Justin Ziegler '16, alumnus

Leonia, New Jersey

Fresh off the starting blocks, Justin Ziegler sprinted into leadership roles at Princeton. His infectious enthusiasm for all things Princeton began at an early age.

“Ever since I was 7 years old, I actually had a dream of coming to Princeton,” he says. “My parents were driving by for some reason, and I told them I wanted to go here. They bought me a Princeton sweatshirt – I still have it – and they bought me a little Princeton robe. I never thought it was a feasible dream.”

Soon after arriving, Ziegler ran for 2016 Class Government, also known as Class Council, which is an organization affiliated with Undergraduate Student Government. He campaigned like a politician for one of five slots against 31 other students, going door-to-door, explaining his platform of integrity and approachability. He won. At the end of his freshman year, Ziegler ran for office again and was elected president of his class.

The role of Class Council is to foster class unity. The council organizes class community service projects, study breaks and other activities. Among them were an intersession pizza party with its Grandparent Class of 1966, a boat cruise around New York City, a presidential debate viewing party and the founding of a service project organization called Princeton Big Sibs, which was a collaboration with a charter school in Camden, N.J. Students from the low-income school paired up with members of the Class of 2016, who served as role models for the Camden students and helped them with the development of life skills.

Ziegler is a co-founder of a club called Speak With Style. The objective of the club is to improve students’ communication and public speaking skills. He also has been involved in the Pace Council for Civic Values, which oversees all the student community service efforts on campus. And he is involved in Princeton Business Volunteers, a student organization that provides consulting services to nonprofits.

On the academic front, Ziegler is still testing the waters but is very interested in African studies. He spent the summer after his freshman year studying in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. The nine-week language program gave him an opportunity to use his skills in Swahili, a language he’s studying. “It’s one of my favorite classes here,” he says.

He also took a freshman seminar called “How Not to Go to Africa,” taught by Mahiri Mwita, Ziegler’s Swahili instructor. “The readings and discussion in class were so mind blowing,” he says. “For instance, the person who sat to my left lives in Tanzania, and we had someone from Gambia. We also had people who don’t know anything about Africa, so there was a whole spectrum.

“You heard the person from Tanzania saying, ‘How I hate it when church missionaries come for a week, build something and leave and think they’ve done something special.’ And someone else said, ‘Oh, I thought that’s something I wanted to do.’ Freshman seminars are so exhilarating because they facilitate that kind of discussion, and you get such a world perspective.”