Princeton University: In the Nation’s Service and the Service of Humanity
Princeton University-Theknowledgereview

An Abridgement of Princeton’s Legacy

Princeton is one of the oldest universities in the United States and one of the most prestigious in the world. Founded in Elizabeth, N.J., in 1746, the college moved to Newark one year later and in 1756 to its current location in Princeton, N.J. It was known as the College of New Jersey until 1896, when expanded program offerings brought the college university status and the name of the institution was formally changed to Princeton University.

One of nine colonial colleges founded in British North America before the American Revolution in 1776, Princeton and six other colonial colleges are part of the Ivy League athletic conference.

Princeton’s central campus consists of approximately 9 million square feet of space in more than 190 buildings on 500 acres. The University also accommodates more than 1,000 units, totaling more than 1.2 million square feet, of rental housing for graduates and faculty/staff. The University owns more than 1,040 acres in the Municipality of Princeton, more than 860 acres in Plainsboro Township and more than 520 acres in West Windsor Township. The University is renowned for its architecture, which integrates a wide range of styles dating from its founding in the 18th century to contemporary structures such as the Lewis Library designed by Frank Gehry and the new Lewis Center for the Arts that opened in the fall of 2017. The University, with approximately 6,600 benefits-eligible employees, is one of the region’s largest private employers. It brings close to 800,000 visitors and approximately $2 billion in economic activity to the region each year. The University provides its students with academic, extracurricular and other resources — in a residential community committed to diversity — that prepare them for positions of leadership and lives of service in many fields of human endeavor.

Living up to its unofficial motto, “In the Nation’s Service and the Service of Humanity,” Princeton University has educated thousands of individuals who have dedicated their lives to public service, including two U.S. presidents (Woodrow Wilson and James Madison); hundreds of U.S. and state legislators (the House of Representatives, for example, has housed a Princeton alumnus every year since it first met in 1789); and 44 governors, including 11 New Jersey governors. Each year, many members of the student body, faculty, staff and local alumni volunteer in community service projects throughout the region. And the University, as an institution, supports many service initiatives.

As a global research university, Princeton seeks to achieve the highest levels of distinction in the discovery and transmission of knowledge and understanding. At the same time, Princeton is distinctive among research universities in its commitment to undergraduate teaching. Interdisciplinary work is vital to Princeton and is reflected in a full spectrum of academic programs.

Mission Statement

Princeton University advances learning through scholarship, research, and teaching of unsurpassed quality, with an emphasis on undergraduate and doctoral education that is distinctive among the world’s great universities, and with a pervasive commitment to serve the nation and the world.

The University’s defining characteristics and aspirations include:

  • a focus on the arts and humanities, the social sciences, the natural sciences, and engineering, with world-class excellence across all of its departments;
  • a commitment to innovation, free inquiry, and the discovery of new knowledge and new ideas, coupled with a commitment to preserve and transmit the intellectual, artistic, and cultural heritage of the past;
  • a faculty of world-class scholars who are engaged with and accessible to students and devoted to the thorough integration of teaching and research;
  • a focus on undergraduate education that is unique for a major research university, with a program of liberal arts that simultaneously prepares students for meaningful lives and careers, broadens their outlooks, and helps form their characters and values;
  • a graduate school that is unusual in its emphasis on doctoral education, while also offering high quality masters programs in selected areas;
  • a human scale that nurtures a strong sense of community, invites high levels of engagement, and fosters personal communication;
  • exceptional student aid programs at the undergraduate and graduate level that ensure Princeton is affordable to all;
  • a commitment to welcome, support, and engage students, faculty, and staff with a broad range of backgrounds and experiences, and to encourage all members of the University community to learn from the robust expression of diverse perspectives;
  • a vibrant and immersive residential experience on a campus with a distinctive sense of place that promotes interaction, reflection, and lifelong attachment;
  • a commitment to prepare students for lives of service, civic engagement, and ethical leadership; and
  • an intensely engaged and generously supportive alumni community.

