PRINCETON generations

Ideas and Strategies from the Office of Gift Planning at Princeton University

A Year of Forward Thinking

Josh Brankman '99; Elizabeth R. Henry '88; Suleika Jaouad '10
Josh Brankman ’99; Elizabeth R. Henry ’88; and Suleika Jaouad ’10 spoke at the February Forward Fest

In a difficult year due to the global pandemic, the University launched “A Year of Forward Thinking,” inviting Princetonians and others to join in a conversation focused on responding to the challenges facing the nation and the world.

Spanning the 2020-21 academic year, “A Year of Forward Thinking” is grounded in the University’s informal motto, “In the Nation’s Service and the Service of Humanity,” and features the voices of the University’s “forward thinkers” — students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends — who are pioneering solutions to key issues.

A new website,, provides examples of ideas in research, teaching and engagement that underscore how fortitude and innovation can help us look to the future.

Forward Fest — the monthly online series of the yearlong community engagement campaign, highlights timely topics such as COVID-19; systemic racism; access, affordability and inclusivity in higher education; environmental studies; creative expression; data science; and bioengineering. A resource guide provides thought-provoking material for further discussion with more information about featured speakers and other Princeton forward thinkers, and links to books, articles, podcasts and more. These Forward Fests are free and open to all.

February’s Forward Fest featured alumni whose lives and work illuminate the themes of resilience and the inquisitive spirit of exploration — qualities that often enable real progress. In the best of times, asking new questions and refusing to be thwarted by temporary failure drive change; in more difficult times, they become essential tools for recovery.

Josh Brankman ’99, executive director of Outward Bound USA; Liz Henry ’88, a pediatrician known professionally as “Dr. Liz”; and Suleika Jaouad ’10, author and columnist with The New York Times offered views on resilience, in a panel moderated by Heather Gerken ’91, dean of Yale Law School, where she is also the Sol and Lillian Goldman Professor of Law.

To consider the theme of exploration, Majka Burhardt ’98, professional climber and environmental entrepreneur; Karen Roter Davis ’94, director of early-stage projects at X, Alphabet’s moonshot factory; Richard Preston *83, author of “The Hot Zone”; and Roy Swan ’86, head of Mission Investments, Ford Foundation, spoke. Julia Boorstin ’00, CNBC senior media and entertainment reporter, moderated the panel.

Recordings of February’s event and previous Forward Fest sessions can be found on the University’s YouTube channel. In June, Forward Fest will revisit all the themes in the 2020-21 series.

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This entry was posted on March 25, 2021 in SPRING 2021.


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Photos by Sameer Khan and courtesy of Juanita James and Doug Grover