diversity

Princeton supports international students

A letter from Christopher Eisgruber – President of Princeton University, with emphasis added:

To the Princeton community,

Many of you have written to express concerns about the recent federal executive order barring entry to the United States for refugees and for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries. I share those concerns. Since its early days, when the College of New Jersey recruited a transformative president from Scotland, this University has depended on America’s ability to attract and engage with talented people from around the world. Princeton today benefits tremendously from the presence of extraordinary individuals of diverse nationalities and faiths, and we will support them vigorously.

The University has taken steps already to assist Princeton students and scholars who are affected by the executive order, including a small number who are currently traveling abroad and face difficulties returning to the United States. Dean of the Faculty Deborah Prentice and Dean of the Graduate School Sanjeev Kulkarni have issued messages providing preliminary information about the order and its consequences. Staff members in the Davis International Center and elsewhere on campus are working around the clock to assess the full impact of the order and to aid and counsel members of our community, including those who are currently outside the United States.

The legal implications of the executive order have been evolving rapidly. My colleagues in the University administration will continue to monitor developments and identify appropriate ways to assist affected individuals. We will update the community as needed to ensure that our students, faculty, and staff know how to obtain information or help.

Princeton will also continue to safeguard personal information about non-citizens as it does for all of its students, faculty, and staff. As I noted in a previous letter to the community, Princeton has policies in place to protect the privacy of every member of the University community. We do not disclose private information about our students, faculty, or staff to law enforcement officers unless we are presented with a valid subpoena or comparably binding requirement.

As we seek to aid and protect individuals in our community, we are also supporting legislative efforts to assist non-citizens, including the BRIDGE Act that would extend protection for students covered by DACA (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy). Princeton’s current activity builds on a consistent history of advocacy for policies permitting foreign scholars and students to come to the United States. Much of that advocacy has occurred in cooperation with the Association of American Universities, of which Princeton is a member. The AAU has issued a statement of concern about the recent executive order, and we endorse that statement fully.

Princeton’s position on immigration policy issues reflects our conviction that every single person on this campus has benefited from the ability of people to cross borders in search of learning or a better life. That is emphatically true for me. My mother and her family arrived in this country as refugees escaping from a war-torn continent. They would have perished had they been denied visas. My father first came to America as an exchange student from a country that had recently been at war with the United States, and he then studied at Purdue University as a foreign graduate student.

Immigration has been a source of creativity and strength for this country throughout its history. It is indispensable to the mission and the excellence of America’s universities, which enhance this country’s economy, security, and well-being through the students they educate and the ideas they generate. Princeton will continue supporting students, faculty, and staff of all nationalities and faiths, and we will continue making the case for policies that simultaneously respect this nation’s legitimate security interests and allow for the free and vital movement of students and scholars across borders.

Christopher L. Eisgruber
President, Princeton University

January 29, 2017

Princeton teaching evaluations

Here’s what my Introductory Psychology students (mostly freshmen) had to say:

“Tracy Reuter was absolutely fantastic. She made the topics really interesting and relevant, and she was ALWAYS within reach (email, phone, in-person) if we ever had any questions. She is a fantastic teacher and anyone would be lucky to have her. I can’t stress enough how much she MADE this lab fantastic.”

“tracy rocks!!!”

“it was pretty fun”

“It was very fun and helpful and informative, keep it that way!”

“TRACY IS THE BEST PERSON EVER AND MADE LAB SO FUN I’M SO HAPPY I HAD HER AND SHE MADE LAB SO FUN”

“tracy is fantastic. she’s an absolutely fantastic teacher.”

And here’s what our head AI had to say to my advisor (who then immediately shared it with me, because he was so pleased):

“I thought you might be happy to hear that Tracy is a rockstar instructor. Her lab had the highest ratings — and the ratings were so high that I still felt pretty good about myself coming in second place. Also, Joel and I sat in on all of the 101 labs this week as audience members for the student presentations, and we were both impressed by how much enthusiasm Tracy elicited from her students. I expect that some of her virtuosity is due to dedication and personality, and some is due to your mentorship and example of outstanding teaching.”

It’s not every day that you get such positive affirmation, especially as a teacher! I’m glad to hear that my students learned a lot from the course and had fun in the process too. More importantly, I learned which teaching methods worked well and which methods I can improve for next time. For example, our ice-breaker activities on the first day really helped my students get to know each other. As a result, it was always easy to start a discussion on any topic and my students all collaborated beautifully for group projects. I learned that introducing new material via PowerPoint slides could help to lay the groundwork for the lab (e.g., What is cognitive control?) but this needed to include lots of engaging material and active participation (e.g., students responding aloud for a classic Stroop task). And I remembered how much I love working with first-year students. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it! Overall, I had a wonderful semester and am looking forward to teaching Developmental Psychology next year.

