The past year at the University was “blessed with a lot of highlights and a few lowlights,” President Shirley Tilghman told a crowd of alumni, students and parents in a conversation Saturday morning.
Tilghman began by giving a special welcome to Malcom Warnock ’25, who led Saturday’s P-Rade as the oldest living alumnus. She stressed how important it is that graduates like Warnock return to campus year after year and remain involved in the Princeton community.
“We are a better place for it,” she said.
Tilghman then recounted the aforementioned highlights and lowlights: She began by noting the awards earned by faculty and students over the past year, including a Nobel Prize in Economics for economics professor Christopher Sims, a Pulitzer Prize for poetry for creative writing professor Tracy Smith, and four Rhodes and five Marshall scholarships awarded to University students.
Another major highlight, Tilghman said, was the rezoning approval for construction of the University’s proposed Arts and Transit Neighborhood on the corner of University Place and Alexander Road. Construction of the facility, which requires moving the Dinky 460 feet, was a major source of contention between the University and Princeton Township and Borough.
“We desperately need this new space,” Tilghman said. “We are bursting at the seams in terms of students who are coming to Princeton wanting to engage in some kind of performing arts.” She added that when the facility is completed in five years, she thought that both the University and the community will see it as “a wonderful addition to our campus.”
Tilghman then commended the alumni for their part in the five-year-long Aspire Campaign that ultimately raised $1.75 billion dollars for the University. She acknowledged that the recession has been a difficult time for the school, but praised the loyalty of the University community.
“We decided that one thing we would not pull back on was our commitment to financial aid,” Tilghman explained. She credited the Aspire Campaign with helping keep the University’s no-loan financial program afloat.
The results of the campaign will be announced soon, but Tilghman indicated that they are promising. “I’m smiling, if that’s a hint,” she told the crowd. To date, 75 percent of all living undergraduate alumni have made at least one contribution to the campaign. In February, University officials said the campaign had raised 94 percent of its target.
“Campaigns allow you to set a series of goals and then realize them in real time,” she said. According to Tilghman, the campaign has helped fund a series of initiatives that did not exist five years ago, including the Bridge Year program, the certificate in neuroscience, and a number of abroad opportunities like the Global Seminars.
Moving forward, Tilghman expressed excitement about the implementation of the web-based educational program Coursera. Beginning in the fall, some University classes will be offered online.
“Today we are at the cusp of having a chance to use technology to improve not just what we can make available to the world, but to make improvements in the way we teach here on the Princeton campus,” Tilghman said. She explained that the online classes would not be a substitute for engagement with faculty, but would rather allow students to engage with course materials in more interesting and meaningful ways.
Tilghman concluded her update by explaining to the audience the rationale behind the ban on freshman affiliation with Greek organizations, the current gender ratio and opportunities for women and the reinstitution of the early admission program before taking questions from the audience.
She acknowledged the higher-than expected yield for the Class of 2016, but said it would not affect the quality of education offered to the incoming freshmen. “As the old phrase goes, this is a high class problem to have and we’re happy to have it,” she said.
When asked by an alumnus about the lowlights of the year, Tilghman pointed to the “level of anxiety [surrounding] what is happening in Europe.” The financial difficulty in the continent, according to Tilghman, has made the University very conservative in budgeting commitments in the area.
The last question raised touched on what Tilghman said was an “extremely timely” matter. One alumnus asked Tilghman about the “siege on the concept of a liberal arts education,” especially during a time when job prospects are increasingly sparse upon graduation. Tilghman said this question will be the topic of her Commencement address on Tuesday.
A broad education, Tilghman said, would allow one to have “the capacity, the flexibility, the nimbleness to move from one kind of profession to another.”
“I am going to try and make the argument that nothing would prepare you better for economic hard times than the kind of education that we provide here in a university like Princeton,” she said.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/06/03/31019/