Interviewing a Princeton Alumnus

Now I am interviewing an alumnus from Princeton. It is a honor to know some one who gives major importance to his education and that helps others also achieve educational success.

Peter Kurz is the father of David Kurz.

Both father and son are part os the Princeton community: he as an alumnus who majored in Politics, and his son as a major in biology (graduating in 2012).

Princeton is considered one of the best universities in many areas, such as mathematics physics and astronomy, economics, history, and philosophy. The university has only 5000 undergraduates and 2400 graduate students. Notwithstanding, it is one of the wealthiest universities in the world, with  an endowment of more than eleven billion dollars (the forth in the world), that comes from donations made by alumni.
Thus, anyone can study in Princeton even though they are not able to pay the US$50620 tuition, because the university offers need-based scholarships.

Questions: click on read more to read the answers

What did you major in?
How is life after graduation? Is it harder or easier?
How do you feel about having your son studying at the university you graduated from?
What do you already know about Brazil?
How did you learn Portuguese?
Several people admire the people of the United States for the support that alumni give to the universities. How do you support Princeton and how important is this for you?
What kind of students is Princeton looking for?
What do you have to say to Brazilians interested in going to Princeton or any other prestigious college in the United States?

Questions from blog readers (they are also part of my Creative Writing group):
      Was studying at Princeton determinant, important, fundamental? How? (Question from Marilia Costa, Portuguese and English Language teacher, PhD student in Linguistics and Portuguese Language at Unesp (São Paulo State University)).
      What has changed in the University since you graduated? How were these changes responsible for the maintenance or even the increase of the status of the University? (Question from Rafael Jordan).





Peter J. Kurz.
1. Age: 67


2. What did you major in? 
Politics (elsewhere called “Government,” or “Political Science”), with a Certificate in European Studies.

3. How is life after graduation? Is it harder or easier? 

Much different, of course. Undergraduate life, especially in a rigorous academic environment among motivated and motivating students and faculty, can be demanding. However, the freedom and richness offered during these years is hard to match later in life; its stimulating variety and flexibility are often unique in one’s life. In most cases life after graduation demands greater focus and the need to assume serious, heavy responsibilities and long-lasting responsibilities.

4. How do you feel about having your son studying at the university you graduated from?
I’m happy for and congratulate any student given the opportunity to study at a great university such as Princeton. At the same time, I like to remind them of the unique opportunities and responsibilities concomitant with such attendance. That my son was accepted and chose to attend Princeton makes me extraordinarily proud and I’m convinced that, one way or another, the Princeton community also benefits from this relationship.


5. What do you already know about Brazil?
Much but certainly not enough. During the past decades I had the opportunity to become acquainted with numerous facets of Brazilian life at all levels and in many different fields, from the language to literature to music, history, athletics…and even made several short business trips. More recently, partly as a result of David’s interest, I have become somewhat more familiar with Brazil’s phenomenal fauna, flora and ecology, and visited the Pantanal. At one point in my life – more than 40 years ago -- I read the complete works of Afonso Henrique de Lima Barreto, much of Machado de Assis, and not enough of the icons of Modernismo (including the three Andrades – Mario de, Oswald de, and Carlos Drummond de). And I did memorize “E agora José…?” I’ve caught piranhas with my bare hands no Rio Amazonas, got my legs muddy with lama all the way to my knees na Ilha de Marajó, sailed on a jangada in the direction of Fernando de Noronha, admired Araras flying over the Pantanal back to their home-trees at sunset, watched Brasilia being built in the late sixties, and, in the fifties, sketched the excavation and relocation into the Atlantic of Rio’s Morro do Castelo and Morro de Santo Antonio to create the aterro from Santos Dumont to Praia do Flamengo. So yes, I already know a bit, albeit not enough.


6. How did you learn Portuguese?
During my stay in Brazil as a young child, with my (non-Brazilian) family. After that initial introduction I have not lived or worked full-time in Brazil. Since no one else in my family speaks Portuguese (not yet, anyway…I’ve been trying to get my sons interested in Portuguese; both have studied Spanish and, to their credit, are taking what I consider baby-steps towards learning Portuguese…but they are steps in the right direction!). Maintaining my knowledge of Portuguese was only possible by reading Portuguese books and newspapers, by seeking out occasional opportunities to speak with Portuguese speakers in Brazil, Africa, and Europe, and, sometimes, by translating from Portuguese to English. All this has become much easier since the internet advances which now allow for easy, frequent and pleasant access to material in Portuguese from anywhere to virtually anyone.


7. Several people admire the people of the United States for the support that alumni give to the universities. How do you support Princeton and how important is this for you?
My support -- to use your word -- is minimal when compared to the time, energy and financial support provided by many other alumni. At this time, my support consists primarily of the attempt at moral support conveyed through my participation in alumni events, Princeton activities, and contributions to class or university fund-raising campaigns. Although large financial contributions by Princeton alumni are frequent (and have been noted in the press), I would like to point out that Princeton is known for the large percentage of active participation in all forms of support, including financial support of all sizes. In other words, small contributions to the Annual Giving campaign, for instance, or to various scholarship funds and endowments, are very frequent, encouraged and welcomed. It is this kind of “mass”support by friends and alumni that makes it possible for the great private universities in the United States to provide need-based scholarships on such a large scale.