DACA

A message from the Princeton University President:

To the Princeton community,

Over the past two weeks, many people on campus and beyond have expressed concerns about the future of Princetonians covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which permits undocumented students to continue their studies here without fear of deportation.  I appreciate these concerns and share them.  While we cannot know at this point what will happen in the coming months, the president-elect said during his campaign that he might end DACA and deport students who had been protected by it.

That would be a tragic mistake.  DACA is a wise, humane, and beneficial policy.  It enables law-abiding young people who have grown up in the United States to develop their talents and contribute productively to this country, which is their home.  Princeton University has consistently supported DACA, and I both hope and believe that the policy can be sustained.  Though I usually do not sign petitions or mass letters, I joined a group of more than 100 college and university presidents who last week issued a statement supporting DACA.  That statement now has 300 signatories.

I have received a number of letters and petitions urging Princeton to do all it can to support its undocumented students if DACA is suspended or repealed.  We will do so to the maximum extent that the law allows.  Our efforts will be aided by policies already in place to protect the privacy and safety of every member of the University community.  For example, we do not disclose private information about our students, faculty, or staff to law enforcement officers unless we are presented with a subpoena or comparably binding requirement.  We are actively reviewing this policy and other policies and practices to ensure that they fully protect all of our students, faculty, and staff, including our DACA students.  We will also ensure that affected members of our community know where they can turn for guidance and support on matters related to immigration, including to the very knowledgeable staff of the Davis International Center.

Some of the correspondence reaching me has asked Princeton to declare itself a “sanctuary campus.”  Immigration lawyers with whom we have consulted have told us that this concept has no basis in law, and that colleges and universities have no authority to exempt any part of their campuses from the nation’s immigration laws.

As a constitutional scholar myself, I agree with that judgment and believe that it connects to one of the country’s most basic principles:  its commitment to the rule of law.  That principle deserves special attention in this uncertain and contentious time.  In a country that respects the rule of law, every person and every official, no matter what office he or she may hold, is subject to the law and must respect the rights of others.  Princeton University will invoke that principle in courts and elsewhere to protect the rights of its community and the individuals within it.  But we jeopardize our ability to make those arguments effectively, and may even put our DACA students at greater risk, if we suggest that our campus is beyond the law’s reach.

I hope you will permit me to close on a more personal note.  Both of my parents immigrated to this country, and I have devoted much of my adult life to writing and teaching about the rights of religious minorities.  I am deeply troubled by the hostility that was expressed toward immigrants and toward Muslims and other religious minorities during the recent election campaign.  But I am heartened by our community’s vigorous affirmation of the commitment to inclusivity that is fundamental not only to our University but also to America’s constitutional values.  I am glad to stand with other members of our community on behalf of DACA and the rights and well-being of all our students, faculty, and staff.

Chris Eisgruber

PSURE

This year, I’m also serving as a graduate student mentor for PSURE – the Princeton Summer Undergraduate Research Experience.

Here’s an overview of the program, from the PSURE website:

“The Graduate School offers an eight-week summer research experience for undergraduates who express a serious interest in pursuing a Ph.D. and following a career in college or university teaching and research. The purpose of the program is to motivate and prepare students to make competitive applications to research doctoral programs, with a view toward completing the Ph.D. and going on to teach and conduct original research.

Princeton is a member of The Leadership Alliance, a consortium of 32 institutions of higher learning dedicated to increasing diversity in doctoral programs and on college and university faculties. The Alliance collaborates on a number of programs, from undergraduate research, to faculty development, to national symposia, to develop underrepresented students into outstanding leaders and role models in academia, business and the public sector. The Summer Research Early Identification Program (SR-EIP) is the keystone of Princeton’s participation in the Alliance.”

Specifically, I’ll be working on the following aspects of the program:

  • Conduct weekly meetings with students to mentor and advise on the research process, writing and presenting research, and general questions and concerns of students.
  • Assist with academic support programs developed in collaboration with the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, the Writing Center, and other on-campus resources.
  • Attend and periodically facilitate lunchtime speaker series and other weekly events.
  • Collaborate with the Director of the PSURE program, Associate/Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, the Post-Doctoral Assistant, and Graduate School staff.

