Commitment to Service

Monday, Feb 11, 2019
by Benjamin Gelman ’22, Pace Center Student Correspondent

“His work was fueled by passion, included many challenges, and, has been made
possible through relationships.”

“We don’t know anyone who is more deserving of this award.”

“He inspired many on campus.”

These are just some of the many words shared about this year’s recipients of the Pace Center for Civic Engagement’s Faculty Service Award and the A. James Fisher, Jr. Memorial Award at the Faculty Service and Fisher Award Lunch, held February 7 in the Presidential Room of Prospect House at Princeton University.

The Faculty Service Award is given to up to two Princeton University faculty who in the past year have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to service and social justice that transcends the classroom, and especially recognizes faculty who have inspired others on campus to join their efforts and who through their service to humanity have responded to needs in the world.

Professor Arcadio Díaz-Quiñones

Professor Arcadio Díaz-Quiñones talks with Fernando Acosta-Rodríguez and João Biehl at the Faculty Service and Fisher Award Lunch. Photo by: Jared Flesher

This year’s awardees were Professor Arcadio Díaz-Quiñones and Professor Alan Kaplan. Professor Díaz-Quiñones was honored for his work helping to lead the University’s response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which hit Puerto Rico in 2017. In particular Díaz-Quiñones planned two colloquia on Puerto Rico and worked with the Program on Latin American Studies (PLAS) to create the Visiting Scholars and Artists from Puerto Rico Program (VISAPUR). VISAPUR enabled 13 scholars, artists and students to visit Princeton over the past summer and also provided relief to scholars, students and artists affected by the catastrophic aftermath of the hurricanes by allowing them to continue their work at Princeton on a temporary basis. Díaz-Quiñones was “the institutional engine and ethical force behind Princeton’s overall response to the Puerto Rican catastrophe” according to Professor Gabriela Nouzeilles, the Emory L. Ford Professor of Spanish and director of PLAS.

When asked what was most meaningful to him about this experience, Díaz-Quiñones shared “the strength of the ethos of solidarity of faculty, students, administrators and staff at Princeton. The deep commitment of colleagues in the Program in Latin American Studies, and the departments of Spanish and Portuguese, History, Anthropology, and the Princeton University Library, among others, was inspiring.”

Professor Kaplan received his award for leading a service trip to Puerto Rico over the summer of 2018, during which he and four undergraduates assisted in hurricane relief efforts as well as taught a course at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez based on Princeton’s popular introductory computer science class, COS126 - Computer Science: An Interdisciplinary Approach. The undergraduates, who served as teaching assistants for the course, Shanila Shakil ’21, Elise Colter ’21, Christy Lee ’21, and Lucy Norton ’21, said that Professor Kaplan “showed us everyday how much he loves Puerto Rico, from its people to its beaches, and how passionate he is about teaching. He inspired us to think the same way in all of our interactions with other students and in every volunteer capacity.”

Professor Kaplan emphasized the fact that this mission was a team effort, as “the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez as well as various volunteer organizations not only welcomed and appreciated our work, but educated us about their experiences dealing with aftermath of Hurricane Maria as well as the current financial crisis.” He also thanked his team of undergraduate students: “Elise Colter, Shanila Shakil, Christy Lee, and Lucy Norton; their commitment and dedication were inspiring.”

Lou Chen '19

Princeton University senior Lou Chen embraces Pace Center Program Coordinator Evan Schneider as he receives the A. James Fisher, Jr. Memorial Award. Photo by: Jared Flesher

Lou Chen ’19 received the Fisher Award, given each year to a Princeton University senior who clearly demonstrates an entrepreneurial spirit, zest for life, love of people, and loyalty to Princeton through their work in the realm of civic engagement. Chen founded the Trenton Youth Orchestra, a string orchestra composed of students from the neighboring city of Trenton, after becoming aware of youth in the Trenton area who were seeking opportunities to expand on their musical talent. “I realized I might be able to leverage my musical knowledge and experience for the benefit of youth in Trenton,” he said. Chen’s relationship with his students was commended by Marna Seltzer, the Director of Princeton University Concerts, who noted that he “has an amazing relationship with his students and I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that he has changed the lives of many of the students he has worked with.”

In her closing remarks at the lunch, Kimberly de los Santos, executive director of the Pace Center said, “Arcadio, Alan and Lou, thank you for letting all of us recognize your service journeys.” These journeys, she continued, “have clearly been driven by strong values – values that have sometimes been challenged and perhaps even changed a bit. These journeys have also been based in relationships – collaborative relationships grounded in principles of respect and reciprocity. May each of us be inspired.”