The Daily Princetonian sat down with Grant Storey ’17, who has recently been named the Latin salutatorian for the Class of 2017, to discuss his academic interests and post-graduation plans. Storey, a computer science major from Berkeley, Calif., will deliver the traditional salutatory oration in Latin at the University’s Commencement ceremony on Tuesday, June 6.
The Daily Princetonian: How did you find out that you were selected Latin salutatorian?
Grant Storey: A week and a half or so ago, I met with the Dean of the College, Dean Dolan, and she let me know that I’d been nominated as salutatorian. After it was officially ratified yesterday, they published the news.
DP: How did you react when you heard the news?
GS: I mean, it’s a great honor. That was, I think, the biggest thing for me. I feel incredibly honored to be recognized in this way. I’ve been very involved in classics in Princeton starting freshman year even. To a certain extent the way the salutatorian is chosen involves some input from classics faculty, and I’m very friendly with some of them. So it was wonderful to know that they really think well enough of me to grant me this honor and trust me enough to give a speech in Latin. I guess really the first thing I thought was that my dear grandmother whom I love very much — that’s a little corny — that she’d be really proud since she’s been very supportive of my efforts in Princeton. That was the first thought — she’d be really happy to hear. In general, it’s just a great honor to be able to give a speech with Jin who’s just an amazing person.
DP: You’re a computer science major, but heavily involved in classics as well. How did you get interested in this mix of academic fields?
GS: In high school, the Latin program was fantastic and there were two really good teachers involved. When compared with the other language options, it seemed like the best option. In the first year it was very rigorous, but I fell in love with the language and the history and really enjoyed that. I took four years of Latin in high school. When I came to Princeton, I was still interested and decided to continue. I just love classical languages and literature and also a lot of the linguistics behind it. I took a class on Indo-European languages with Professor Katz, and we didn’t talk about the specifics of how you speak a lot of these languages, but we spoke on how they relate to each other and descend from each other. I find that stuff fascinating. Every class – Latin, Greek, deciphering ancient languages — I’ve just enjoyed immensely. In high school, I found that I really had a passion for computer science. People often ask me why I decided to be a computer science major instead of a classics major, and at the end of the day, sometimes with classics I think “Ok, I need to take a break from this,” and with computer science I’m always interested and engaged. I don’t feel like, “Ok I need to take a breather and stop reading all this philosophy.” I found that there is a lot of overlap and opportunities to use these newer computational techniques to analyze classical texts… There haven’t been a lot of people who are trained in both computer science and the classics working on these areas, so I can do interesting innovative research. People ask, “Why hasn’t anyone else done this before?” Well, not a lot of scholars have my set of intersecting interests, but it’s definitely a field that’s growing a lot.
DP: In your four years studying in Princeton, what have been some of the most valuable things that you’ve learned academically or otherwise?
GS: I think the biggest thing has been to make sure that in every class I’m doing my best. I’ve certainly taken classes for interest that were more difficult and less difficult, but regardless of whether this was an incredibly difficult 300-level course in Lucretius’s “De Rerum Natura” or one of the 200-level AST courses because I’m really interested in mapping and stellar cartography, in all these cases, my main goal is just to work my hardest, try my best, try to make sure that all of my work reflects the best of my ability, and not be particularly concerned or consumed by “Oh what grade is this paper going to get?” Trying not to focus on external validation as much, but focus on being happy with what I’ve done and being proud of my work. I think that has served me very well. In terms of my academic work in Princeton, I try to make sure that I’m happy with what I’m doing and am not just trying to hit external goals or deadlines.
DP: What will you miss the most about Princeton?
GS: Obviously I’m going to miss my friends and all these relationships that I’ve built up being estranged by distance. Beyond that, being an undergrad in Princeton has allowed me to pursue whatever I’m interested in. I’m doing classics and computer science, but I also take history classes. I mentioned a class on mapping the universe. When I’m interested in a class I’m able to take it with amazing faculty in this wonderful environment in Princeton. Going on to grad school, I’ll be sort of focusing on my specific area of research and have fewer opportunities to just say, “Hey! I’m going to take a class on the history of the Napoleonic wars” since that’s a topic I’m interested in. In the future, if I want to learn something outside of my area, I’ll have to do self-study and won’t have access to quite the same incredible academic resources that Princeton has.
DP: What are you most looking forward to after graduating?
GS: One of the good things about graduate school is that I will be able to focus on what I’m doing and have a bit more time to work on my own research projects and not have to worry about my four to five classes. I’ve been working on my senior thesis and this other research project on privacy security and ad blocking. Between the two of those, there’s been a lot of research work and doing that in addition to my classes has been a little bit stressful. Being in an environment where research is the primary focus will be good. Also at Cornell there’s a strong teaching component, so I’ll be a preceptor and I do really enjoy helping others and supporting people in their academic endeavors. That’ll be a good opportunity to work with undergrads and help them through their journeys in computer science.