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Department: Near Eastern Studies

Miller Near Eastern Studies

Jethro Miller ’92

Director of Development, Children’s Rights

A rich academic experience

I decided I wanted to attend Princeton because of the Near Eastern studies (NES) department. I had become interested in the history of the Middle East in high school, and given Princeton’s longstanding tradition of the study of the region, I knew I would have great access to preeminent scholars. Once I learned more about the department, I was also attracted by the small student-to-faculty ratio. In fact, in my class, I was one of two who were concentrating in Near Eastern studies.

I started taking NES classes my first year, with a freshman seminar with Professor Emeritus Charles Issawi, which confirmed my interest in the field. He was a luminary and the model of a senior, wizened professor who was investing his time in freshmen who knew very little about the subject matter.

I then had the opportunity to work with many of the professors in the department, including prominent visiting professors. Taking higher-level and graduate-level courses early on gave me a lot more access to faculty than I would have had in other, bigger departments, even before reaching the one-on-one experiences of my junior papers and senior thesis. I had a rich academic experience.

From Ph.D. to raising money

It was because I had such a rich scholarly experience at Princeton that I drove west the day after Commencement to begin a Ph.D. in history at the University of Chicago. After my great experience at Princeton, I went in wearing rose-colored glasses for what academia could be, and it took me a while to realize that academia wasn’t the right career path for me. In my time as a doctoral candidate, I helped with annual giving campaigns at Princeton, and partially through those experiences, my eyes were opened to the world of development. I left my doctoral program and took a job working for an international consulting firm specializing in fundraising for nonprofit organizations. After seven years with the firm, I started my current job as the director of development for Children’s Rights, a nonprofit organization that works to protect abused and neglected children all around the country through legal action and policy initiatives.

Reflecting on my Princeton experience, it’s hard to say the Arabic classes I took have been the key to my career, but most of the classes I took in NES were small, intimate experiences that encouraged good analytical thinking and good writing skills. The junior papers and senior thesis, especially, were so valuable as in-depth projects that required extensive writing and thought. The academic rigor and training I had at Princeton have enabled me to be successful in my career.