University Affairs | Oct. 20

Eisgruber urges investment in education, need to improve job resources for graduate students at alumni conference

University President Chrisopher Eisgruber ’83 said higher education was still a worthy investment during a Q&A on Friday in Richardson Auditorium as part of this weekend’s “Many Minds, Many Stripes” conference for graduate alumni

During the 45-minute conversation, Eisgruber spoke about his vision for the University, as well as graduate student life and education.

When asked about the largest challenges facing the University, Eisgruber reiterated his belief that higher education was coming under pressure, a theme he stressed at his Installation ceremony in September.

“People are asking questions about the value of education. You can’t pick up the newspaper without someone saying that maybe people shouldn’t go to college,” he said. “So, I think one challenge that this University has always faced and faced well … is how do we sustain a model that makes this place so distinctive and so special?”

At his installation, Eisgruber said that attending great colleges and universities requires big investments, but these are among the most valuable kinds of investments that Americans and citizens of other countries can make in their futures. He returned to this observation in his Friday speech, citing one study that said an undergraduate degree can return as much as 15 percent per year of the cost.

He also underscored the importance of encouraging students to channel their education into public service in accordance with the University’s unofficial motto: “Princeton in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations.”

In response to a question about seeking out international graduate students, Eisgruber said he believed that educating foreign graduate students was an indispensable means for the University to contribute to the world because graduate students often return to their home countries as leaders.

“I wouldn’t exist but for foreign graduate students coming to the United States,” Eisgruber said jokingly. “My father came to the United States to be a graduate student in agricultural economics at Purdue University, where he and my mother met at a German graduate student picnic.”

Eisgruber also faced questions about the job prospects of graduate alumni.

“One of the very important things about our graduate education — throughout time, it prepares people to serve in academia and other areas of society, as well. We haven’t done as much as we should do to recognize that,” he said. “The difficulties and pressure we’ve seen on the academic job market only add to the reasons why this is important going forward … So we will continue to work with the Graduate School and with Career Services to serve the needs of our students.”

More than 1,000 graduate alumni registered for the “Many Minds, Many Stripes” conference, which concluded on Saturday. The conference included discussions with Nobel Laureates Paul Krugman and Eric Wieschaus as well as tours of the Graduate College.

Eisgruber said he hoped that the conference for graduate alumni would “help to strengthen the ties that stretch across different boundaries at the University.”

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