

Hey Jude,” directed and produced by Margaret Craycraft ‘15, profiled Brian and Megan Taxeras and the recent adoption of their second child, Jude. The film, created by interviewing the Taxeras family over four consecutive weekends, took on a special resonance for its subjects, all of whom were present for the screening.

“The team did a fantastic job,” said Brian Taxeras, holding Jude as he spoke on stage. “We’re so happy that now we have something on screen to kind of explain to him one day what the process was like, what we had gone through.”

The third film, “Ellipses,” directed and produced by Jack Thornton ’15, profiled Princeton’s slam poetry group of the same name. The documentary includes interviews with Ellipses members and examples of their work.

Below, view the full version of “In the Plaid.”

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