Janet Currie: An Eminent Economist and a Humanitarian

Janet Currie is Chair of the Department of Economics at Princeton University, where she is the Henry Putnam Professor of Economics and Public Affairs. Besides, she is the co-director of Princeton’s Center for Health and Wellbeing and also co-directs the Program on Families and Children at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Her research focuses on health and wellbeing, especially of children. Currie has also researched on a wide range of topics, including socioeconomic differences in child health, environmental threats to children’s health and the long-term effects of poor health in early childhood. She has written about early intervention programs, programs to expand health insurance and improve health care, public housing, and food and nutrition programs.

Currie is considered an expert on the topic of Head Start program. She says, “I realized that economics is really more of a method, or a way of thinking, than a set of topics, and I have implemented that by working on issues that can benefit from the tools of economics research.”

Ever since, for over three decades, Currie has used the methods of an economist, her analytical skills and the openness to new ideas to offer significant insights into the health and well-being of children. In the terms of economics, she studies the factors that affect children’s human capital — the intangible assets such as health, skills and knowledge that play a role in life outcomes.

She currently serves on the Board of Reviewing Editors for Science magazine, the Advisory Board for the Journal of Economic Perspectives, and serves as Associate Editor for the Journal of Population Economics. She has previously held editorial roles for numerous economic peer-reviewed journals, including the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the Journal of Health Economics, and the Journal of Public Economics.

She is also a member of various professional associations, including an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), member of the Advisory Committee on Labor and Income Statistics for Statistics Canada, and a fellow of the Econometric Society. She is past president of the Society of Labor Economists and previously served as vice-president of the American Economic Association. She has also served a consultant for the National Health Interview Survey and the National Longitudinal Surveys, and served on the advisory board of the National Children’s Study. Currie is a Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, the Society of Labor Economists, and of the Econometric Society, and has an honorary degree from the University of Lyon.

About Erudite Princetonians

The ability of the University to achieve its purposes depends upon the quality and integrity of the academic work that its faculty, staff, and students perform. Academic freedom can flourish only in a community of scholars which recognizes that intellectual integrity, with its accompanying rights and responsibilities, lies at the heart of its mission. In spring 2016, the faculty (including visitors and part-time faculty) totaled 1,238, including 499 professors, 101 associate professors, 175 assistant professors, 15 instructors, 325 lecturers and 123 visitors. Seventy-seven percent of the professorial faculty is tenured. Excluding visitors, 384 members of the faculty are women, and 258 are identified as members of minority groups. There are 157 tenured women on the faculty as of spring 2016. Approximately 53 percent of Princeton’s tenured faculty members were promoted to tenure while at Princeton; the others were hired with tenure from other institutions.

All faculty members at Princeton are encouraged to teach, as well as engage in research. Faculty members work closely with undergraduates in the supervision of junior-year independent work and senior theses. Ten members of the current Princeton faculty (including emeritus) are recipients of the Nobel Prize. Princeton faculty and staff members are frequently named MacArthur Fellows and receive other notable awards in their fields.

Founded in 1826, the Alumni Association of Nassau Hall was organized “to promote the interests of the College and the friendly intercourse of its graduates.” The university has graduated many notable alumni. With first president of the Alumni Association (and fourth President of the United States) James Madison, Class of 1771, at its helm, the Alumni Association immediately began to engage Princetonians in organized alumni activity. Approximately 190 years later, the Alumni Association of Princeton University, with more than 90,000 undergraduate and graduate alumni members, continues to thrive.

It has been associated with 41 Nobel laureates, 21 National Medal of Science winners, 14 Fields Medalists, 5 Abel Prize winners, 10 Turing Award laureates, five National Humanities Medal recipients, 209 Rhodes Scholars, 139 Gates Cambridge Scholars and 126 Marshall Scholars. Two U.S. Presidents, 12 U.S. Supreme Court Justices (three of whom currently serve on the court) and numerous living billionaires and foreign heads of state are all counted among Princeton’s alumni body. Princeton has also graduated many prominent members of the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Cabinet, including eight Secretaries of State, three Secretaries of Defense and two of the past four Chairs of the Federal Reserve.

