#TellUsTigers: Princeton tales in 2,200 characters or less

Aug. 18, 2016 12:01 p.m.

With people scrolling through their social media feeds faster than Michael Phelps swimming the 200m individual medley, it may seem counterintuitive to engage in so-called long-form or narrative social media. Will anyone read a post that's more than 140 characters? The answer, it turns out, is yes — if it tells a good story. Why? Because storytelling is part of what it means to be human. And every human being has a story to tell.

In its popular #TellUsTigers campaign, launched in February 2016, Princeton University is using Instagram — designed to marry great visuals with engaging text (up to 2,200 characters) — to introduce the world to Princetonians, one post at a time.

Each post features an undergraduate student, a graduate student, professor, staff member or alumnus. Here's a look at some of them. We invite you to take a pit stop from the dizzying raceway of the virtual world, and instead pause and scroll — slowly — through their highly individual tales, told in the first person. Then follow us on Instagram @Princeton_University or search for the hashtag #TellUsTigers to get a new post weekly. Members of the University community can submit suggestions for future #TellUsTigers stories via email at pusocialmedia@princeton.edu.

#TellUsTigers: "As a comparative literature major, I study two foreign languages, Japanese and Russian, and I also speak Greek. However, #dance is by far the most expressive and powerful language I know. I don't think there is a human emotion that cannot be communicated through ballet, and dance can be comprehended by anyone, anywhere. This picture was taken to publicize @puballet’s 2015 winter show, 'Nutz.' It was in the 30s (Fahrenheit) that day so my toes were entirely numb from being frozen and en pointe. Being in PUB has allowed me to maintain my 15 years of #classicalballet training while taking my love for #ballet beyond the studio. In high school, ballet meant the strict discipline of taking lessons six days a week in a black leotard, pink tights and heavily hairsprayed bun. When I first came to #PrincetonU, I was a bit overwhelmed by the freedom — wearing whatever I wanted to dance classes, dancing in unconventional venues around campus, etc. — but I came to really appreciate it. Here, I dance with people who devote hours in their busy daily schedules to dance, purely because they love to dance. The dance world is brutally competitive, and before I came to Princeton, succeeding as a dancer meant proving myself to be technically superior to other dancers. Princeton has changed my perspective on ballet and has helped me realize what I think is the true value of dance and all art — sharing its beauty with others. Before Princeton, I performed at venues specifically meant for ballet, for frequent ballet-goers who made up audiences that were large, but distant. On Princeton’s diverse campus, a lot of PUB’s energy is directed at showing people that ballet, although a very traditional fine art, has a relevant place in their lives. Nothing makes me happier than hearing from a friend or professor who had never seen ballet before that they enjoyed a PUB show. I am truly grateful to Princeton and to PUB for allowing me to mature so much in the appreciation of my art and to include so many others, dancers and non-dancers, in my college dancing experience." — Hana Lethen, Class of 2017 (📷 by @Eric_Hayes_, Princeton '18) #Princetagram #balletlife #balletshoes

A post shared by Princeton University (@princeton_university) on

#TellUsTigers: "As a pastor of a small Lutheran African American congregation, I was already prepared on Sunday, June 12, to reflect on the events that took place one year previously at #EmanuelAMEChurch in Charleston, SC, where nine parishioners were killed. However, as an openly gay pastor, my heart and the hearts of my congregation were even more heavily laden upon hearing the unfolding news concerning the massacre at the #OrlandoPulse night club in the early hours of the morning of June 12. The attack seemed even more personal. So, upon receiving the notification from the artistic director of the New York City Gay Men's Chorus — in which I sing tenor — that @GoodMorningAmerica wanted us to honor the victims that next morning, it felt 'important' to stand in solidarity with my fellow chorines and the #LGBT community. We showed up at the 5:45 a.m. call time and focused our high emotions on the lyrics of the song we were to perform: "Night" from the musical "#NexttoNormal." For me the lyrics 'The price of love is loss, but still we pay/We love anyway' struck home. After multiple run-throughs, sound checks, and lighting clues, we stood at 8:50 a.m. at the crossroads of the world in #TimesSquare and sung of the need for light. For about three minutes, the rush hour crowd stopped, gathered around us and listened. Tour buses pulled over, taxis slowed down and car-honking stopped, as tears flowed from the eyes of the television crew, newscasters and even uniformed police officers. Beneath the multitude of neon lights from famous billboards, beneath the morning sunlight reflecting down off the mirrored skyscrapers into the streets, for those three minutes, I believe Times Square really become a light post of hope, resilience and purpose as @NYCGMC exposed their hearts to humanity. This wasn’t just a performance; it was the coming together of a community. As the co-chair of the Diversity Working Group within University Services at #PrincetonU I’ve broadened my awareness of issues of inclusion and equity. #Music is one of many vehicles whereby I get to promote awareness and advocate change." — Antonio Torrence, business manager, University Services #Princetagram