ReMatch

This year, I’m participating in the Princeton ReMatch research mentoring program. My mentee and I will work together on a research project this summer. (Stay tuned for more posts on that!)

Here’s the mission statement, from the ReMatch website:

Mission: To foster meaningful research collaborations between first and second year undergraduate students and graduate students from across all departments; support a diverse and inclusive research community at Princeton and beyond; provide undergraduates with early hands-on opportunities for mentored research to ignite and sustain their interest in research and prepare them for junior and senior independent work; train and support graduate students in becoming effective mentors and educators; strengthen Princeton’s research community.

ReMatch is a collaborative initiative between the Office of the Dean of the College (ODOC) and the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School (ODGS).”

legacy and diversity

From President Eisgruber:

I write today to update all members of the Princeton University community about recent events on campus, to describe important initiatives already underway or currently being considered to make Princeton a more welcoming and supportive community for all of its members, and to outline a process that the Board of Trustees will use to collect information about the record of Woodrow Wilson and his legacy on our campus.

For more than a year, Princeton—like many other colleges in this country—has been the site of intense and often emotional discussions about racial injustice.  These discussions emerged from and reflect disturbing national events, but they have often focused on the racial climate and the sense of inclusion at Princeton.

Although these conversations have often been difficult and uncomfortable, I have learned a great deal from them.  I have heard compelling testimony from students of color about the distress, pain, and frustration that is caused by a campus climate that they too often find unwelcoming or uncaring.  In some cases, these feelings are heightened or exacerbated by exchanges, frequently anonymous, on social media.  These problems are not unique to Princeton—on the contrary, similar stories are unfolding at many peer institutions—but that does not make them any more acceptable.  Our students deserve better, and Princeton must do better.  We must commit ourselves to make this University a place where students from all backgrounds feel respected and valued.

Important efforts are under way.  In December of last year, I charged a Special Task Force on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to develop recommendations that would enable our University to provide a more welcoming environment for students of all backgrounds.  The task force included students, faculty members, and administrators, and it had strong representation from student leaders who had participated in the heartfelt discussions that led to its creation.  We accepted every recommendation that the task force made—recommendations that ranged from additional funding for programming and for staff support in key areas to a review of our academic programs and requirements and our orientation programs for students and new faculty.  The task force also recommended that we strengthen and reconceptualize the Carl A. Fields Center to make it more responsive to the needs of the students it is intended to serve; we have begun that work, but we also are taking more immediate steps to designate areas within the Center for several cultural affinity groups.  Reports on our progress in carrying out the recommendations of the task force can be found on the Inclusive.Princeton.edu website.

The task force recommendations complement an earlier effort initiated by my predecessor, President Shirley Tilghman, in January 2012.  She created a joint faculty and trustee committee and charged it with finding new strategies to diversify Princeton’s faculty, staff, and graduate student body.  Increasing the diversity of these campus populations is essential to enhance our scholarly and educational excellence as well as to make our campus more fully inclusive.  Co-chaired by Trustee Brent Henry ’69 and Professor (now Dean of the Faculty) Deborah Prentice, the committee published its report in September 2013.  A number of important steps have been taken already and more are planned; the committee report, and an update about progress in these areas, can be found on the University’s website at:  http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S42/32/24O59/.

Even as we pursue the recommendations of these committees, more remains to be done.  Recent events have focused renewed attention on the concerns of underrepresented students.  Earlier this week, students occupied Nassau Hall for a day and a half to advocate for improvements in the climate for black students on campus.  Last weekend, Princeton Latino and Latina students endured a traumatic experience at a LatinX Ivy League Conference at Brown University, and upon returning to our campus they and other students have written to request a number of further improvements that would make our University more inclusive.  Other student groups are also addressing these issues, and I anticipate continuing discussion—and, I hope, constructive dialogue—over the coming months.

I care deeply about what our students are saying to us, and I am determined to do whatever I can, in collaboration with others, to improve the climate on this campus so that all students are respected, valued, and supported as members of a vibrant and diverse learning community.

Making further progress will require compassion, commitment, and imagination. It will also require that we discuss difficult topics civilly and with mutual respect.  To be an inclusive community we must treat one another with respect even when we disagree vigorously about topics that matter deeply.  When I spoke to the students who occupied Nassau Hall, I insisted that we would consider carefully the issues that troubled them, but that we would do so through appropriate University processes—processes that allow for full and fair input from the entire University community.

