Azza Cohen ’16 was elected Young Alumni Trustee, chosen out of three finalists vying for the position.
Cohen will join Tumi Akinlawon '15, Brian Reilly '14 and Kanwal Matharu '13, and serve four years on the University's Board of Trustees. She will be replacing Angela Groves ’12 who ends her term on June 30, 2016.
The positions were established in 1969 to include representatives of the undergraduate community at the University on the Board.
Cohen is a columnist for The Daily Princetonian.
“I was really surprised,” Cohen said. “It was very surreal to me, it still is, it hasn’t really settled in yet. I am especially excited because my sister just got into Princeton so I feel like I want to make it [Princeton] a better experience for her, keeping her in mind.”
During the election process, the candidates were not allowed to campaign, but rather were elected on the basis of their biographies. This, Cohen noted, contributes to the sense of honor and appreciation she feels for the students who voted her into the position.
She noted she is looking forward to working on several areas that are important to her in her new capacity as a member of the board. The first will be exploring ways to express her passion for international service, a passion that she cultivated during her time as a Bridge Year India student. Fellow board member Reilly also attended Bridge Year, so Cohen looks forward to working with him in that realm. Cohen also spent much of her time as an undergraduate being involved in programming at the Pace Center and hopes to bring this experience to her role as a board member.
She added she regards her Princeton experience as one which will help her moving forward in this new role. “I think one of the skills I’ve gained is having tough but constructive conversations,” she said.
Her engagement with alumni in her capacity as a writer for the Prince has also prepared her well for the interactions she will have with board members, she explained. Particularly, stomaching the hate mail and negative responses she received after writing controversial opinion articles has prepared her for the potential of meeting fellow Board members with whom she might disagree, she said.
“I’m excited to learn from these people who, probably I disagree with a lot of them, but I also think the cool thing about being a Young Alumni Trustee is that you’ve just interacted with the University. I also hope to really advocate. I think that the Woodrow Wilson issue is not over,” she added.
As the term is four years long, she hopes to work to create a greater sense of continuity to discussions such as those regarding Wilson’s legacy, as she feels there is a tendency for conversations to stop once the school year ends. She plans to engage with younger students to foster this progression.
Another goal she wishes to accomplish is to emphasize that the arts have a place at Princeton and that they are not merely regarded as a hobby. Cohen, an aspiring filmmaker who participated in the production of the documentary film “Specks of Dust,” felt that she needed to look for outside help to explore her interest in film but wished that she could have found more support within the University’s curriculum.
“I would hope to make the arts also more of the Princeton experience,” she said.
She added that she believes the Young Alumni Trustees to be a great addition to the Board. However, she noted, she hopes to try to include graduate students on the board so as to bridge the gap between this community and that of the undergraduates.“I think that one of the things I’ve noticed at Princeton is the divide between graduate students and undergraduates, and that’s obviously not helpful,” she noted.
Cohen will attend graduate school at the National University of Ireland through the Mitchell Scholarship this coming fall.