April 4, 2001:
Excellence in Teaching
As I approach these final
months of my presidency, I would like to use my remaining pages
in the PAW to look back at some of the initiatives Princeton has
taken in recent years to strengthen its commitments to scholarship
and research, residential life, and, as the subject of this page,
excellence in teaching.
I and many of my colleagues
have made teaching one of our highest priorities, and I know from
visits with alumni that you agree with the emphasis we continue
to place on the teaching of both undergraduates and graduate students.
Some of the initiatives of the recent past have redefined the components
of a Princeton education.
For example, beginning
with the Class of 2000, we changed our distribution requirements
for AB undergraduates, expressing them in terms of pedagogical and
intellectual purposes rather than subject areas, and broadening
them to include courses in epistemology and cognition, ethical thought
and moral values, and quantitative reasoning. In other instances
we have reaffirmed our commitment to core values, such as small
precepts or the advising of independent work by members of the faculty.
We have fostered greater
participation by senior facility in the teaching of first-year students
in smaller settings by expanding the Program in Freshman Seminars,
which has grown to 65 offerings per year. Beginning next fall we
are adding a course to the number required of AB students and requiring
all freshmen to participate in specially designed writing seminars.
We also are strengthening the academic advising program in the residential
In 1991 we began a program
to recognize excellence in teaching through Presidential Teaching
Awards that are conferred at Commencement on faculty members with
sustained and distinguished records as teachers. On Alumni Day in
1996, I announced a set of Presidential Teaching Initiatives that
included a fund for innovation in undergraduate education, visiting
professorships for distinguished teaching, and new center for teaching
and a learning. In the past five years the fund for innovation has
made new courses possible and has encouraged the use of new methods
of education, including new technologies, to reinvigorate existing
courses. For this coming year we will focus this initiative on improving
the academic quality of courses that are typically taken in the
Under the visiting professorship
program, we have brought several exceptional teachers to campus
each year, including teachers this year in geosciences and the Center
to Human Values. With the opening of the Frist Campus Center the
McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning has moved into its new facilities
and has begun to have a significant impact by helping both faculty
members and students to become better learners and superior teachers.
To enhance the international
experience of a Princeton education, the University has taken steps
to increase the number and kinds of programs available to students
who wish to study abroad for one or two semesters. In a companion
iniative, the extension of need-blind admission to students who
are citizens of other countries is also intended to increase the
international diversity of perspectives on the Princeton campus.
Science and the technological
advances that occur in its wake are having all increasingly important
impact on how and what we teach. It is more critical than ever for
our students to understand both the promise and limitations of science
in dealing with some of our most important challenges. Since its
creation in 1989, the Council on Science and Technology has helped
to develop better methods of teaching science to non-science concentrators.
Moreover, McDonnell Hall has brought the teaching of introd ctory-level
courses in physics closer to the center of the department and has
provided updated teaching facilities that were not possible in Palmer
Hall, the former home of such courses. The renovated seminar and
lecture rooms in Frist that have computer outlets and new video
equipment receive extensive use. Furthermore, we have increased
our overall budget for renovating and upgrading our classrooms to
enhance accessibility to these kinds of resources throughout the
The new Educational Technologies
Center assists faculty in integrating digital images and Web-based
courseware into their instruction. Every course we teach now has
a Web page. Thanks to underground optical fiber cable laid in the
past decade, 'dormnet' computer services are available to students
in their rooms, and we are expanding the use of wireless technologies.
Firestone Library is taking increasingly greater advantage of studentsí
access to the Web by providing reserve material online. The newly
completed Wallace Hall, the new home of the Department of Sociology
and several other academic programs, has a seminar room equipped
for video conferencing. Our new alliance with Oxford, Stanford and
Yale will make it possible for alumni to continue to take advantage
of the expert teaching of Princeton faculty through more and improved
The Friend Center for
Engineering Education is well on its way to completion and will
offer a state-of-the-art facility where students from every discipline
can receive computer training. This is part of a significant effort
undertaken by the School of Engineering and Applied Science to develop
courses for liberal arts majors to introduce them to tools that
are used regularly by engineers and that have wider applicability.
In fact, in the past decade, engineering is among the disciplines
that have experienced the most impressive growth and change, and
I plan to rise the next President's Page to describe these new engineering
programs and initiatives in more detail.
I have greatly enjoyed
the opportunities I have had to teach while serving as president.
I look forward to teaching more courses at Princeton after I leave
the presidency. In my, view, teaching is always a learning experience
for me as well as for the Students in my classes.
THE ALUMNI PROVIDES THESE
PAGES TO THE PRESIDENT