One of the most sensitive and controversial issues pertains to Woodrow Wilson’s legacy on the campus.  As every Princetonian knows, Wilson left a lasting imprint on this University and this campus, and while much of his record had a very positive impact on the shaping of modern Princeton, his record on race is disturbing.  As a University we have to be open to thoughtful re-examination of our own history, and I believe it is appropriate to engage our community in a careful exploration of this legacy.  Since the Board of Trustees has authority over how the University recognizes Wilson, I have asked the Board to develop a process to consider this issue, and the Board has agreed to do so.  The Board will form a subcommittee to collect information about Wilson’s record and impact from a wide array of perspectives and constituencies.  This information will include a range of scholarly understandings of Wilson.  Toward this end, the Board will solicit letters from experts familiar with Wilson, and it will make those letters public.  The Board will also establish a vehicle to allow alumni, faculty, students, and staff to register their opinions with the subcommittee about Wilson and his legacy.  In addition, members of the Board’s subcommittee will schedule visits to Princeton’s campus early in the spring semester to listen to the views of the University community, including its alumni.  After assessing the information it has gathered and hearing the views of all parts of the Princeton community, the Board will decide whether there are any changes that should be made in how the University recognizes Wilson’s legacy.

These are turbulent and demanding times, but if we engage in thoughtful and meaningful conversation they offer hope for real progress.  The quest for a diverse and inclusive community has been among Princeton’s most important goals at least since the presidency of Bob Goheen ’40 *48, and we have come a long way.  But we have not come far enough, and making further progress will require hard work and good will.  I am confident that Princeton’s extraordinary community—on campus, and throughout the world—is up to the task.

Christopher Eisgruber ’83

President

classroom conflicts

Here’s another wonderful excerpt from Reaching all Students:

  • Respond to classroom conflict in a manner that helps students become aware of the learning moment this conflict provides. Heated discussions need to be facilitated in a manner that does not result in hostility among class members and a sustained bad feeling in the room. You can avoid these outcomes by encouraging students to tie their feelings and conflicts to the course material and by looking for underlying meanings and principles that might get buried in the process of class conflict. Students appreciate tensions between groups in the class being recognized and effectively addressed.
  • Recognize student fears and concerns about conflict. Students enter a class with different levels of experience and comfort with conflict. It is important to normalize the experience of conflict in the classroom, particularly in classes that focus on controversial topics. This can be accomplished through explicit discussion of student experiences with conflict, and through the use of structured discussion exercises.
  • Maintain the role of facilitator. One of the challenges of teaching is maintaining the role of instructor under a variety of conditions. For example, you can get caught up in expressing your own perspective in heated discussions, or can become overly silent in discussions that go beyond your own knowledge base or experience. While these responses are understandable, such role abdication can create chaos in the classroom or force students to fill the abdicated facilitator role. In order to avoid this outcome, you should examine your typical responses to conflict. It can also be useful to find ways that you may admit your limits with respect to content areas while maintaining responsibility for the group process.

reaching all students

The Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning defines teaching as a dynamic process. We teach and learn about teaching simultaneously. The ultimate goal is to develop and disseminate effective teaching practices, but we only know what’s effective via research. In this way, research, teaching, and learning are intimately intertwined.

The part that really caught my eye about this collaborative group was the focus on diversity. Students come from diverse backgrounds, and CIRTL recognizes that. For example, CIRTL wrote a resource book for instructors, “Reaching all Students,” which I think is incredibly insightful. Here is the complete book and below are some main points to keep in mind.

  • Know the diverse backgrounds of students and the resulting implications for learning. Dimensions of diversity include, but are not limited to, preferred learning style, race, ethnicity and culture, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, age and socioeconomic background.
  • Recognize existing inequities, and promote an equitable, inclusive and respectful climate for learning.
  • Identify curricular, teaching and assessment practices that promote learning for all.
  • Draw upon the diversity of students to enhance and enrich the learning of all.

discussion activities

Most teaching at the graduate level happens within small groups. How can you spark a discussion? How can you keep students engaged? In a previous post, I talked about fill-in-the-blank style activities to review key concepts (e.g., classical conditioning). In this post, I’ll focus on other discussion activities.

It’s very important to note that most of these ideas aren’t my own! They come from others in the UW-Madison undergraduate teaching fellows program. One of the projects within this program involved “small learning communities” (i.e., discussion sections based in dorms) for first-year students. The examples below are from brainstorm sessions with faculty and teaching fellows, and I’ve included some notes about my own experiences in using these activities.

