Princeton welcomes most diverse class of graduate students to campus

Thursday, Sep 12, 2019
by Emily Aronson, Office of Communications

More than 650 new graduate students were welcomed to Princeton University this week. The master’s and doctoral candidates represent the most diverse group of incoming graduate students to Princeton. 

Kicking off Graduate Student Orientation in Richardson Auditorium on Sept. 9, President Christopher L. Eisgruber said the University looks forward to the infusion of creativity, innovation and energy that graduate students bring each year.

“I’m also thrilled that by many different metrics this is the most diverse class of graduate students ever admitted and matriculated to Princeton,” he said. 

The graduate students came to Princeton after earning undergraduate degrees at 277 different colleges and universities all over the world. Forty-two percent are international citizens representing nearly 50 countries. Of the incoming students from the United States, 43% are minorities and 28% identify as low-income or first-generation college students. 

Eisgruber said graduate school will provide students with important time for focused study and research. He advised students to “connect with each other, get lost in thought, and contribute to the tremendous energy and imagination that we know is in this room.”

“Let your minds run in ways that you don’t quite know where you are going,” he said. “Discover new things and make the innovations that will then make a difference in the future of your discipline.”

Dean of the Graduate School Sarah-Jane Leslie, the Class of 1943 Professor of Philosophy, told students to believe in themselves as much as faculty and staff believe in them. 

“Some number of years ago I was sitting where you are all now and wondering, ‘Oh my goodness what have I gotten myself into,’” said Leslie, who earned her Ph.D. from Princeton in 2007. 

She continued: “The core of graduate education is to support you and allow you to create new knowledge. As both a dean and faculty member I get to see firsthand how graduate students’ innovations, intellectual restlessness and commitment to public service propel this University forward. … We take very seriously our commitment to enable each and every one of you to flourish.”

A message of support was woven through Graduate Student Orientation, which included panel discussions with professors and current graduate students, welcome lunches for graduate students of color and LGBTQIA students, professional development workshops, campus walking tours, and a student activities fair.

On Sept. 7-8, the first annual retreat for the Graduate Scholars Program (GSP) fostered connections among 50 students from diverse backgrounds. GSP is a new first-year experience program to enhance academic and social support and build community during graduate students’ years at Princeton. 

“Our goal is to welcome you warmly. We are so excited about you being here,” said Renita Miller, associate dean for access, diversity and inclusion in the Graduate School. “Princeton is a place where you belong. You are going to make wonderful and great contributions to your fields and to your [academic] departments. Princeton is invested in your success. It’s not just one person or one team. It is embedded [at the University] from the top down.”

Cole Crittenden, deputy dean of the Graduate School and also a Princeton graduate alumnus, told the group that Princeton’s mission is to attract and retain the best and the brightest from all walks of life. “You are an important part of that,” he said. 

Ian Ocampo, a first-year graduate student in geosciences, said he appreciated the built-in network of students, faculty and staff that GSP offered.  

“All of my success so far has been due to my support system,” said Ocampo, who completed his undergraduate degree at Sonoma State University in California. “If I want to keep succeeding, I thought I should be part of a group like GSP. This weekend made it clear that everyone at the Graduate School is invested in our success.”

The GSP retreat included a workshop on mentorship, a panel on the graduate student experience and teambuilding activities. Students also connected with scholars from across the academic disciplines.

“Meeting other women in STEM fields is really important to me,” said Cindy Wang, a first-year graduate student in atmospheric and oceanic sciences. Wang had previously attended a Prospective Ph.D. Preview (P3), where she met with faculty, staff and students and learned more about the admission process, graduate student life and academic expectations. 

During a Sept. 8 breakfast in Prospect House, Lena Sabidussi, who is studying mechanical and aerospace engineering, talked with Mélena Laudig, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in religion. At a nearby table, Rebecca Kellawan, a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Architecture, connected with anthropology graduate student Brian Yuan over their shared interests. 

“I really appreciate the interdisciplinary approach at Princeton,” said Jonathan Romero, a first-year graduate student in Spanish and Portuguese. “I’m excited to meet people from other fields and get the best out of all the resources that Princeton offers.”

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