Allen explores diverse range of interests
By Karin Dienst
Princeton NJ -- Tim Allen would not be in the United States, let alone Princeton, were it not for the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of South Africa's foremost campaigners against apartheid and the winner of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize.
Tutu is now back in Cape Town, but the Allens are still here; Tim's parents are living in New York City while he completes his bachelor's degree.
"Being in Atlanta provided the stepping stone for me to apply to universities in the United States," said Allen. "My family and I did a tour of East Coast campuses and I liked Princeton the most; it was the friendliest."
A junior majoring in the Woodrow Wilson School, Allen has a diverse range of academic interests. Last semester he took five courses: three on politics and international relations; "Elites, Leadership and Society," taught by sociology professor Suzanne Keller; and one on imperial Chinese history, for which he wrote a final paper on the 16th-century philosopher Li Zhi.
"One of my favorite courses was led by Chris Wren, a visiting professor who teaches communications and public policy," said Allen. He enjoyed the real-life anecdotes Wren told, which were gathered during 26 years as a New York Times correspondent.
"I'm never shy about speaking up in class, especially since I think one of the reasons I got into Princeton is because of the different perspective I can offer," said Allen.
Besides class participation, Allen is eager to include more perspectives from Africa by extending curricular options. "Two years ago while I was taking a Swahili course I was active in a movement to try to get an African studies department, not just a program," he said. "One of the upshots was the creation of a regular Swahili course, which (was) offered for the first time (last) semester and is very successful." Swahili is now available as a four-term sequence of instruction.
Another way Allen has helped to inform the Princeton community about African countries and cultures was to organize Africa Day for last year's International Festival. "We had 12 tables in Frist Campus Center filled with African arts and books and other materials," he said.
Beyond academics, Allen works 20 hours a week as the student manager at the Rockefeller College dining hall, an experience that has brought him many friends. He also plays squash. Feeling short of spare time, he has temporarily put aside being a unicyclist in the juggling club.
Ironically, Allen is spending this spring semester abroad-- that is, abroad at home in Cape Town. Originally he had planned to spend the semester in Melbourne, Australia, but when that option was cancelled due to lack of interest, he joined the task force to be held in Cape Town.
"I think the topic will be sustainable development, which I'm glad about," he said. "Going home I want to make sure that it will be a new experience. I plan to spend as much time as possible working in community service in the townships and traveling, maybe to Mozambique and Lesotho and Swaziland. Once that's done I'm hoping to get funding to do thesis research in Tanzania."
Before coming to the United States, Allen could not have guessed how gaining more opportunities to travel would change his own outlook on the world. "Being here has opened my eyes because I'm able to travel so much more. My friends in South Africa never really think about going elsewhere in Africa. By getting away from that setting, I feel much more impetus to travel."
After graduation, Allen might attend graduate school in South Africa or the United Kingdom, or apply to join the South African diplomatic corps.
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Editor: Ruth Stevens
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