Jill Dolan, Dean of the College, Princeton University
Princeton students always anticipate the next thing, and this semester promises to be no different. But I hope as you proceed through your courses, your independent work, and your other activities this spring, you’ll take just a moment to savor what you’re doing now. Alumni surveys ten years after graduation tend to suggest that alums remember their thesis experience fondly. Your thesis might not seem such a happy experience right now if you’re a senior working on a deadline but at some point, all that work will be tinged with nostalgia and the pride of completion.
But despite the stress of the moment, you can still try to savor the experience of research and writing, of collaboration in labs and studios, of chasing down creative ideas that might bear fruit. Once this exercise is complete, when will you next have the time or the excellent mentorship with which to pursue such an ambitious independent project?
For those of you who are not yet seniors, I urge you toward a similar sense of present-ness, even as you make decisions about your future. What moves you now in your studies? Which courses excite your passions and ideas? Which of your studies and co-curricular activities moves you and why? Pay attention to the signals you get from your work (and from your play) and use them as information as you make your choices about concentrations and other ways to become involved on campus.
If you’re a first- or second-year student, consider an international or domestic summer internship. Our offices—International Internship Placements and the Pace Center—work hard to find compatible, challenging summer experiences for all interested Princeton students.
Or consider applying for a Global Seminar. These six-week international experiences offer a terrific opportunity to learn with Princeton faculty in an intensive, immersive environment. I’ve taught a Global Seminar (with Prof. Stacy Wolf) on performance studies in Galway, Ireland, twice now. Both times, the course proved one of the highlights of my teaching career.
You might also consider a summer of service, working, for example, with underprivileged K-12 students at Princeton Blairstown or through a PACE Center-operated community engagement project.
I don’t mean to send you mixed signals; I’m urging you toward summer options as the spring semester is just beginning while also suggesting you concentrate on the now. I do encourage you to plan ahead for the opportunities Princeton makes available to everyone (financial aid options, for instance, abound in all cases).
But as you do, be sure to also stay present to the richness of your courses and activities this semester, so that you can balance the texture and nuance of your current engagements with the possibilities of the future.
And as always, please stay in touch. Come visit me in West College—come see my unicorn companion (a piece of sculpture by Kemy Lim ’15 that graces my office)—or email me with your news.
My best, Dean D