Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83 recently chatted with a trio of first-year students about how, during his college years, he struggled with his physics major. But when he enrolled in a course on interpreting the Constitution, “it felt like the thing that I wanted to be doing.”
Dean of the College Jill Dolan discussed how much she has been missing live theater during the pandemic and how she has turned to excursions on hiking trails with her dog and the Netflix show Ozark to decompress.
These conversations took place on Tiger Cafe, a new podcast that invites some of the University’s top administrators — as well as alumni and other Princetonians — to engage in the informal chats that one might have on campus in a normal year. Since the pandemic has moved all campus activities online, the students set out to recreate the casual feel of a conversation as one walks to class or waits in line at Small World Coffee.
“We want to replace what is missing from everyday interactions and get to know professors in a more informal way,” says Antek Hasiura ’24, one of the hosts. The weekly podcast started as a project in lecturer John Danner’s freshman seminar “Failure: The Other ‘F’ Word: Success and Innovation’s Sibling?” in which students are asked to face the prospect of failure by trying something at which they think they will not succeed.
The three had never met in person when they launched the podcast, which is available free on Apple and other platforms. When they initially gathered on Zoom in September to interview their first guests, Hasiura was in his hometown in Poland, Jen Estes ’24 was in Kirkland, Washington, and Nastya Shybitov ’24 was in Princeton.
“We were all in different time zones, so figuring out when to record was one of the hardest things,” Estes says. That got even more complicated when they interviewed John Wetenhall ’11, who lives in Australia. He offered advice on choosing which classes to take and what he’s learned from working at tech startups. All three hosts now are living on campus.
Several other students also host podcasts. On Outside the Orange Bubble, another trio of first-year students interviews undergraduates about their hobbies and interests to create connections in the Zoom era. P’s in a Pod, now in its third season, focuses on the passions, pursuits, and perspectives of Princeton students. The hosts have explored the diverse experiences of members of the student body by interviewing transfer students, aspiring comedians, international students, and student athletes.
The students who host Tiger Cafe are planning to broaden its scope for the spring semester by conducting interviews with University employees in dining and facilities. Says Hasiura, “We want to bring their voices in and help the community feel closer together in a time when we are apart.”