‘She Roars’ day two highlights Oct. 5

After Thursday activities and an opening reception and arts showcase, alumni greeted the second day of "She Roars" on Friday looking forward to a full schedule of events and ways to engage. Below are some highlights captured across campus on day two.

In her talk “Fuels from Sunlight,” Emily Carter, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, described how the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change led her to an “epiphany” that inspired her to change the direction of her research, as she realized the evidence was overwhelming that carbon dioxide emitted from fossil fuel burning was causing global warming. Minimizing carbon dioxide emissions became the focus of her research. For the past decade, she has applied her expertise in quantum chemistry to investigate materials and processes for sustainable electricity and fuels.

Emily Carter

Engineering dean Emily Carter offers an overview of potential pathways to using renewable energy sources for artificial photosynthesis to create liquid fuels in her talk “Fuels from Sunlight.”

Carter advocated electrification to power the world, exploiting zero-carbon-emission energy technologies such as wind, solar, hydro and nuclear. However, she pointed out it is highly unlikely that large aircraft and other heavy-duty forms of transportation will be electrified and that energy-dense, liquid fuels will be needed to power them. Carter offered an overview of potential pathways to using renewable energy sources for artificial photosynthesis to create liquid fuels to replace fossil fuels. Part of Carter’s research involves the development of “photo-electro-catalysts” designed to enable efficient artificial photosynthesis of fuels and chemicals. However, she emphasized this only solves part of the problem.

“Ultimately, what we have to be able to do is to capture the carbon dioxide that’s already in the atmosphere, and essentially achieve negative emissions,” said Carter, the Gerhard R. Andlinger Professor in Energy and the Environment.

Following Carter’s lecture was a wide-ranging discussion on the future of energy and climate, including social and political issues. When asked about whether she has hope for moving toward more sustainable energy, Carter emphasized the need for the U.S. government to extend investments in basic and applied research, with environmental and economic security as major reasons for doing so. “I am a big believer in innovation to solve our most challenging problems,” she said. -- Molly Sharlach

A strong partisan divide exists when it comes to thoughts on higher education. Why does this hot-button issue get under everyone's skin?

Cecilia Rouse, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, addressed this to a roomful of  "She Roars" participants in a talk titled "ROI or RIP: The Future of Higher Education."

Using data to illustrate her arguments, she covered four big themes in higher education: cost, repayment, economic benefits (and risks), and societal benefits. She also dispelled some myths on the sticker price versus actual cost of college — and which schools are, indeed, driving up the cost — hint: they're the four-year for-profit schools. Community colleges, on the other hand, have a net cost of less than zero! 

Dean Cecilia Rouse speaking at She Roars conference

Cecilia Rouse, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, presents on the benefits of higher education.

"Investments require costs, right?" Rouse said. "You buy a home as an investment, optimistic you can sell it later. You invest in stocks and have to put money down, hoping for a return later. It's the same with education. And, as an economist, I think of education as an investment. Of course, people say: 'What about risks? Just because you go to college doesn't mean you come out with a good job or employment in your field.' But in my work, I find the income gap between those with only a high school degree compared to those with a degree has remained the same over time. So yes, it's risky. But consider the alternative."

So, is higher education worth it? As an economist, Rouse says yes. — B. Rose Kelly

In a discussion on "Starting a Startup: The Art of Founding and Funding," panelists covered topics such as finding good team members, startup exits, mergers and acquisitions, and creating communities around the startup company.

Karen Roter Davis, a 1994 alumna who is on the leadership team at X, Alphabet's Moonshot Factory, said: "You have to establish a culture and find people who will go on the ride with you. Not that everyone should agree with you, but you have to be able to work together."

Steph Speirs, a 2014 graduate alumna who is co-founder and CEO of Solstice, said: "Creating the world you want to see starts in your backyard, in how you build your team. If you are doing something additive to the world, people will show up."

Anne-Marie Maman ’84, Karen Roter Davis ’94, Dora Mitchell *08, Ita Ekpoudom ’03, Steph Speirs *14

Founding and funding startups is the topic for panelists, from left, Anne-Marie Maman ’84, Karen Roter Davis ’94, Dora Mitchell *08, Ita Ekpoudom ’03 and Steph Speirs *14.

Audience questions touched on a variety of topics about how to get into entrepreneurship, what panelists wished they learned in school before being in entrepreneurship, how to create confidence among team members. — Wright Señeres

While alumnae are sharing their Princeton experiences on campus, many have also shared their experiences in “vlog” videos posted to the "She Roars" website.

