You’re seated at a long, sleek hardwood table. There’s a fireplace (alas, purely decorative) at one end. Across from you sits a board of people that controls tens of thousands of dollars. You want a slice of that money.
The setup vaguely resembles any number of reality shows, but instead of looking at Mark Cuban or Donald Trump across the table, you're just looking at the members of the Undergraduate Student Government Projects Board (PBoard). Every week, we meet with applicants from all kinds of groups requesting funds to go toward things as small as pizza or as broad as an entire conference.
Joining the PBoard last spring opened my eyes to what happens on campus. Before, I’d known what was happening relating to my own interests—I could’ve told you who was the latest politician to speak at Whig-Clio, or what sort of theater was happening any given weekend—but beyond that, I had huge blind spots. PBoard has a unique window into the dizzying array of events that occur at Princeton, and I’m continually amazed by the requests that come to us.
You want to go to a rooftop party and stargaze to the sounds of campus bands? We've got one, brought to you by the Princeton Astronomical Society.
How about a giant night market filled with the sounds and smells of East Asia? It's one of the biggest events of the year, organized by the various Asian-American Student Associations.
Would you be interested in attending a conference with undergrads from across the country exploring, debating and discussing prison reform? Or fashion and advertising? Or LGBTQ issues and activism? These are all happening on campus just this semester, and they’re all entirely student organized.
Whenever friends hear for the first time that I’m on the PBoard and I try to explain what we do, most people are perplexed. They ask, “All you’re doing is looking over budgets and numbers, right?” with the clear implication that I must be significantly more boring than they’d thought.
I try to explain how much fun some of our meetings can be. I’ve definitely developed an appreciation for a well-organized line-item budget, but the heart of the meetings is really just talking about events with students. If you ever want a thrill, get somebody with a little-known interest to explain to you why it’s the coolest thing ever. That’s essentially what we ask people to do when they ask for funding.
I couldn’t even tell you how to turn on a soldering…thingy (I don’t even know the word – is it an iron? a gun? a griddle?), but last Thursday when the Maker’s Collective came in with an idea to build a giant water-activated LED panel installation, I got excited to give them as much money as we could because they were so excited to build it.
In my time at Princeton, I’ve come to realize that one of the best parts of meeting people here is figuring out what it is that gets them that excited. Everybody’s intelligent, of course, but what makes this place unique is the opportunity to work and live and study with people who have such varied interests, and that can’t be overrated. The longer I'm here, the more I try to appreciate others' unique and uniquely boundless enthusiasms.