Princeton alumni are prominent in many fields, from academics to business, in public service in government and the non-profit world, the sciences and the arts. A few notable alumni are Michelle Obama, former first lady of the United States; Jeff Bezos, chief executive officer of Amazon; and Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google.

Scholarly Courses Linking Your Passion with Education

The central purposes of a university are the pursuit of truth, the discovery of new knowledge through scholarship and research, the teaching and general development of students, and the transmission of knowledge and learning to society at large. Princeton’s curriculum encourages students to explore many disciplines and to develop a deep understanding in one area of concentration.

Students apply to Princeton University, not to individual departments, programs or schools. Once enrolled, students may pursue either the Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) or the Bachelor of Science in Engineering (B.S.E.) degree. Within these degree programs, students can choose from among 37 concentrations (computer science offers both A.B. and B.S.E.) and 53 interdepartmental certificate programs. The A.B. includes concentrations in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the School of Architecture.

During their first two years at Princeton, students in the A.B. program are encouraged to explore the curriculum. They are required to complete one or two courses in each of seven general areas: epistemology and cognition, ethical thought and moral values, historical analysis, literature and the arts, quantitative reasoning, laboratory science and technology, and social analysis. All A.B. students must demonstrate proficiency in English composition through a one-semester writing seminar. They also must become proficient in a foreign language. Princeton offers courses in more than 18 foreign languages. In the spring of their sophomore year, students choose a major to pursue in their junior and senior years.

The B.S.E. is granted by the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Approximately 25 percent of each class is enrolled in the B.S.E. program. Engineering at Princeton is taught within the context of a liberal arts approach to education. Engineering students are required to complete at least seven Princeton courses in the humanities and social sciences. Because engineering disciplines evolve and change, much of the teaching of engineering and applied science at Princeton is directed toward mastering fundamental principles: the why, and not just the how to.

Whether they are in the A.B. program or the B.S.E. program, during their junior and senior years, all students conduct independent research in their home department, culminating in the senior thesis, working one-on-one with a faculty mentor. Some students conduct their research in the library or the lab. Others travel to do field research or undertake a creative project such as a novel or a series of paintings.

The freshman seminars and the precept system are two defining components of a Princeton education. Limited to 15 students and led by some of their most distinguished professors, approximately 70 freshman seminars are offered yearly, each hosted in one of their six residential colleges. In precepts, students are encouraged to voice their views and challenge each other to look at issues and ideas from new perspectives. The student to faculty ratio at Princeton is 5:1. From freshman seminars to senior theses, faculties are deeply engaged in undergraduate teaching, and they are readily available to students outside the classroom for individual conferences and informal conversations.

Whether through independent study, student-initiated seminars or lectures in emerging fields such as neuroscience, Princeton students have the flexibility to shape dynamic academic programs that prepare them for leadership and lives of service. Two of their most eminent courses are highlighted below:

Energy and the Environment

Developing sustainable energy sources and protecting the environment require a diversity of expertise, from science and technology to public policy and economics. Princeton engineers contribute particular strengths in materials science, nanotechnology, combustion science, water resources and environmental sensing. Beyond these areas, however, the school fosters collaboration between many fields, including the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences. That is the aim of the new Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment as well as the Siebel Energy Grand Challenge. Other key elements of these efforts are the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Engineering Research Center on Mid-Infrared Technologies for Health and the Environment.

The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

Woodrow Wilson School students are a diverse group of undergraduates and graduates representing different backgrounds and life experiences, yet each enters the School with a demonstrated interest in public policy. Guiding them is an impressive faculty whose research produces knowledge on which sound public policy is based.

The best indicator of their success is the school’s alumni. Woodrow Wilson School graduates are leaders in public, nonprofit and private sectors around the globe — living examples of the University’s unofficial motto, “Princeton in the Nation’s Service and the Service of Humanity.”

