Teaching Initiatives

Please find below Bob Wright's 2017 report on the Class of 1972 Teaching Initiatives.

Teaching Initiative Report  - 2017


November 11, 2017


To: Skip Rankin

From: Bob Wright

Re: Class of 1972 Teaching Initiatives


I am pleased to report on the teaching initiatives by members of the Princeton University faculty that have been supported by the Class of 1972 Endowment Fund for Initiatives in Undergraduate Education. Through the last academic year, our class has supported the following teaching initiatives:

  1. a course entitled Conservation and Biodiversity, Science and Policy for an Endangered Planet, taught by Andy Dobson of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, together with The Woodrow Wilson School;

  2. a British history lecture course (as reorganized), taught by Professor Frank Trentmann of the Department of History;

  3. a vertebrate biology course offered by the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology;

  4. a freshman seminar entitled “Sound, Image, Movement, Meaning: Collaborations in Multimedia” offered by the Department of Music;

  5. a course on “World Literature” offered by the Department of Comparative Literature as a “gateway” course to the Department and to the study of literature generally.

  6. a course offered by the School of Engineering and Applied Science to demonstrate the fundamental connections among engineering, math and physics;

  7. a course offered by the Department of East Asian Studies to convey to Princeton undergraduates an appreciation for the study of Chinese, Japanese and Korean civilizations;

  8. a course offered by the Center for African American Studies, entitled “The Civil Rights Movement in the United States”;

  9. a freshman seminar entitled “Transformations of an Empire: Power, Religion, and the Arts of Medieval Rome;

  10. a course offered by the School of Engineering, Department of Electrical Engineering entitled: Networks: Friends, Money and Bytes. This is an inter-disciplinary and foundational course and is the pioneer course offered by Princeton online, under arrangements with Coursera;

  11. a course taught by David Spergel ’83, Charles Young Professor of Astronomy and Chair, Department of Astrophysical Sciences, in the Fall 2013 and entitled “Imagining Other Earths.” This course, based on a freshman seminar, is being offered as a Coursera course, and will introduce students to a range of key concepts in astronomy, physics, chemistry and evolutionary biology;

  12. a course taught by Maria A. DiBattista entitled "Modernist Portraits: Literature, Painting, Photography, Film." This course is being offered by the Department of Comparative Literature;

  13. a course taught by Miguel A. Centeno entitled "Discipline." This course is being offered by the Department of Sociology and will use ethnographic fieldwork and historical evidence to examine the concept of discipline as a technique through which it is possible to achieve skills, expertise and existential peace;

  14. a course taught by Egemen Kolemen entitled "Engineering the Climate: Technical and Policy Challenges." This course is being offered by the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Students will study the science, engineering, policy and ethics of climate engineering;

  15. a course taught by John Danner of the Keller Center for Innovation in Engineering Education, entitled "Designing Ventures to Change the World" which is offered as an interdisciplinary, hands-on, immersive opportunity to design services, technologies, products and ventures addressing the UN's 17 new Sustainable Development Goals; and

  16. a course offered by Alison Isenberg from the Department of History and Purcell Carson from the Woodrow Wilson School that examines Trenton in the 1960s, race, the economy and media representation. Students will make video sketches using archival sources and interviews and the course will result in a work of historical scholarship, a documentary film and a public event.

This year we are supporting two new courses -- one in Engineering in the fall and one in the Humanities in the spring. The University has advised us that both courses are important additions to the curriculum and would not be available to the students without the support received from the Class of 1972 Teaching Initiative. The courses are as follows:

Foundations of Engineering I: Mechanics, Energy, and Waves – Fall 2017. Claire F. Gmachl (Department of Mechanical Engineering). This course melds the classical, inward-looking Physics I curriculum with outward-looking global grand challenge material, with the aim being to empower freshmen to combine fundamental knowledge about the world around them with their desire to solve societal problems and doing good.

Disability Studies, The Disabled Body – Spring 2018. Gayle Salamon (Department of English and the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies). This interdisciplinary seminar will analyze the social decisions that surround and define the bodily experiences of disability and explore the premise that these decisions create a “social construction” of the disabled body in the sense that what becomes labeled as a disability is a social decision and not merely a biological fact.

Our Endowment Fund has a book value of $256,850 and a market value as of September 30, 2017 of $892,490. The courses above required a contribution of $41,875 from our endowment – a little less than the $45,300 made available to us from the endowment for this year, the unused portion of which will be reinvested as part of our endowment.

A Little History

The background: here.

Teaching Initiative Archive

Previously posted articles on the Teaching Initiative can be accessed here. These include:

  •      Bob Wright's on the letter to the Class on the Coursera initiative
  •      Doug Harrison's commentary on our first open course - Networks, Friends, Money, and Bytes
  •      Skip Rankin's letter from  2012 outlining the details of the initiative 
  •      Skip Rankin's letter from  2013 outlining the details of the initiative 

A tabulation of all Princeton Coursera offerings (including those sponsored by the Class of 72) can be found here: