Princeton names its first black valedictorian in university history

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Nicholas Johnson, valedictorian of Princeton's Class of 2020.

Nicholas Johnson, a Canadian graduate student in operational research and financial engineering, was named valedictorian of Princeton’s 2020 class, the university announced in a Press release.

“It’s a feeling of power. Being Princeton’s first Black Valedictorian has special significance for me, especially if you consider Princeton’s historical ties to the institution of slavery,” Johnson told CNN. “I hope this result motivates and inspires young black students, especially those interested in STEM fields.”

The favorite memories of the old school graduate were those spent with “close friends and classmates engaged in stimulating discussions – often late at night – about our beliefs, the cultures and environments in which we grew up, the state of the world and the how we plan on making a positive contribution to it in our own unique way, “Johnson said in the school press release.

He also claimed to appreciate the university for encouraging him to explore his interests by supporting him with international internships and cultural immersion trips to Peru, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom.

Johnson’s dissertation focused on developing algorithms to design community-based health prevention intervention to reduce obesity in Canada.

A member of the Princeton chapter of Engineers Without Borders, Johnson also worked as a computer engineer in machine learning at the Google headquarters in California during his time in Princeton.

Johnson also has a lot to wait. This summer he will be an intern as a hybrid quantitative researcher and software developer at the D.E. Shaw Group, a global investment and technology development company.

In the fall, Johnson will begin his PhD. operational research studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Although the coronavirus pandemic canceled the graduation ceremony in person in Princeton, the school still holds a virtual one on May 31.

Johnson told CNN that it is “disappointing” not to be able to celebrate together as a person this year. However, he said he was grateful to the administration for his commitment “to hosting a personal start to my lesson in the spring of 2021 to celebrate our accomplishments.”

“I was comforted to see how much my friends and classmates have adapted to these difficult times,” he said, “and I have ensured that the strong Princeton community persists practically despite our physical separation from each other.” .

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