October 20, 2021

The Queens County Citizen

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Princeton mentions his first black farewell speech in university history

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

Nicholas Johnson, a Canadian student majoring in operations research and financial engineering, has been named the valedictorian of Princeton’s Class of 2020, the university announced in news release.

“It feels empowering. Being the first Black Valedictorian at Princeton has special meaning for me, especially given Princeton’s historical ties to the institution of slavery,” Johnson told CNN. “I hope this achievement motivates and inspires younger black students, especially those who are interested in the STEM field.”

The favorite memories of seniors who graduate at school are those spent with “close friends and classmates who engage in stimulating discussions – often late at night – about our beliefs, the culture and environment in which we grew up, the state of the world, and how we plan for positive contributions to it’s in our own unique way, “Johnson said in a school release.

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

Johnson’s senior thesis focuses on developing algorithms to design community-based preventive health interventions to reduce obesity in Canada.

A member of Princeton Engineers Without Borders, Princeton, also worked as a software engineer in machine learning at Google’s headquarters in California during his time at Princeton.

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

In the fall, Johnson will start his PhD. study in operations research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Even though the coronavirus pandemic canceled the Princeton in-person graduation ceremony, the school still held a virtual on May 31.

Johnson told CNN that it was “disappointing” to not be able to celebrate as a private joint class this year. However, he said he thanked the administration for its commitment “to host the start of my class in Spring 2021 to celebrate our achievements.”

“I am comforted by how well my friends and classmates are adapting to these challenging times,” he said, “and have ensured that the strong Princeton community survives virtually regardless of our physical separation from each other.”