8. What kind of students is Princeton looking for?
Quoting Princeton: “Our goal is a class characterized by high ability, integrity, and diverse backgrounds, talents, and interests.” And, additionally: “The University's admission process involves a holistic review of each applicant's entire file. No particular factor is assigned a fixed weight; rather, the process involves a highly individualized assessment of the applicant's talents, achievements and his or her potential to contribute to learning at Princeton.” I believe that Princeton looks for potential students who meet demanding academic standards (witness the statistical data related to the SAT, ACT, and other scholastic test results), and have shown extraordinary skills, talents and potential in specific and desirable areas (ranging over a very wide gamut). An additional, important factor appears to be the Admission Office’s perception of the applicant’s goals, standards and potential contributions to life and learning.
The community of students at Princeton can be described as a “vibrant, close-knit, multicultural community with respect for differences.” Almost all students live on campus and are very active outside the classroom in one or more of hundreds of extracurricular activities (athletics, singing and other musical groups, theater, cultural and religious groups, the school’s radio station, daily newspaper, etc.). All faculty (including 11 Nobel Prize winners) teach and are accessible to undergraduates. 


9. What do you have to say to Brazilians interested in going to Princeton or any other prestigious college in the United States?
First, become familiar with the university, its programs and its requirements. Today this can be done very easily at the very least through the internet and personal communications. Second, be sure that a particular college or university meets your personal needs and will help you in reaching your personal objectives. Third -- as early as possible -- work to develop the minimum essential skills and knowledge that will make it possible for you to apply in the most credible way to these very competitive universities. For instance, to join the entering Class of 2014 (which will consist of approximately 1,300 students), Princeton has received 26,166 applications. Most of these applicants are highly qualified, very much want to attend Princeton, and most are probably qualified to do the academic work expected of them. An applicant from Brazil would clearly bring with her or him a set of unique and valuable experiences and attributes. Nevertheless, at the very least, applicants from Brazil must also need to be fluent in English and will need to have reached certain academic levels as outlined in the Princeton admission site. Ideally, proper study and preparation to exceed these minimum standards should be started years before the application is submitted. 


10. Some useful links:
www.princeton.edu
www.princeton.edu/admission
www.princeton.edu/aid
www.dailyprincetonian.com
www.princeton.edu/main/campuslife/
http://goprincetontigers.com
www.collegeboard.com
www.actstudent.org


Questions from blog readers:


1. Was studying at Princeton determinant, important, fundamental? How? (Question from Marilia Costa, Portuguese and English Language teacher, PhD student in Linguistics and Portuguese Language at Unesp (São Paulo State University)).
In my case, yes. It opened my eyes to the meaning and importance of true learning and the amazing variety, depth, and potential contributions of so many – and so different – fields of learning. Princeton is not primarily known for its professional schools – for instance, it does not have a medical school, a law school or a school of business administration. Princeton and its enormous resources are focused on providing the highest possible quality and level of general education to undergraduates. Princeton offers undergraduates the opportunity to learn a lifetime skill – how to learn and continue to learn in a changing universe. Since you are interested in language and literature, perhaps the following personal vignette will illustrate what I mean. My undergraduate studies led to an interest in and the opportunity to write my Master’s thesis on Lima Barreto under the late Helcio Martins (at the time a visiting professor at the University of Florida in Gainesville). I benefited greatly from his extraordinary insight into literature and, especially, Brazilian literature; under his guidance and tutelage I wrote an unpublished thesis, “Lima Barreto: Um Elo Entre Machado de Assis e Modernismo.”
Yes, Princeton can and will also offer the opportunity to learn a language or scientific methodologies or to enhance research skills…but Princeton is focused on the 5,000+ undergraduate and 2,400 graduate student body. And, of course, all of this is enhanced by interactions with and among these undergraduates, their instructors and their faculty. Also helpful in this respect are the more than 300 student organizations and the proximity and easy access to New York City (one hour away by bus, train or car). 


2. What has changed in the University since you graduated? How were these changes responsible for the maintenance or even the increase of the status of the University? (Question from Rafael Jordan).
Princeton has always been open to change and, in my opinion, has always encouraged appropriate, well reasoned change. Perhaps change has not been as rapid or as drastic as many would have liked, but it has always been flexible and thoughtful in the desire to fulfill its most noble, long-term objectives. A proper answer to this very important question requires more time and space than we have. Perhaps the most visible and most publicized recent changes relate to the following three issues: 


(a) Co-education: until a few years after my Class of 1964 joined the ranks of alumni, Princeton was an all-male school. Around those years a decision was made to admit women and, as quickly as possible, to reach the approximately even balance we now have between the number of males and females. To reach this balance, it was decided that the size of each entering class would be gradually increased from the approximately 800 students in my class to the 1,300 freshman this past year. I have always regretted that this did not happen while I was an undergraduate.


(b) Greater diversity: during the past half-a-century a conscious effort was made to increase in many ways the diversity of the student body (social, financial, ethnic, religious, cultural, etc.). It is now far more varied in most measurable ways, including the number of students coming from outside the United States. One small example: During my time as an undergraduate, I think I was only one of two vegetarians students; now, by one estimate, at least one third of the undergraduates claim to refrain from eating meat or fish.


(c) Financing a Princeton education: Princeton follows a “need blind admission” policy, which means that admission is decided without considering ability to pay for the education. Princeton also follows a “need based financial aid” policy, which means that once admitted, if a student demonstrates financial need to attend the university, Princeton will provide sufficient assistance to meet this demonstrated need. Additionally, Princeton has eliminated loans as a part of aid packages – aid awards come only in the form of grants and campus jobs. Finally, there are no merit or athletic scholarships.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails