Barnard receives Sachs Scholarship

Alexander Barnard '09

Alexander Barnard Photo: Brian Wilson

A senior with a keen interest in social justice has been named the recipient of the 2009 Daniel M. Sachs Class of 1960 Graduating Scholarship, one of the highest awards given to Princeton undergraduates.

Alexander Barnard, a sociology major, plans to use the Sachs award to pursue a master's degree at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Worcester College at the University of Oxford. 

The Sachs Scholarship was established in 1970 to provide a senior with the opportunity to study, work or travel abroad after graduation. Classmates and friends established the scholarship in memory of Daniel Sachs, who starred in football and lacrosse at Princeton before attending Worcester College as a Rhodes Scholar. He died of cancer at age 28. The award is given to a senior who best exemplifies Sachs' character, intelligence and commitment, and whose scholarship is most likely to benefit the public.

Barnard, who is from Flagstaff, Ariz., has done extensive research on social activist movements and participated in activism himself. He is a co-founder of the Princeton Animal Welfare Society, which promotes veganism and creates awareness about the treatment of animals. He also has been a member of the Princeton Coalition Against Capital Punishment and the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which helps immigrants.

Recently he has focused his academic research on the "freegan" movement, which promotes efforts to live outside the conventional economy by limiting one's consumption of resources. Participants, who embrace veganism, try to buy as little as possible, instead procuring what they need by searching for discarded goods. 

"The search for ways to live ethically has been important in my life," Barnard said. Last summer he moved to New York City to spend time with participants in the freegan movement "to explore what leads people to adopt these lifestyles and what the implications of these lifestyles are," he said. "We see them as people dropping out of society, but there's something we can learn about reducing waste and freeing yourself from a society that is obsessed with consumption."

At Oxford, Barnard plans to study alternative ways of living. "We have a confined Western view about how humans relate to the world and animals," he said. "I believe we humans can do a better job, and it’s the job of social scientists to look for better possibilities."

"Alex is truly exceptional for the maturity and self-determination with which he has defined the priorities and goals of his academic and civic life," said Delia Baldassarri, an assistant professor of sociology who advised Barnard on his junior paper about the freegan movement. "Despite his deep involvement with the freegans' activities, he never took the freegans' creed at face value, showing a great capacity for maintaining the necessary distance from his research subject. Alex has engaged with great maturity a very broad and sometimes complex literature on social movements and collective action. His impressive analytical skills lead him to contribute not only to our understanding of the freegan phenomenon, but of the social movement theory at large."

Barnard plays the trumpet and bass guitar, and served as president of the Princeton University Band. He twice received the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence.