The transformative power of a college education and how to better support first-generation, lower-income students are at the heart of this year’s Princeton Pre-read, “Moving Up Without Losing Your Way: The Ethical Costs of Upward Mobility.” The book is written by philosopher and Princeton Class of 2002 graduate Jennifer M. Morton and is the first Pre-read selection by a Latinx author.
The Pre-read is a Princeton tradition that introduces first-year students to the intellectual life of the University by offering opportunities to engage with a book that is made available to students, faculty and staff. After arriving on campus, first-year students have an opportunity to discuss the book with its author and President Christopher L. Eisgruber during Orientation.
Published by Princeton University Press in 2019, “Moving Up Without Losing Your Way” examines the ethical and emotional tolls paid by disadvantaged college students seeking upward mobility and discusses what educators can do to help these students flourish. The book draws on Morton’s own experiences as a Peruvian immigrant and first-generation college student.
“Professor Morton’s book is a philosophical reflection on the challenges of being a college student,” Eisgruber said. “It gracefully integrates philosophical insights with common sense observations and personal stories. And it speaks candidly about what makes a college education exhilarating, what makes it hard and how to navigate the choices it requires.”
In a video announcing the Pre-read to the Class of 2025, Eisgruber added: “[Morton] asks everybody to think about the importance of having a clear ethical narrative that describes what it is we are trying to achieve, what social goals matter to us, what sacrifices we are willing to make and which ones should we not make. That is an important message for entering college students and for all of us who care about higher education in our society.”
Princeton has played a leading role in the national movement to increase socioeconomic diversity, access and inclusion in higher education, an effort bolstered by the University’s no-loan financial aid policy. Earlier this month, Princeton announced the creation of the Emma Bloomberg Center for Access and Opportunity to enable more students to find a pathway to success to, through and beyond Princeton.
Morton is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and a senior fellow at the Center for Ethics and Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She will become a presidential associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania this fall.
“This book is the product of my own journey from empathy to self-understanding,” Morton said. “I hope that reading it will help members of the Class of 2025 find their own path towards a more empathetic and reflective understanding of each other’s diverse experiences of college.”
Recalling her first days at Princeton in the fall of 1998, Morton said the book relates her own experience as an undergraduate to the experiences of the students she now teaches.
“I arrived at Princeton as a first-generation college student — only, I had never heard of that term, and would not learn how it applied to me until decades later,” she said. “Without a framework, I was unsure of where I was supposed to fit in or where I was headed. Years later, as a professor at the City College of New York, my own experiences as a student came into sharper focus as I sought to understand the challenges confronting my own students.”
Morton added that the book has another connection to Princeton: She worked on it while serving as a Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Fellow in the University Center for Human Values.
“Moving Up Without Losing Your Way” received the Frederic W. Ness Book Award by the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Morton previously was an associate professor of philosophy at the City College of New York (CUNY) and the Graduate Center, CUNY.
This summer, the incoming class will receive a copy of the book to read. Throughout the academic year, the Class of 2025 will have many opportunities to discuss the book with Eisgruber and other faculty and staff during Pre-read precepts in the residential colleges and elsewhere around campus.
“The Pre-read program has two main goals: to introduce students to the University’s vibrant intellectual culture, and to encourage students to think about the values that should guide their Princeton educations and their lives after graduation,” Eisgruber said. “Morton’s book fits these objectives beautifully."
The Princeton Pre-read started in 2013 and has continued with a new selection each year:
2013 — “The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen” by Kwame Anthony Appiah
2014 — “Meaning in Life and Why It Matters” by Susan Wolf
2015 — “Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do” by Claude Steele
2016 — “Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality” by Danielle Allen
2017 — “What Is Populism?” by Jan-Werner Müller
2018 — “Speak Freely: Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech” by Keith Whittington
2019 — “Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy” by James Williams
2020 — “This America” by Jill Lepore