In addition to individuals sharing their stories, Elana Sigall, Class of 1988, and Cathy Bowman, Class of 1989, did a joint interview with their recollections of their undergraduate years. One of the significant events then was a “Take Back the Night” rally and march in 1987 that started on campus and moved down Prospect Street past the eating clubs. Sigall and Bowman tell the story in detail in a video posted with the vlogs of other alumnae. --- Office of Communications

In her lecture “Reinventing the Internet” at McDonnell Hall, Jennifer Rexford, Class of 1991, said there’s a lot of room for innovation in the internet, but it’s going to be a long journey to see it realized.

The network of networks is designed to be programmable, but only at its margins, she said. At its core, it takes years for the internet to change. That’s even as there many opportunities to improve efficiency, performance and striking a balance between user privacy and transparency. 

Jennifer Rexford addressing audience

Computer scientist Jennifer Rexford ’91 speaks about innovation and the internet and the importance of pushing the limits to create a better user experience.

“Ironically, the internet itself doesn’t operate on internet time,” said Rexford, the Gordon Y.S. Wu Professor in Engineering, professor of computer science and the  department chair.

She said she wants to keep pushing the limits, including more sophisticated algorithms, to create a better user experience. “These kinds of improvements are possible within our lifetime,” said Rexford, who is known for her research that looks at the most efficient and stable way to transfer information through the networks. She has worked on the Border Gateway Protocol, which helped establish ways to guide traffic among the many independent networks within the internet. — Aaron Nathans

What is a successful life? Is financial success the same thing?

Seated behind the venerable, wooden desks of McCosh 50, about 450 people heard a very modern idea: Success is about more than public accolades or eight-digit salaries.

Jill Dolan speaking at She Roars conference

Jill Dolan, dean of the college, leads the interactive session “Success Without Fame or Fortune: A New Paradigm” after her introduction by Alisa Matlovsky ’76 (left).

The idea for the "She Roars" session, titled "Success Without Fame or Fortune: A New Paradigm," arose when the Princeton Alumni Weekly invited Dean of the College Jill Dolan to help create a list of the “most influential” Princeton alumni. She wrote about that task in a letter to the PAW and described the experience at the session: “I felt in danger of compromising my own values, as a feminist, as a woman, and as a leader, scholar and critic by legitimating values that elevate the same kinds of Princetonians to be the ‘most influential,’” said Dolan, who is also Princeton’s Annan Professor in English and a professor of theater in the Lewis Center for the Arts.

Classic definitions of success permeate academia, society and even the arts. To shift that requires looking at power from “radically different and urgently necessary new perspectives,” she said.

“If we look at the criteria not through the presumption of global dominance, but for quotidian, local world-making, that is, one in which we make worlds together, in the moment, side-by-side, then, perhaps, our lists of ‘most influential’ will read very differently, and be more diverse in terms of gender, race, class, ability, history and many, many other markers," Dolan said. "That is my hope."

After her remarks, the alumnae split into groups — with extra conversations forming to accommodate the high level of interest — to discuss creating new markers of “success” and “influence.” — Liz Fuller-Wright

Audience  talking before Jill Dolan presentation

More than 400 alumnae participated in a conversation in McCosh 50 about how we evaluate success, influence and achievement.

Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber welcomed “She Roars” attendees to campus on Friday during a talk at Jadwin Gym, offering them a briefing of Princeton’s strategic plans, along with an overview of efforts at diversity and inclusion, particularly in regard to the inclusion of women at the highest levels.

“It’s so extraordinary to feel the energy that’s here,” he told the alumnae who filled seats across the gym floor and into the bleachers. “I hope you take some time while you’re here to look around and appreciate how marvelous this gathering is.”

President Eisgruber speaking at She Roars conference

Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber engages in a conversation with alumni in Jadwin Gym.

During his hour-long presentation, Eisgruber spoke of the progress that has been made since his own graduation from Princeton in 1983, displaying a photo of the 1984 Board of Trustees followed by a photo of the current board members.

“I don’t think there are other university presidents that could put up a picture quite like this picture with the amazing diversity it represents,” he said.

Overview of audience listening to President Eisgruber speak with photos of Frances Arnold projected on large screens

An image of Frances Arnold, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry this week, is projected on screens. Arnold graduated from Princeton in 1979 with a B.S.E. in mechanical and aerospace engineering. She is the first Princeton alumna to win a Nobel Prize.

More than 50 percent of the president’s current cabinet is made up of women. He also cited the accomplishments of other women in leadership positions throughout the University and gave a nod to Frances Arnold, who this week became the first Princeton alumna to win a Nobel Prize and who is the first undergraduate alum, male or female, to win in the natural sciences.

