September 2020 Newsletter: A Profound National Reckoning with Racism

Sept. 8, 2020
Public affairs icon

This summer, as the University grappled with what the fall semester would look like in the light of COVID-19 concerns, the top campus administrators--at the direction of President Chris Eisgruber--also undertook an analysis of how to combat systemic racism at Princeton and beyond.  The urgency of this work was underscored by the killings of Black citizens by police officers, the protests that followed across the country, and the persistent race-based inequalities highlighted by the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on communities of color.

Stating that "Racial justice demands the scholarly and practical attention of this University," on September 2, President Eisgruber issued the set of recommendations that came our of this summer's conversations.  Spanning the nitty gritty of University operations, anti-racism educational opportunities, and discussions on creating a new continuing education program, the recommendations acknowledge that, "to care about eradicating systemic racism, one has to care about the systems."

In that spirit, this issue of shares stories of programs already underway at the University to increase the diversity of students in higher education, from college preparation to PhD programs.  We also include a series of articles to commemorate 50 years of excellence in environmental research and some policy and politics podcasts featuring Princeton faculty.

Diversity in Higher Education

Journalism students via zoom


Thirty-seven students from 20 U.S. states participated in the 2020 Princeton Summer Journalism Program (PSJP), which was held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program, which is aimed at college-bound, low-income students, steeps them in rigorous journalistic practice, then guides them through the college admissions process during their senior year of high school. Learn more and read about a participant's experience.


In its 20th year, Princeton University Preparatory Program sustains its commitment to low-income, college-bound students in Mercer County

For two decades, PUPP has provided comprehensive college preparation to low-income, high-achieving students from five Mercer County high schools. Students are selected to become PUPP scholars through a competitive admissions process during ninth grade, and they participate in the program through high school graduation and their transition to college. Many of the students — who hail from Ewing, Hamilton, Lawrence Township, Princeton and Trenton — are the first in their families to attend college. Learn more.


Trenton students sample STEM fields at Princeton University Materials Academy

This summer, the Princeton University Materials Academy (PUMA) welcomed 15 New Jersey high school students from underrepresented backgrounds for a three-week virtual summer program that focused on materials science and engineering. PUMA’s goal is to recruit underrepresented minorities and females — most of whom attend Trenton Central High School and other area high schools — and engage and excite them about materials science and engineering. The program also encourages the students to pursue STEM careers. Learn more.


Two Pre-doc fellows
Princeton’s new pre-doctoral fellowship aims to help diversify academic pipeline

Princeton’s Graduate School has launched a new predoctoral fellowship, which will fund students to study at Princeton for a year before they enroll at Princeton as first-year Ph.D. students. College students from groups historically underrepresented in higher education are especially encouraged to apply for the new fellowship, which is among University efforts to increase diversity on campus and within academia. Learn more.


50 Years of Environmental Excellence

Princeton’s vital research across the spectrum of environmental issues is today and will continue to be pivotal to solving some of humanity’s toughest problems. The University’s impact is built on a long, deep, broad legacy of personal commitment, intellectual leadership, perseverance and innovation. These articles are part of a series to present the sweep of Princeton’s environmental excellence over the past half-century.


Tough, timely and team-driven: 50 years of energy research

Yueh-Lin (Lynn) Loo’s moment of clarity came while sitting at a long wooden conference table at Princeton University’s Maeder Hall Auditorium. The director of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment was leading a meeting with a renowned Princeton political scientist, psychologist, economist and esteemed engineering colleagues, who were all gathered to discuss a massive problem: how to provide energy to the world while simultaneously eliminating greenhouse gas emissions. “Seeing so many experts at the table, many of whom had never worked on energy before, showed me that we had built something whose sum was greater than the individual parts,” said Loo.  Learn more.

Water, drought and flooding

Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe has dedicated his career to understanding water so humanity can better manage it. He is among the founders of ecohydrology, a discipline that examines the roles of landscapes, plants and soil in the water cycle and is one of several Princeton faculty members who have tackled critical environmental problems involving water. Their tools and discoveries contribute to cleaning up
watersheds and inform policies to plan for water scarcity and flooding around the globe. Learn more.


World climate
Climate modeling at Princeton

Princeton climate researchers have led the computer modeling revolution of the past half-century. In climate models - sophisticated computer simulations running on the world’s fastest computers - the atmosphere, land surface and oceans are divided into three-dimensional blocks whose characteristics are understood and predicted with ever-improving resolution and sophistication. These behemoth undertakings — with over a million lines of computer code that would fill thousands of pages of printed text — replicate as many aspects of the Earth’s systems as possible. The effort is aimed at addressing one of humanity’s biggest challenges: climate change. Learn more.


arctic ice
Understand the past to understand the future: Climate science at Princeton

Enter the front doors of Guyot Hall, the 111-year-old building that houses the Department of Geosciences at Princeton. Pass the glass specimen cases and the lobby’s iconic model of planet Earth and head to room M56. There, beyond the rows of heavy-duty snow boots and bulky parkas, stands a walk-in freezer storing some of the rarest artifacts of modern climate science: ancient ice cores harvested from Antarctica. At more than 2 million years old, these are the oldest ice cores ever collected. Learn more.


Tiger in jungle
From muddy boots to mathematics:  Advancing the science of ecosystems and biodiversity

Captivated by birds at a young age, David Wilcove was in grade school when he became aware of the precipitous decline in the population of birds such as peregrine falcons and bald eagles, both victims of pesticide contamination. Wilcove, now a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and public affairs and the Princeton Environmental Institute, joined the Princeton faculty in 2001, becoming part of a remarkable legacy of scholars who, particularly during the past half-century, have been at the forefront of understanding and preserving ecosystems and biodiversity. The challenge of protecting Earth’s natural systems is now more urgent than ever. Learn more.


40 Years of Fuel Efficiency Standards

Comprehensive look at U.S. fuel economy standards shows big savings on fuel and emissions

In one of the first comprehensive assessments of the fuel economy standards in the United States, Princeton University researchers found that, over their 40-year history, the standards saved $5 trillion in fuel costs and prevented 14 billion metric tons of carbon from being released into the atmosphere, the equivalent of the United States eliminating its emissions from all sectors for nearly three years. Learn more.



University Podcasts on Politics and Policy

Politics and Polls logo

Catch up on recent episodes of Politics and Polls, as professors Julian Zelizer and Sam Wang debate and discuss politics and current events. Hear Jesse Wegman, of the New York Times, discuss the electoral college, political gridlock, and how to fix the system; political scientist Matt Grossmann talk about the rise of the modern conservative movement, its grassroots origins, and its state legislative strategy; and Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America, discuss censoring speech, “callout” culture, and freedom of expression during the Trump administration, and distrust in our public institutions.



Endnotes logo

August marked the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, which legally ended the use of sex as a qualification for the right to vote. In this episode, Corrine McConnaughy takes listeners back in time to what gave the movement legs, explaining how "coalition politics" were the lynchpin in women securing the right to vote.

Endnotes takes you behind the cover and through the pages of books and publications on politics, policy and more, written by faculty at Princeton's School of Public and International Affairs.