Web Exclusives:On the Campus...

February 25, 2004:

For grad students, it's sometimes about the bike or a foreign land

by Jessica Jacobson GS


Christopher Broughton GS emerged from French class in McCosh Hall and paused near his bike as he put on his beret. He acquired the bike, a gray and red Trek 800 with a green milk crate tied on the back, for free from the campus bike giveaway held November 20. He still smiles when he recalls how he landed a bike worth over $300 new.

"I got there kind of late, so I didn't have much hope," he recalled. "When I found this, I got cold chills down my spine. I was happy for the rest of the day!" Broughton, a former Peace Corps volunteer who had been using a women's bike until the giveaway, passed his old bike along to his wife.

Twice a year Princeton's housing department collects abandoned bicycles from around campus and distributes them free to graduate students. Mark Bianchi, facilities manager for operations, says the University singled out graduate students to help because their need is greater. and they "are located farthest from campus."

Mario Oliva, a custodian at the Stanworth faculty and staff apartments located on Bayard Lane, arrived at 8 a.m. to set up the more than 200 bikes for the 10 o'clock event. "Whoa! Whoa!" he exclaimed as he opened the garage where the bikes had been tossed helter skelter over the past six months. Many bicycles were complete, but others were in various states of disrepair, pressed together in a colorful heap of metal and rubber that seemed to defy gravity.

Oliva and a colleague, Caesar Vescera, disentangled the bicycles one by one and set them out on the rain-soaked street, where students were already lining up.

"We call them boomerang bikes," said Bianchi, "because they go out and come right back." Students who have received bicycles from past giveaways later abandon them when they graduate or move away, putting them back in the giveaway cycle. "This year," Bianchi said, "we asked public safety to come and register the bikes as people took them. I expect that not as many people will leave their bikes this time."

Seventy-five bicycles remained unclaimed from the giveaway. "They are truly garbage," said Bianchi. Nevertheless, he plans to send only half to the dumpster. "Some students will take two bikes and put them together to make one," he said. "We want to give everybody the chance to get a bicycle."


Oksana Nagayets, a Ukrainian second-year M.P.A. student in the Woodrow Wilson School, walked out of Entebbe International Airport and into the evening Ugandan air, taking her first steps in Africa.

Nagayets spent her fall break with two classmates in Uganda studying access to medications for Ugandan diabetics and asthmatics as part of her workshop, Getting Medicine to the Poor. Traveling by taxi, motorbike, and bicycle, she visited urban and regional hospitals, pharmacies, government officials, and private businesses to learn firsthand about the challenges of getting drugs to the poor who have chronic non-communicable diseases.

Since 1996, second-year M.P.A. students have been required to take a workshop, a student-initiated group project. Groups of six to 10 students work with clients (local or national government agencies, community leaders, nonprofits, or advocacy groups) to conduct research and provide recommendations on a pressing policy issue. Each year, students suggest topics and help recruit practitioners to teach the workshops. According to Melissa Lee, assistant director of graduate programs in the Wilson School, the workshops allow students to experience a collaborative project, prepare a policy solution for an actual client, and to produce a tangible product.

Projects conducted this fall spanned the range from U.S. juvenile justice to community health effects of an Exxon oil pipeline in Africa.

One workshop, led by Woodrow Wilson School Dean Anne-Marie Slaughter '80, consulted for Pierre Prosper, the U.S. ambassador for war crimes. Students met with high-level government officials, judges, and human rights activists in the Democratic Republic of the Congo while investigating mechanisms that might be used to bring accountability to the perpetrators of international war crimes committed in that country during the seven-year (1996-2003) civil war.

A domestically focused group, specializing in urban affairs, studied the feasibility of developing a waterfront cultural and entertainment area in Jersey City. They shared their findings with the Jersey City Economic Development Corporation. "The city councilman that represents the Journal Square area that we focused on was very receptive to — and excited about — our recommendations," said Ralph Rosado, a workshop participant.

Another group focusing on postconflict reconstruction, led by the Center for Strategic and International Studies senior fellow Rick Barton, traveled to Sri Lanka to assess the ceasefire following the 20-year civil war between the Tamil Tigers and the Sinhala majority government. The final report prepared by the students will be published by the CSIS Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project. "The top priority [in Sri Lanka] right now is to resolve the power struggle between the President and the Prime Minister," Jeremy Barnicle, one of the workshop members, said. "Until that's resolved, it's going to be very difficult to move forward."