President's Pages in Princeton Alumni Weekly
Princeton on the Road
September 14, 2005
If travel broadens the mind, then our students and faculty have definitely increased their hat sizes this summer. Although their intellectual interests differ widely, many members of our University community view June, July, and August as a golden opportunity to pursue their studies or research overseas, to immerse themselves in unfamiliar cultures, or to share their talents with a wide range of organizations in “the service of all nations.” Here is just a taste of what our students and faculty did around the globe this summer.
Students who wish to work or study abroad between the spring and fall semesters have an ever growing array of choices. The number of undergraduates supported by Princeton’s International Internship Program, for example, has risen from 7 to 75 since its inception in 2000. Whether they are serving with international agencies such as the World Health Organization in Geneva or with local initiatives such as Fortaleza de la Mujer Maya in Chiapas, Mexico, which helps indigenous women and children to acquire linguistic and vocational skills, our students are addressing the social, economic, and political challenges that confront the international community. In the process, they are acquiring insights that will strengthen their ability to think in terms that are larger than themselves or their country of origin.
With support from the Woodrow Wilson School, Page Dykstra ’06, who spent last spring at the University of Cape Town, stayed on in South Africa as an unpaid volunteer with Impumelelo, a nongovernmental organization that grants monetary awards to exceptional private-public partnerships committed to combating poverty in South Africa. Page helped Impumelelo evaluate potential awardees, a process that introduced her to projects ranging from shelters for abused women and children to anti-HIV/AIDS initiatives. She has returned to Princeton with experience that will anchor her academic studies in the field of international development.
Internships are only one option for internationally minded students. This summer, we offered a record number of four-to-eight-week language programs in Europe and Asia, including courses in Chinese, Japanese, German, Italian, French, and, for the first time, Russian. France is also the site of a six-week course on “Modern Human Origins” led by Professor of Anthropology Alan Mann in and around Bordeaux. In all, 143 students participated in academic programs directed by Princeton faculty this summer, while another 82 took courses abroad that were pre-approved for Princeton transfer credit.
Last but not least, there are many students who use the summer following their junior year to lay the groundwork for their senior theses. The Office of the Dean of the College and the Woodrow Wilson School provided financial support for 149 students, 87 of whom conducted research abroad, scattered among some 50 countries—from Australia to Zambia. One of them was Malvina Goldfeld ’06, who spent the summer in Chile, Argentina, and Brazil exploring the impact of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on Jewish-Arab relations in these countries over the past 10 years. She interviewed prominent members of each community, gauging their perceptions of one another and themselves, as well as conducting research into the historical and social factors that have shaped these views.
It would take an entire issue of this magazine to describe the overseas activities of Princeton’s faculty this summer. From conferences to lectures, from solitary research to collaborative ventures, intellectual bridges have been built or extended around the world. In China, for example, Professor of Architecture Mario Gandelsonas presented his plans for a major cultural complex in Shanghai—a spectacular structure comprising a million square feet of space. Part hotel, part office building, part museum, and part multiplex cinema, this project is only one element in a master plan that Professor Gandelsonas and his firm developed to improve the quality of life in the heart of Shanghai, a city that has undergone a radical rebirth as China modernizes.
Thousands of miles from the snarled traffic of Shanghai, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Daniel Rubenstein spent his summer studying the social behavior of zebras amid the stark beauty of Kenya’s savanna. Based at the Mpala Research Center, which Princeton oversees in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, the Kenya Wildlife Service, and the National Museums of Kenya, Professor Rubenstein explored a wide variety of questions at the intersection of pure research and ecological conservation. In collaboration with a number of colleagues and graduate students in the Department of Electrical Engineering, he has developed sophisticated collars designed to track the activity of individual zebras as well as their encounters with other collared zebras, allowing him to document patterns of movement and habitat use that will help humans and zebras to co-exist successfully.
Professor Rubenstein, together with his wife Nancy, also oversaw the work of two enterprising members of the Class of 2008. With guidance from Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Winston Soboyejo and support from the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, engineering students Julianne Davis and Ishani Sud devoted six unforgettable weeks to developing sustainable technological solutions to local energy needs. Working with elementary schoolchildren, their families, and teachers, Julie and Ishani organized a “summer camp” designed to introduce participants to natural energy sources. Each child constructed a solar oven using locally available materials and, even more important, learned the principles behind it. Not only is this engineering with a human face, it also represents a grassroots educational experiment that will hopefully empower Kenyans to harness their environment in ways that will conserve it.
For those of us who stayed closer to home this summer than the
students and faculty I have described, we will share their experiences, if only
vicariously, through their stories, lectures, and writings in the coming