Career Opportunities for Students

Each year, the Office of Career Services surveys the undergraduate senior class regarding their post-graduation plans. The Employer Engagement and Outreach teams develop relationships with employers in a wide range of industries to identify and promote job/internship opportunities for all students.  The on-campus recruiting program gives students the opportunity to attend information sessions and interviews without leaving the campus community.

Financial Aid Programs

Princeton’s aid program is designed to encourage all qualified students — regardless of financial circumstances — to consider applying for admission to Princeton.

Reflected in Princeton’s financial aid program is their commitment to equality of opportunity. Princeton admission is need-blind — there is no disadvantage in the admission process for financial aid applicants. This ensures a continued and growing enrollment of a diverse group of students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. If offered admission, Princeton is sure to meet 100 percent of your demonstrated financial need with a combination of grant aid and a campus job.  Princeton is one of a handful of universities that applies the same policy to international students.

Princeton’s financial aid program is recognized as one of the most generous in the country. They determine a family’s ability to pay using their own need formula, with fair and generous individual results. Princeton’s no-loan policy replaces student loans with grant aid that students do not pay back — this makes it possible to graduate with little to no debt. Aid is available to all qualified applicants, regardless of their nationality.

Pursue your passions, discover new interests, and thrive at Princeton

Beyond the classroom, students have countless avenues to explore new interests, connect with others and build community in ways that both support and challenge them. From dodgeball to chocolate making, there’s an opportunity for every student to find an activity that matches their interest and shapes their Princeton experience. With more than 300 student organizations, 38 sports clubs, 15 chaplaincies, and several campus centers, the opportunities for students to explore their interests abound. Major annual events include:

Opening Exercises

The University marks the beginning of each academic year with Opening Exercises in the University Chapel. The interfaith service includes an address by the president, and the recognition of academic achievements of undergraduate students.

First-year students enter the chapel with classmates in their residential college and are joined by Trustees, faculty, and administrators who process in academic regalia. Following the ceremony, freshmen participate in a “Pre-rade” walking from the chapel through FitzRandolph Gate on Nassau Street, officially entering the campus to start their undergraduate experience and to be greeted by fellow Princetonians.


Reunions weekend attracts about 25,000 alumni, family and friends for walks, talks, community service projects, Alumni-Faculty Forums, picnics, parties, concerts, dancing, meeting old friends and making new ones. One of the highlights is the annual “P-rade,” in which alumni march through campus class by class in a continuous procession that often lasts around four hours.


Princeton traces its founding to a royal charter granted on October 22, 1746, by King George the Second of England. The first Commencement Exercises were held in 1748, in Newark, and then home of the College of New Jersey, as Princeton was originally called. Six students were graduated at the first Commencement; in 2016, approximately 1,260 seniors received undergraduate degrees.

One of Princeton’s first graduate students was James Madison 1771, later the fourth president of the United States. He remained at the college after graduation to continue his studies with President John Witherspoon, who was the only college president as well as the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence. Systematic graduate instruction was begun in the 1870s, and the Graduate School, as it is known today, was formally organized in 1901. In 2016, more than 800 recipients of advanced degrees were recognized at Commencement.

Princeton’s Commencements have been held in late spring only since 1844. Before then the ceremony took place in the fall because the College was in session all summer long. Since the College moved to Princeton in 1756, Commencement has been held in a variety of locations on or near campus, including Alexander Hall, the First Presbyterian Church, and Nassau Hall, but since 1922 the front lawn of Nassau Hall (known as front campus) has been the site of Commencement, weather permitting.

Princeton hosts two Model United Nations conferences, PMUNC in the fall for high school students and PICSim in the spring for college students. It also hosts the Princeton Invitational Speech and Debate tournament each year at the end of November. Princeton also runs Princeton Model Congress, an event that is held once a year in mid-November. The 4-day conference has high school students from around the country as participants.

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