Eisgruber addressed a question that had been directed earlier in the day to Nancy Weiss Malkiel, professor of history, emeritus, and author of “Keep the Damned Women Out,” about what it would take to complete the project of coeducation at Princeton by saying he would expand that project to making the University “as inclusive as possible and a university that draws on talent from every sector of society.”

“I’ll tell you one thing it takes to complete those projects is to ensure that there are strong women in leadership positions,” he said. “There is no substitute for having strong women in leadership positions if you want to make sure that we are making this a place where everybody can thrive.” — Denise Valenti

Audience listening to President Eisgruber speak

Attendees filled the gym during the morning events.

Coeducation and Princeton was the topic of a talk in Jadwin Gym by historian Nancy Weiss Malkiel, former dean of the college. Titled "Keep the Damned Women Out," Malkiel spoke about the struggle for coeducation, which she wrote about in a book of that name published by Princeton University Press in 2016. Malkiel discusses her research in this video from December 2016.

U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, Class of 1986, energized alumni at a breakfast under a tent on Poe Field. Sewell is the first black woman to serve in the Alabama Congressional delegation.

“I can’t tell you how great it is to be back home at Princeton!” Sewell said. “I see so many wonderful friends, classmates and professors who have influenced my life. I truly adored being at Princeton and blossomed here in a way I never thought possible.”

Treby Williams speaking at podium

Executive Vice President Treby Williams ’84 welcomes alumni to the second day of the "She Roars" conference during breakfast in the Poe Field tent on Friday morning.

In introducing Sewell, Executive Vice President Treby Williams, Class of 1984, noted that "She Roars" is the largest alumni conference in the University's history, with more than 3,300 alumni registered.

Sewell said the gathering is a chance for Princeton women to inspire and learn from each other. “You know I love acronyms,” she said. “'She Roars' means she’s resilient, she’s organized, she’s aware and she’s ready for success.”

Sewell told her fellow alumnae that they are “inheritors of a great legacy.”

“The legacy that is Princeton University,” she said. “Now, what are we going to do with it? I’m asking you, I’m actually begging you, to get involved politically whatever your political ambitions or persuasions are. I think it’s important that we all be civically minded.”

She continued: “I’m in Congress because I believe you can’t be on the outside screaming and yelling. If you really want to make change, sometimes you have to take a deep breath and just go for it.”

As the only Democrat in Alabama’s Congressional delegation, Sewell has built relationships with colleagues whose politics differ from hers. “The divisiveness in Washington, D.C., is real,” she said. “But I chose to spend my time talking [with my colleagues] about what we do agree on, which is economic empowerment for my district. When we do better, the whole state does better.”

Sewell said it is up to all Americans, not just leaders, to bridge divides and fix our “fractured political system.”

Terri Sewell speaking to audience at She Roars

U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell ’86 urges Princeton alumnae to mentor each other, become civically engaged, support women political candidates and find common ground with people of different viewpoints.

“Here is another assignment for y’all,” Sewell said. “Can you find someone you disagree with and just have a conversation? I know it’s rough, but I think that is the only way we break through this tribalism. We have those tough conversations.”

Sewell said women are adept at this, adding she’s encouraged by the many women running for office in 2018. “Women have so many great attributes to run for political office. We are mediators, we are negotiators, we are budgeters,” she said. “My challenge to you is to use your talents to get more civically engaged. You don’t have to run for office … but you have to support and be active in the political discord. We need to have a multitude of voices.”

Audience listening to Terri Sewell at She Roars

Cecilia Rouse (left), dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and Williams listen to Sewell’s energetic speech on Friday morning.

In addition to giving back to their communities, Sewell encouraged alumnae to give back to Princeton. “Take the opportunity to mentor an undergraduate; it’s important that we pay it forward,” she said.

Sewell came to the University from Selma, Alabama. She said she was valedictorian and the first person from her high school to attend an Ivy League university at the time. She expressed her gratitude to the Princetonians who helped her as an undergraduate, including former First Lady Michelle Obama, Class of 1985, who was Sewell’s “big sister.”

“Princeton may not have had many minority students back in 1980s when I was here, but Princeton has made a real choice to make sure that low-income students now have the opportunity to attend this place. As I understand 22 percent of the class are Pell-eligible today,” she said.

Sewell added: “I stand as a living example of what is possible if you give kids who don’t necessarily fit the profile of what people think Princeton looks like. I want to say thank you.”

The audience erupted in a standing ovation with roaring applause. — Emily Aronson

Alumnae having breakfast at She Roars conference

Alumnae enjoy breakfast before a busy day of She Roars conference activities on Friday.