PRINCETON, N.J. (KRON) – Nicholas Johnson has been named Princeton University’s valedictorian for 2020.
Johnson, a Canadian student majoring in operations research and financial engineering, is the first black valedictorian in the university’s 274-year history, the school announced in a statement.
“It feels empowering. Being Princeton’s first Black Valedictorian holds special significance to me particularly given Princeton’s historical ties to the institution of slavery,” Johnson told CNN. “I hope that this achievement motivates and inspires younger black students, particularly those interested in STEM fields.”
Johnson’s senior thesis focused on developing algorithms to design a community-based preventative health intervention to decrease obesity in Canada.
“My favorite memories of my time at Princeton are memories of time spent with close friends and classmates engaging in stimulating discussions — often late at night — about our beliefs, the cultures and environments in which we were raised, the state of the world, and how we plan on contributing positively to it in our own unique way,” Johnson said.
A member of the Princeton chapter of Engineers Without Borders, Johnson also worked as a software engineer in machine learning at Google’s California headquarters during his time at Princeton.
In the fall, Johnson will begin his PhD. studies in operations research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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