Four Corners: This is excellent for ideas that could be approached in different ways based on personal experiences, philosophies, likes, etc. Post possibilities on sheets of paper on sides/corners of the room. Ask students to go to the side/corner that best represents them, and discuss with others why they traveled to that corner. Following small group discussions, have a member of each group summarize the group’s perspective in a large group discussion. This activity allows students to learn more about diverse perspectives on a given topic. (In my experience, this activity works well for controversial topics that students may be reluctant to discuss. If you pose a question and hear nothing but crickets, I recommend trying this.)

Think – Pair – Share: This strategy is used to introduce a new concept or to draw out ideas from a previous assignment or experience. Students spend 2-3 minutes individually answering a question. Then, students discuss their responses with a partner. Finally, students share their collective responses with the whole group. (In my experience, I’ve found this activity is great for students who need some time to think before sharing with the rest of the class.)

Metaphors: Divide students in pairs or small groups and ask them to develop a metaphor for a given concept. Metaphors may be written verbally, or expressed with a drawing, or both. Have groups share their metaphors with the larger group, using the collective metaphors to generate a broader discussion of the topic.

Gallery: After completing a poster-style activity (e.g., Metaphors, above), have each group put their response on the wall. Divide students into mixed groups in which one member from each of the previous groups is represented. Groups view each piece in the “gallery” for a few minutes, and students to write down their responses to each piece. Students can ask the original author to clarify the metaphor, if needed. At the conclusion, invite the class to discuss commonalities and differences within the gallery pieces.

Other creative activities: Try getting groups to respond to questions through role plays, creative drama, story telling, etc. Question prompts for these activities should try to draw out critical learning objectives. (In my experience, students do enjoy most creative activities, but it’s sometimes hard to keep them focused on why their doing it. I tend to use these towards the end of the class, reserving ~5 minutes for discussion.)

Jigsaw Reading: Break down a short reading into 3-5 parts. Have each group read and discuss one part. Groups then share a summary of their reading with the whole class. You can also ask each group to pose additional questions to the large group to deepen discussion. (In my experience, this activity is excellent for helping students with reading. When my psych students were reading an Oliver Sacks novel, I assigned a few students to be “experts” on each chapter and give summaries to start the discussion. Students all still read each chapter independently, but these “expert” summaries helped them remember lots of material.)

Whip Around: Pose a question. Ask each student to respond as quickly as they can to the question until all students have answered. Students should be given the right to “pass” if they aren’t ready, but the goal is to have everyone participate. Alternately, create a whip around in which each person must build upon the previous person’s idea as they answer. Afterwards, discuss similarities and differences in students’ responses. (In my experience, this activity works well if you want to start with a very broad topic and break into sub-topics for discussion. For example, “Tell me something you know about neurons” can get the ball rolling. It can also be a useful activity for controversial issues. For example, “Tell me the first words that come to mind when you hear: race/ethnicity/gender/etc” can be a way to start discussing social justice issues.)

Q&A: Ask students to submit 3-5 questions they have about the past week’s material. Review each question with the whole class, and ask students to answer the questions posed by their peers. (In my experience, there are a few important things to note here. (1) Some students will slack on this with questions like, “What is [insert vocabulary term]?” but they’ll be outnumbered by genuine questions. (2) This gives some privacy to asking questions, as students don’t know who posed which questions, and it can encourage shy students to participate more. (3) I’ve also tried assigning questions to specific students for answers, but that takes some extra planning. (4) This can be a great final exam review strategy: compile questions and answers into a PowerPoint, and send the slides to students. It’s their work, you just typed it.)

bad religion

Recently, an Arizona preacher called for an “AIDS-free Xmas.” Well, that sounds like an excellent mission. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to work together to cure AIDS? What would it take to tackle this global health problem in a collaborative and effective way? What can we do as christians to support this cause? Unfortunately, that wasn’t the direction he was going. He explained that the surest way to this end is to kill LGBT people.

It disgusts me that people are preaching genocide.

It frightens me that people are listening.

It saddens me that people think this is christian faith.

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I heard about this story in a sermon by Rev. Nancy S. Taylor. (You can hear it here). She argued that there’s a lot of bad religion out there, using media as a megaphone to spread hateful propaganda. Some people might say that the cure for bad religion is no religion, but (1) that’s never going to happen, and (2) it’s not the answer. Remember: Isaiah 40:3-9.

A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field.The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!”

We need to spread the good news of the gospel. We need to preach love, and preach it loud. We need to cry out. As Rev. Taylor puts it, “People think christians are judgmental and boring. Shame on us for not telling them otherwise.” She challenged us each to tell 10 people about our faith. Hopefully, by writing this, I’ve begun at least one conversation.