Embracing diversity from Clemson to Princeton
By Taylor Reeves
Dominique Jordan sat in a reception hall with 34 students from diverse academic and cultural backgrounds. Having just arrived at Princeton University, the senior political science major from Clemson was nervous and excited about what the summer had in store for her. As the program director stepped up to the podium to welcome the group to the 2011 Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute, Jordan was struck by the unique opportunity ahead of her.
“I thought ‘Wow. I’m really here.’ I never thought I would be at one of the most prestigious and historic academic institutions in the nation,” she said.
Held on Princeton’s campus in New Jersey, the Summer Institute ran from June 9 through July 31. Participants enrolled in multiple classes that ranged from statistics and economics to public policy and international culture. Jordan was one of only 34 students selected from an elite pool of more than 500 applicants to attend the program. In addition to academic course work, students engaged in extracurricular opportunities and excursions that prepared them for graduate study and careers in public policy and international affairs.
Jordan’s summer at Princeton was a life-changing experience years in the making. As a freshman, she attended a four-day public policy leadership conference at Harvard University where, among other activities, she sat in on public policy classes.
“I fell in love with the area and the students,” said Jordan, “and I became really interested in what they were doing. I have always known that I wanted to help people and make a positive difference in my community.”
It was at the leadership conference that Jordan first learned about Princeton’s Junior Summer Institute and decided she had to be a part of it. She joined clubs and organizations at Clemson that recommended her as an ideal candidate for the program. She served as chaplain and programming director of the Omicron Phi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and took part in honor societies such as Blue Key and Omicron Delta Kappa.
She also played a key role in the creation of the Clemson University Black Student Union, an organization designed to enhance unity and positive interactions between all individuals on campus and within the community. Just a few weeks ago, she was named first runner-up in the Miss Homecoming pageant. Her academic success and extracurricular experiences helped pave the way to a personally and professionally exhilarating summer in New Jersey.
Along with Princeton, four other schools host Public Policy and International Affairs summer programs: the University of California-Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Maryland and the University of Michigan. Inspired by her previous encounter with the Ivy League, Jordan selected Princeton as her first choice and subsequently fell in love with the campus and atmosphere.
“The campus was gorgeous and had a lot of interesting history,” she said, “but more importantly, Princeton’s encouragement of diversity among its students and faculty was really inspiring.”
Jordan studied under a group of scholars that included former U.S. Ambassador to Iceland James Gadsden and acclaimed author Wes Moore. In addition to economics and policy classes, Jordan attended a workshop on the intercultural dimensions of policymaking. Students discussed methods of nonviolent communication and tolerance and participated in a breakout session called “World Café,” where they talked candidly about issues pertaining to cultural differences.
In addition to academic pursuits, students traveled to Washington, D.C., to take part in a graduate expo where they explored professional and academic possibilities beyond graduation.
As for her plans after Clemson, Jordan hopes to pursue multiple avenues through which she can continue her goal of forging change through public policy. She plans to apply for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in the Dominican Republic and is also applying to prestigious graduate programs in public policy, such as Princeton’s.
Beyond the academic and professional aspects of her summer at Princeton, Jordan appreciates the valuable friendships and personal connections she made as well.
“Everyone had a different story to tell,” she said. “My roommate was Muslim, I had a teaching assistant from Ethiopia and there were several international students in the program. Diversity educates you and teaches you not only to be tolerant of other cultures but to embrace and appreciate them fully.”
From spending time with a diverse group of new friends in her dorm to presenting research findings to some of the world’s leading figures in global policy, Jordan’s experience at Princeton is one she will never forget. Using what she learned over the summer, she works to encourage fellow Clemson students to set high goals and pursue similar opportunities. Even while her academic and professional interests span the globe, she has enjoyed promoting and developing these interests at the school she calls home.
“I love it here in Clemson,” she said. “I hope to inspire other individuals to come here and yield all the benefits of being a proud Clemson Tiger.”