Things That Matter

Princeton Just Announced Its First Black Valedictorian In Its Long History

To date, Princeton University is ranked at the very top of universities in the United States. It also carries one of the most notable academic histories in the United States to date. With all of its achievements, you would think Princeton would have little else to brag about in terms of student accomplishments but recently, the New Jersey-based Ivy League university made history once again.

On Monday, the private research university, which was founded in 1746, announced that it had named its first black valedictorian in its 274-year history.

Nicholas Johnson is a Canadian student majoring in operations research and financial engineering and was named valedictorian of Princeton’s Class of 2020.

In a news release published by Princeton University, the institution announced the history-making news. Speaking to CNN, Johnson called the nomination empowering. “Being Princeton’s first Black Valedictorian holds special significance to me particularly given Princeton’s historical ties to the institution of slavery,” Johnson explained through Facebook message. “I hope that this achievement motivates and inspires younger black students, particularly those interested in STEM fields.”

According to the university’s news release, his most memorable moments during his studies included spending time with “close friends and classmates engaging in stimulating discussions — often late at night — about our beliefs, the cultures and environments in which we were raised, the state of the world, and how we plan on contributing positively to it in our own unique way.”

During his time at Princeton, Johnson took part in international internships and cultural immersion trips across the globe. Including Peru. According to Princeton, Johnson’s senior thesis developed an algorithm to “design a community-based preventative health intervention to decrease obesity in Canada”

In the coming months, Johnson looks like he’ll be stepping into a pretty bright future.

He’s set to intern this summer as a hybrid quantitative researcher and software developer at a global investment and technology development firm called D.E. Shaw Group. In the fall, he will venture out to pursue his Ph.D. studies in operations research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

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