The Undergraduate Student Government recently launched the Princeton Perspective Project, an initiative that challenges the culture of “effortless perfection” on campus by sharing student stories and opening up new dialogues, according to a USG email sent to the student body. The project was organized as a joint student-administrator enterprise between USG, the Office of the Dean of the College and the Office of the Vice President for Campus Life.
According to its website, the project’s mission is to show that, contrary to the popularized ideal on campus, no one is perfect. The website explains that the project encourages a new, positive perspective on realistic failures and stresses through a community of supportive peers and administrators.
“When I come back as a Princeton alum five years from now, I want Princeton to be a place where students feel comfortable talking about their failures and that they recognize that their failures are okay,” USG president Shawon Jackson ’15 said. Jackson is head of the student committee that helped to put together the Perspective Project.
Billy Arendt ’16, the marketing team leader, said he hopes the project will change students’ perspectives on the University so that they will see their setbacks as growth opportunities instead of failures.
“So many of us succeeded in so many things in high school, [but] things may not go your way,” he said. “But you can persevere and continue on to create a new legacy.”
Associate Director of the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning Nic Voge said that the project is also meant to help students develop coping strategies for when they feel overwhelmed or frustrated. Students can find success by working collaboratively, utilizing resources and learning to manage time better.
“That’s what learning is: being asked to do things never done before and learning to cope with them in every realm —intellectually, emotionally, motivationally,” he said. “That Princeton exercises those muscles in students is precisely what makes a Princeton education so valuable. It couldn’t be valuable without being difficult, and it really is difficult for everybody.”
Voge also said the project is meant to dispel the notion that students can achieve excellence without effort.
“There are a lot of pathways to success at Princeton, so long as students are resourceful and mindful and purposeful and they put in effort,” Voge said.
The website —the first installment of the project —launched publicly on Monday.Jackson said that the website is intended as a safe space for students to share their personal stories through narratives and videos, as well as to connect students to resources on and off campus.
The committee also plans to host student discussions and a speaker series, beginning with an event on Nov. 13 in collaboration with the Princeton Women’s Mentorship Program. Rachel Simmons, author of "Odd Girl Out,"will be coming to campus to talk about why she decided to drop her Rhodes Scholarship in the spirit of finding success on her own terms.
The first promotional activity for the project was a social media campaign in which over 100 participants volunteered to have their headshots taken for a flyer. The flyers, uploaded as their Facebook profile pictures, read, “Same Princeton, New Perspective” to promote visibility for the initiative.
“Everyone on this campus is having their own personal struggles, and you just want to be a peer and a fellow sympathizer for them,” Victoria Gu ’18, who participated in the social media campaign, said. “[The project] is relatable to everyone no matter what their situation is.”
USG and the administration began organizing the campaign last April. The motivation behind the project stemmed from the struggles many students and campus administrators said they were experiencing, Jackson explained.
“[After] hearing these stories of students who are in our offices and who think that they’re the only ones who are experiencing anxiety, struggle, setbacks and failures, we realized that what students have to say to each other carries more weight than something an adult might say to them,” Tara Kinsey, associate dean in the Office of the Dean of the College and the Office of the Vice President for Campus Life, said. Kinsey was another administrator involved in the project.
Jackson said the committee chose to launch the campaign right after fall break since it is halfway through the semester and students are receiving midterm grades, many of which can cause feelings of disappointment and discouragement.
“We’re hoping we can push back against those feelings and really show people that they are valued, that they are validated and that they can do well,” he said.