East Asian Studies
Joshua R. Weinstein ’09
At Princeton, I was an East Asian studies (EAS) major focusing on modern China and Chinese language. In addition to my interest in the language, I started studying Chinese because I aimed to concentrate in Sino-U.S. relations. After studying in China through Princeton in Beijing (PiB), I became even more passionate about my studies. After going back to PiB the next year, I had completed half the requirements for the EAS department. As a result, I had the opportunity to pursue a myriad of coursework, taking courses in 15 different departments including electrical engineering and art history. One of my junior papers was on changes to the Chinese language after 1949; and the other was on basketball player Yao Ming and the NBA in China.
My thesis ended up being a cross between my primary academic area of interest and my passion for Web-based entrepreneurship. After taking a sociology graduate seminar, “Web-Based Social Research,” I teamed up with my professor in that class, Matthew Salganik, on a Web-based research method of my own. I had been involved in the Undergraduate Student Government (USG), and, as president, I had an idea to crowd-source the prioritization and generation of student government initiatives by showing two options and asking which one was more important. Additionally, students could add their own ideas to this set of options. We ended up developing a website using this methodology with pictures (photocracy.org) to evaluate conceptions and perceptions of national identity in and between China, Japan, and the United States. AllOurIdeas (based on the original USG idea) and Photocracy went on to be funded by Google, and continue to be spearheaded by Professor Salganik.
Entrepreneurial skills and spirit
After graduation, I was supposed to work for a management consulting firm. Shortly after returning to New York, however, I restarted a Web project from USG. The project was the “CrushFinder,” which enabled students to list other students they liked and let them know if any of the people they “crushed” liked them back (crushes were anonymous unless the feeling was mutual). Although our company originally started around that idea, we have since changed the product many times. Now, we are working on a site called YouAre.TV—a television program that users can appear on from their webcams.
My time at Princeton helped me develop a wider knowledge base and, primarily, a much better ability to analyze, structure, and synthesize information. Additionally, my Chinese language skills will be something I can use for the rest of my life. Lastly, although a focus in East Asian studies doesn’t quite suggest a career in Web-based entrepreneurship, my major and thesis were definitely instrumental in helping me secure funding from Japan-based SoftBank for my latest project.