Princeton students have a broad range of opportunities for civic engagement. Many of these are overseen by the Pace Center for Civic Engagement. According to recent data collected by the Pace from a variety of University sources, 84 percent of Princeton students say it is important for them to volunteer or work for the public good. Students may choose to undertake service projects throughout their undergraduate years, opening them up to new experiences in new settings, whether in New Jersey or farther afield. For many of these students, such experiences, combined with their academic pursuits, help shape future goals. For students (clockwise from top left) Ogechi Oparah, Mohit Agrawal, Danny Growald and Haley White, pursuing civic engagement projects at Princeton has enabled them to create meaningful opportunities and solutions to address societal challenges, large and small.
Photos by Brian Wilson and courtesy of Danny Growald
Princeton students serve the greater good
Posted March 19, 2012; 12:00 p.m.
Throughout the year, Princeton students give expression to the University's informal motto, "In the nation's service and in the service of all nations." As part of the larger Princeton community, students engage with social issues to serve the greater good, working locally as well as globally.
"We believe that Princeton's commitment to service inspires the greater community to contribute to societies throughout the world," said Cynthia Cherrey, vice president for campus life.
The civic engagement activities Princeton students pursue focus on a variety of societal concerns, spanning education, the environment and social justice. Such efforts include working one-on-one to pursuing a large task as a group. (Photos by Denise Applewhite, Brian Wilson and courtesy of the Pace Center)
Visit the Pace Center's online database of service opportunities and stories.
Princeton students have a broad range of opportunities for civic engagement. Many of these are overseen by the Pace Center for Civic Engagement, which sponsors regular programs and serves to link students to activities that interest them. Students may learn about many service projects through the online opportunities database myPace.princeton.edu.
According to data collected by the Pace Center in 2010-11 from a variety of University sources, more than 60 percent of undergraduates become engaged in a community volunteer activity while at Princeton. Eighty-four percent of Princeton undergraduates say it is important for them to volunteer or work for the public interest.
Key areas of focus students engage in are: strengthening communities, advancing education, developing innovative solutions to issues of public concern, pursuing social justice, and supporting sustainability initiatives to protect the environment.
In 2010-11, the Pace Center offered more than 1,680 opportunities for civic engagement. Among the center's programs are the following:
• Breakout Princeton — a student-led civic action program that immerses participants in community work during fall and spring breaks;
• Community Action — an annual pre-orientation week led by students that introduces freshmen to service and to Princeton;
• Community House — an organization that focuses on improving educational outcomes for underserved minority youth in Princeton as part of an effort to close the achievement gap;
• Internships — summer opportunities for students to contribute to the work of nonprofit organizations;
• Fellowships — full-time, two-year positions working in the fields of sustainability, environmentalism and criminal justice;
• Student Volunteers Council (SVC) — a student-led organization that sponsors more than 40 weekly volunteer projects to address issues such as education, homelessness and hunger, and health and well-being;
• Prison Teaching Initiative — a program for faculty, graduate student and staff volunteers to teach college courses to incarcerated students in New Jersey correctional facilities.
The Pace Center also provides the student gateway for the Princeton Internships in Civic Service (PICS) program, an alumni initiative founded by the Class of 1969 Community Service Fund and supported by Princeton alumni, which places students in summer internships in nonprofit organizations across the country. The Pace Center connects students with other alumni-associated projects, including Davis Projects for Peace. The center also hosts and advises more than 25 student groups focused on civic engagement issues ranging from educational reform to human rights.
The following students and alumni, featured in the Pace Center's brochure "Civic Engagement: Opportunities by the Numbers," give a glimpse of what it means to work to make a change. The publication may be viewed online for more stories.
(Photo by Brian Wilson)
Class of 2013
"The act of giving one's time is a gift in itself, and a gift like service holds many rewards for those who make the leap to enjoy its fruits."
When Oparah came to Princeton, one of her first stops was the Pace Center. "I knew I was in the right place," said Ogechi about interacting with the staff and students at the Pace Center for the first time. "It was a place where I felt inspired and encouraged to do awesome things for more than just myself."
At the end of her freshman fall semester, Oparah volunteered through the Pace Center to work in a homeless shelter and rehabilitation center in Trenton, N.J.
Oparah has also served as a co-leader of Community Action, and currently serves as part of the Pace Center Working Group to explore civic engagement on campus.
She hopes to fully incorporate service in her future career. "My experience with the Pace Center has truly enriched my Princeton experience," she said. "Being engaged in the way that I have has taught me so much about leadership, compassion and personal growth, and I hope to carry those lessons with me into the real world."
(Photo by Brian Wilson)
Class of 2012
Major: Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs
"My time at Princeton has made it impossible for me to imagine a life or career absent of civic engagement."
As a freshman, White went to rural Florida as part of a Pace Center Breakout trip to learn about farmworkers' rights. She said she realized "it's important for students to have access to food that reflects their values," and on her return to Princeton proceeded to promote the Banana Project, which successfully lobbied for fair-trade bananas to be sold on campus.
Later, as co-chair of the Pace Center for Civic Values, she spearheaded an initiative to hold a nonalcoholic fundraiser at Princeton's eating clubs, which benefited a nonprofit foundation founded by Princeton students that establishes produce-buying clubs at wholesale prices in low-income New Jersey communities.
(Photo courtesy of Danny Growald)
Class of 2011
Major: ecology and evolutionary biology
"There's nothing more rewarding than seeking to bring about positive change in a difficult environment."
Fascinated by nature as a child, Growald quickly learned that the environment needed protection. Through his major, he continued his studies of environmental issues, while actively engaging with issues that focus on the sustainability of both humanity and the natural world.
As a sophomore, he organized 50 Princetonians to attend a national youth summit on climate change in Washington, D.C., a trip made possible by the University's Office of Sustainability and SURGE (Students United for a Responsible Global Environment), for which Growald served as president. In the fall of his junior year, he co-founded the Princeton Social Entrepreneurship Initiative with the goal of helping students channel their passions into positive impact on the world and become catalysts for social change through action-oriented entrepreneurial thinking. Now a graduate, Growald is working in Boulder, Colo., on developing a company to create carbon-neutral biofuels in developing countries.
(Photo by Brian Wilson)
Class of 2011
"Full-throated change takes more than civic engagement. It takes individuals who are civic-engagement minded who can then address policy issues."
Agrawal, a recipient in 2011 of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, with which he will pursue a master's in economics for development at the University of Oxford, immediately got involved with international service activities as a Princeton student.
In the summer of 2009, he went to Ghana after receiving one of Princeton's Martin Dale Summer Fellowships, to help secondary school students establish a youth newspaper in Ashaiman. At the same time, he also worked in the community to help build a library as a participant in the Princeton chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB-PU). He later went on to serve as co-president of EWB-PU and, in total, was responsible for projects in Ghana, Peru and Sierra Leone.