Nassau Hall and tiger sculptures

Forward Fest public conversation series continues as part of A Year of Forward Thinking with focus on resilience, exploration

Feb. 17, 2021 12:56 p.m.

Forward Fest is a virtual public conversation series that aims to spark dialogue across the global Princeton community — students, faculty, staff, alumni and other interested thinkers — to engage with and explore big ideas and their infinite possibilities for shaping the future. The next Forward Fest takes place Feb. 20 and will focus on alumni whose life work illuminates the themes of exploration and resilience.

Princeton’s Forward Fest — a virtual public conversation series and a monthly highlight of the University’s yearlong A Year of Forward Thinking community engagement campaign — continues on Saturday, Feb. 20, with a focus on alumni whose life work illuminates the themes of exploration and resilience.

Two sessions of Forward Fest will spotlight alumni “forward thinkers” from a variety of backgrounds who are working to push through barriers and imagine a world better than it currently is.

The Feb. 20 Forward Fest gathers alumni, along with the entire Princeton community, on a day when alumni are traditionally invited back to campus for Alumni Day, which was not held this year because of the pandemic.

Gathering a range of voices, Forward Fest aims to spark dialogue across the global Princeton community — students, faculty, staff, alumni and other interested thinkers — to engage with and explore big ideas and their infinite possibilities for shaping the future.

The program features two sessions of one-on-one conversations with alumni and will conclude with a lively Q&A period. Attendees can engage in Q&A by emailing questions in advance to forwardfest@princeton.edu or in real-time in the chat on YouTube.

On Feb. 20, Princetonians can also join an online Service of Remembrance at 3 p.m., which will recognize and honor alumni, students, faculty and staff whose deaths were recorded by the University during the previous calendar year. As part of the virtual remembrance, you may honor a Princetonian by posting a memorial message.

Forward Fest events are free and open to the public. All programming will be livestreamed on the Forward Fest website and on the University's YouTube channel. Registration is not required, but attendees can RSVP to receive a resource guide and event updates. Captioning will be available for all sessions. After the event, all programming will be viewable on the University’s YouTube channel.

Previous Forward Fest events have focused on public health, justice and the 2020 election; the promise and peril of data science and artificial intelligence; the arts and humanities; and equity in education. View all the sessions on Princeton’s YouTube channel.

Feb. 20 programming highlights

Alumni Forward Thinkers on Resilience

The 75-minute program at 10 a.m. will highlight three Princetonians who have pursued a wide variety of vocations and initiatives, facing impediments along their paths while also fostering resilience — and strengthening resilience in others.

Maria Carreras Kourepenos, a member of the Class of 1985 and treasurer of the Alumni Association of Princeton University, will give welcoming remarks.

Heather Gerken

Heather Gerken, a 1991 alumna and the dean of Yale Law School, where she is also the Sol & Lillian Goldman Professor of Law, will serve as moderator for the live discussion at 10 a.m. Feb. 20. Forward Fest is free and open to the public. All programming will be livestreamed on the Forward Fest website and on the University’s YouTube channel.

Heather Gerken, a 1991 alumna and the dean of Yale Law School, where she is also the Sol & Lillian Goldman Professor of Law, will serve as moderator. Gerken is one of the country’s leading experts on constitutional law and election law. A founder of the “nationalist school” of federalism, her work focuses on federalism, diversity and dissent. At the 2018 She Roars alumni conference, she moderated a conversation with associate justices of the U.S. Supreme Court Sonia Sotomayor, a 1976 alumna, and Elena Kagan, a 1981 alumna.

“Resilience was once a word invoked by one generation as it worried about another. Now it’s a word that is central to all of our conversations,” Gerken said. “I’m looking forward to speaking with my fellow Princetonians about how they have cultivated resilience and how they foster it in others. I know the audience will be inspired by their stories."

Featured panelists are:

  • Josh Brankman, a 1999 alumnus, executive director of Outward Bound USA, expert in experiential education and a member of Princeton’s Outdoor Action Strategic Planning Committee
  • Liz Henry, a member of the Class of 1988, known professionally as “Dr. Liz,” a pediatrician who specializes in tween/teen/parent communication and coping
  • Suleika Jaouad, a 2010 alumna, columnist with The New York Times ("Life, Interrupted”), advocate, and author of the new memoir “Between Two Kingdoms.”
    Josh Brankman, Dr. Liz Henry, Suleika Jaouad

    Speakers for the 10 a.m. event include: Josh Brankman (left), a 1999 alumnus and executive director of Outward Bound USA; Liz Henry, a member of the Class of 1988 and a pediatrician known professionally as “Dr. Liz"; and Suleika Jaouad, a 2010 alumna, author and columnist with The New York Times.

Alumni Forward Thinkers on Exploration

The 75-minute program at noon celebrates the inquisitive Princeton spirit, exemplified by four alumni tigers who have explored new territory and new ideas — or are in the middle of the hunt — in a variety of fields.

Juan Goytia, a member of the Class of 2000 and assistant treasurer of the Alumni Association, will give welcoming remarks.

Julia Boorstin

Julia Boorstin, a 2000 alumna and CNBC senior media and entertainment reporter, will serve as moderator for the live discussion at noon Feb. 20.

Julia Boorstin, a 2000 alumna and CNBC senior media and entertainment reporter, will serve as moderator.

“It’s so crucial to have this conversation about exploration right now because, while our day-to-day worlds have gotten smaller as we’re all staying at home, at the same time our sense of potential and what we have to reach to has gotten bigger than ever,” Boorstin said. “I’m so grateful to be part of the Princeton community and to get to moderate Forward Fest, to take a break from the daily routine and have these really meaningful conversations with leaders in their fields.”

Featured panelists are:

  • Majka Burhardt, a member of the Class of 1998, professional climber, environmental entrepreneur, author, and founder and executive director of Legado, where she works to protect the world’s most threatened mountain ecosystems by working hand-in-hand with the people who call them home
  • Karen Roter Davis, a 1994 alumna and director of early-stage projects at X, Alphabet’s moonshot factory where uncomfortably ambitious, world-changing ideas are developed and taken out into the world
  • Richard Preston, a 1983 graduate alumnus, science and environment communicator, and author of “The Hot Zone,” “The Wild Trees” and “Crisis in the Red Zone” (book 4 of the Dark Biology series)
  • Roy Swan, a member of the Class of 1986 and head of Mission Investments, Ford Foundation
Majka Burhardt, Karen Roter Davis, Richard Preston, Roy Swan

Speakers for the noon event include: Majka Burhardt (left), a 1998 alumna, professional climber and environmental entrepreneur; Karen Roter Davis, a 1994 alumna and director of early-stage projects at X, Alphabet’s moonshot factory; Richard Preston, a 1983 graduate alumnus and author of “The Hot Zone"; and Roy Swan, a 1986 alumnus and head of Mission Investments, Ford Foundation.

Between the two live sessions, Forward Fest will stream a 45-minute pre-recorded special looking back at select moments in previous Forward Fests. Mary Newburn, vice president of the Alumni Association of Princeton University, vice chair of the Alumni Council and a member of the Class of 1997, will serve as host. Following the Feb. 20 Forward Fest, this special will appear exclusively on the Forward Thinking website.

Forward Fest continues monthly throughout A Year of Forward Thinking, Oct. 2020-June 2021.

Learn more about A Year of Forward Thinking and Forward Fest on the website. Watch a video about A Year of Forward Thinking. Engage on social media with the hashtags #PrincetonForward, #ForwardThinkers and #ForwardFest, and follow Princeton University and Princeton Alumni on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.