Pyne Prize winners talk about campus experiences, aspirations

Solveig Gold ’17
Sameer A. Khan

Seniors Solveig Gold and Marisa Salazar are this year’s winners of the Pyne Prize, the University’s highest general distinction for undergraduates. They spoke with PAW in early March.


Gold, born and raised in New York City, is concentrating in classics with certificates in Hellenic studies, values and public life, and humanistic studies. She is a member of the Tigerlilies a cappella group, the Triangle Club, and the Glee Club; a staff writer for the Princeton Tory; and co-founder of the Princeton Open Campus Coalition, which promotes free speech and academic diversity on campus. 

What’s your favorite thing about studying classics? 

I love feeling connected to past people through ideas. The people I like to study in antiquity — such as Plato or Socrates — ask questions that we are still asking to this day. I love that I can join that same conversation that spans generations across time and space with people all over the globe.

What motivated you to found the Princeton Open Campus Coalition? 

When the protests and sit-ins started happening, it was the first time that many of my more liberal-leaning friends came up to me and said, “Wow, I’ve never felt like I couldn’t voice my opinions before, but now I feel like I can’t say anything without being labeled a racist or a bigot.” I think that for a lot of conservative-leaning students this is a normal fear, but when it got to the point where liberal students felt that way too, I knew I had to do something about it. The nine other founders and I created the Princeton Open Campus Coalition because we felt that someone had to make it clear that it’s OK to disagree, it’s good to disagree, and that actually, that’s the goal of the University — to promote healthy and friendly disagreements that ultimately lead to greater truth. 

VIEW Gold’s Pyne Prize address from Alumni Day

How do you see yourself using your classics degree?

I’d like to be a professor, but I’d also like to have a public voice, so I see myself being a kind of public intellectual, commenting on current events through the lens of the classics, which can often shed new light on modern issues.

Marisa Salazar ’17
Sameer A. Khan


Salazar, who was home-schooled in Las Cruces, N.M., and whose grandparents emigrated from Mexico, is majoring in chemistry. She was an officer with the Princeton American Sign Language Club and has served as a pre-health peer adviser, a residential-college adviser, and the McGraw Center’s head tutor for organic chemistry. Salazar plans to attend medical school after graduation.

At the Alumni Day luncheon, you spoke about growing up and being part of two worlds, but not really feeling at home in either one. Has that changed during your time at Princeton? 

Even though I grew up very heavily immersed in Mexican culture — things like food traditions, Ballet Folklórico, and the value of family and one’s place in the community — I didn’t fit in with a major aspect of the culture, which was the language. At Princeton I started learning Spanish, and now I can talk about basically anything I want to talk about with my grandmother. Language and culture are so linked that having access to the language has opened a door to a part of my identity that I was always longing for but never really able to access.

VIEW Salazar’s Pyne Prize address from Alumni Day

You gave part of your Alumni Day talk in American Sign Language. What motivated you to learn it? 

The summer before my freshman year, when I found out who everyone in my zee [residential-college advisee] group was, I found out that one of them, Colin, was Deaf [Salazar requested an uppercase “D” to emphasize the culture and community]. I taught myself enough ASL over the summer to introduce myself to Colin. He was really excited because usually people don’t know even a little bit of sign. Ultimately, it’s important to learn ASL just to learn about the Deaf community because it is its own community and culture, but the most important thing for me was to be a friend.

You’ve said that you hope to work on providing medical access to traditionally underserved populations and on global health. What led to those goals? 

Growing up, I was very aware of inequalities in the world. I am a Christian, and that ethical way of looking at the world through sacrificial love and sacrificial giving has shaped how I think about a lot of things — and that’s not compatible with inequity. So I see this inequity and just can’t see myself not doing something about it.

Interviews conducted and condensed by Layla Malamut ’18