Cara Eckholm '14
New York City
Cara Eckholm was raised in New York City, with the exception of the elementary school years she spent with her family in Beijing and the high school semester in Rome. The years were formative in ways that continue to shape her interests as a Princeton undergraduate and that continue to take her abroad.
Eckholm, selected by Glamour Magazine in its 2013 listing of the “Top Ten College Women of the Year,” decided early that she wanted to major in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. She is also obtaining a certificate in urban studies, though her research interests are diverse, ranging from constitutional law to cultural policy.
In her junior year, she returned to the subject of China in a team taskforce project on relations between the European Union and China. The findings were presented as policy recommendations to the European Union Commission to the United States in Washington, D.C. For her work, Eckholm received the Wilson School’s R.W. Van De Velde award, which is given to one junior per policy taskforce. In her senior year, she will be leading a taskforce on the possible role of the U.S. in building a rule of law in China, and the results will be presented to the National Security Council.
As a rising senior, Eckholm received a grant from the Wilson School to travel to Hungary, Estonia and Poland for her senior research thesis about the effect of monuments on reconstructing national identity in post-communist Eastern Europe. As a rising junior, she spent a summer in Paris as a fact checker for the opinion page of the International Herald Tribune. Later that year, a class called “Anxious Megalopolis: Shanghai's Urban Cultures," took her to Shanghai for onsite studies of Shanghai architecture.
“The Shanghai course was out of this world and the type of experience you could only find at Princeton,” she says.
One of Eckholm’s main passions is debating. In her senior year in high school, she competed with a five-person national team representing the United States in the World Schools Debating Championship in Qatar. She also competed in Bulgaria and Bosnia in tournaments sponsored by a subsidiary of philanthropist George Soros’ Open Society Foundations. Eckholm later worked for Soros’ foundation as an independent consultant.
At Princeton, she has debated in the Philippines and in Oxford, England, for world championship events. She has spent a year as president of the American Whig-Cliosophic Society, an organization with a rich history dating back to James Madison’s day as an undergraduate debater. Her duties have included budgeting and organizing events for the society and its subsidiaries, including the Princeton Debate Panel, Mock Trial, Princeton Model Congress and the International Relations Council. She also has arranged speaking engagements for several luminaries, including author Walter Isaacson and New York Times education report Jacques Steinberg. During her tenure, Whig Clio grew to more than 500 members, making it the largest student organization on campus.
“As a sophomore, I had an office in this amazing building,” she says of her Whig-Clio tenure. “I noticed one day that we had a basement area that was filled with artifacts that seemingly nobody had touched in years. I spent a week between reunions and my exams searching through it to see what was down there.”
What she discovered were lost pieces of history, including a letter she believes was signed by Thomas Jefferson, a note from a pope declining an invitation to speak at the University, and photos of presidents Kennedy, Clinton and others. She worked with the Princeton Art Museum to curate and preserve the articles, which are now hanging in a first-floor museum at Whig Hall.
Eckholm recommends Princeton to anyone interested in her passions – politics, international relations, debate and service. For her, all roads have led to Princeton.