A post shared by Princeton University (@princeton_university) on

#TellUsTigers: "Work is my home away from home. When I first started here I was young, 23 years old. I had just gotten married, my husband was 24, and my first daughter was 5. You know the struggles of having a young family, trying to raise your kids and not having enough money. You don't know how to make every day a good day. You don't know how to take on things in life and don't have anybody to talk to, you don't want anybody to know your business. Coming to work was like therapy because I look at these beautiful paintings, these beautiful sculptures, for eight hours. I think working here and being around all of this saved me, because you know how young families sometimes go through things and then they go to work and they're stressed out. I never felt that way when I came to work. It hasn't felt like work, it's been fun. Now my oldest is 30, my other two are 24 and 23. I'm even a grandmother. When I first started here, I would look at the modern art and didn't understand why it was in a museum; I felt like my child could do better. Then I started to listen to precepts in the modern art galleries; I didn't have to like it but I took to a better understanding of it. That has been my whole journey working here, learning a whole lot more about what the piece is. I've learned a lot following precepts, following tours, watching exhibits come and go, being behind the installations. I feel like I've had an art history class four times over. I just brought my daughter here and gave her a tour of the museum and she was astonished about how much I knew about the different works of art." - Julia Davila, head @princetonu_artmuseum security supervisor, Department of Public Safety #Princetagram

A post shared by Princeton University (@princeton_university) on

#TellUsTigers: “I'm on the lacrosse team, and I'm involved in theater. This past weekend was opening weekend - and one of our biggest games of the season against Johns Hopkins University. The rest of the team drove down to @johnshopkinsu Friday afternoon but I had to stay to do the show. After opening I got in my car and drove myself the two and a half hours down to the hotel where the team was staying. I got there about 1 a.m. and 12 hours later we played the game. After the game I hopped back in my car and drove back up to do the Saturday night show. I couldn't do any of that without the support of my coaches - they understand that when you're able to do what you love you're going to perform (or play) better. I also love my a cappella group, Shere Khan, which has four varsity athletes in it at the moment. I think being able to balance arts and sports is something unique to a place like Princeton. The second week of ‘Annie & Rose’ is this Wednesday through Friday, March 9-11, in the Matthews Acting Studio. After graduating, I hope to move to New York to pursue acting. Both my parents are actors. My mom won a Tony Award for ‘Jerome Robbins' Broadway’ in 1989. I remember going to the theater a ton when she played Mama Morton in ‘Chicago.’ I was 9 years old. I used to hang out backstage with a lot of the dancers in the show, and I remember thinking how cool it was. They taught me card games — even back then I was hyper-competitive. My dad is an actor as well (Beau Gravitte), and I remember when I was 10 watching him as Roy in ‘The Light in the Piazza.’ My dad has been one of my most important acting teachers. Though it's hard to pick one piece of advice from a lifetime he's spent teaching me, I would say that the most important thing I've learned from him is simply that the best actor is a smart actor. That's one of the reasons I'm so lucky to be at Princeton - everyone here has something to teach you. The more I can learn I know the more I'll have to draw on as an actor.” - Sam Gravitte (@samgravitte), Class of 2017. #Princetagram

A post shared by Princeton University (@princeton_university) on

#TellUsTigers: "As an #electricalengineering graduate student, I spend many hours like this, looking like I stepped of the set of a science fiction film. I dress like this in order to enter the 'clean room,' a facility that is engineered to eliminate the millions of little particles of dirt and dust that surround us and even emanate from our skin, hair and clothing. In a clean room environment, I can make tiny electronic devices made out of materials as thin as 10 nanometers, without fearing contamination by unruly dust particles. My research focuses on Large Area Electronics — which is a field where we integrate electronics into large, flexible plastic sheets of meter-length scale and laminate them to surfaces for a range of functions. In our research group, we've built plastic sheets that can make strain measurements with high spatial resolution on #PrincetonU's Streicker Bridge, recognize 3D gestures from users at a distance of a foot, and measure EEG signals from human patients. I am part of the PRISM group [Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials]. It's a fun group, with a lot of wacky ideas and unusual projects ranging from material science to machine learning, and I've learned a broad set of skills as a result. I'm glad it was the group I chose when I came to Princeton!" — Yasmin Afsar, graduate student, Department of Electrical Engineering (This #selfportrait by @yasmin.afsar, "Portrait of the artist in the air shower," won third place in the 2014 Princeton University Art of Science Competition, on view in the Friend Center) #Princetagram

A post shared by Princeton University (@princeton_university) on

#TellUsTigers: “I grew up in Hoogerheide, a village in the southwestern part of the Netherlands. I rode my bicycle to the elementary school in our village and for high school, I biked eight miles to the nearby town, Bergen op Zoom. This was absolutely normal, everybody did that. A favorite memory is sitting on the crossbar of my then boyfriend, now husband, in his arms, when we were students in Amsterdam. It was very romantic. I bought this new bike in the village where my parents still live. I wanted a Dutch bike because I can wear my nice work clothes - I have a special skirt saddle. Tulips are my favorite flowers. So when I saw this Rijksmuseum bicycle bag, I could not resist. When we were looking to buy a new house a few years ago, an important requirement was that the children should be able to ride their bikes to school and I to the university. It takes less than 15 minutes to get to my office in 1879 Hall, where this photo was taken. That is just as fast as going by car, parking, and walking to my office, and biking is better for the environment and for my health. I am currently on sabbatical (but still ride to the office most days). I am working on a book called ‘From Gospels to Garbage.’ My interest in papyrology (the study of texts written on ancient writing material papyrus) began when I studied the Gospel of Thomas. Several fragments of the Gospel of Thomas written in Greek were discovered at an ancient city in middle Egypt called Oxyrhynchus, together with fragments of other early Christian texts, both parts of the Bible and texts that had become lost. All the papyri were discovered at the ancient trash heaps. I examine a wide variety of Christian papyri in order to better understand the reading practices and ownership of these texts. And also why and how they would eventually have been discarded.” - AnneMarie Luijendijk, professor of religion. #Princetagram

A post shared by Princeton University (@princeton_university) on