Friday, August 7, 2009

Wise words from sociology professor Miguel Centeno

By Amanda Cormier (San Diego, CA) 

As a high school senior at the program in 2007, I thought the topics discussed by Princeton professors over beef stroganoff seemed fascinating, yet somewhat removed from my own circumstances. I always looked forward to our meal talks with journalists, but during professor talks, I resigned to pushing peas around my plate and dreaming (in vain) of my next nap.

After today's lecture by Sociology and International Affairs Professor Miguel Centeno, I've realized the crucial difference between speakers at our meals as a counselor and as a student. Centeno was fascinating. He loudly and enthusiastically delved into the main topics of his research, defining the phenomenon of globalization and its implications for the world. These implications, as best as I can recall, were: environmental disaster, a widening gap between the rich and the poor, epic doom.  

The questions posed by the students to Centeno at the close of his lecture made connections from Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers" to peace and equality. But I couldn't help but ponder my own response if he had spoken to my SJP class in Wu Dining Hall. I imagine I would have taken his comments to heart, asked no questions, and left the lecture a bit disheartened about the fate of our planet.  

As a counselor, I wanted to take the discussion one step further. A year in college exposed me to the ideas of Bill McKibben, an environmental journalist who in his book "Deep Economy" proposes a societal structure that goes beyond the idea of wealth equating to success.  

Talking to Centeno after the meal about McKibben's ideas made it clear: SJP in 2007 was my first introduction to the World of Ideas, something I was a bit unsure how to handle. The help the counselors gave me during the college application process and the confidence they instilled in me at the program has helped me to feel at ease talking about the fate of our planet with a Princeton professor, just two years later. 

I'm in the World of Ideas for good.

-- Cormier is an SJP alum and serving as a counselor at this year's program. She is a rising sophomore at Columbia University.

1 comment:

  1. I just had dinner with Professor Centeno and I didn't find him nearly so focused on doom and gloom as on the options to avoid doom and gloom. He's a great speaker though and definitely has some interesting ideas. I loved his talk!