For over 75 years, Princeton’s Program in American Studies has supported teaching and research on America from diverse interdisciplinary perspectives. Now, a major gift to the University’s Venture Forward campaign from Blair Effron ’84 and Cheryl Effron will expand the program into the Effron Center for the Study of America.
Throughout its history, the program has brought students together with scholars and public figures from across the humanities, arts and social sciences to explore broad research questions around topics like migration, colonization, race, art, culture, history, language, law and public policy, and gender and sexuality, as they relate to America.
The establishment of the center realizes Princeton’s vision for the future of American studies as articulated in the 2016 report of the Task Force on American Studies, and in subsequent planning by faculty and administrators.
The Effron Center will enable Princeton to make crucial investments in people — faculty, visitors, fellows — to support emerging areas of American studies scholarship and provide an expanded roster of curricular offerings.
“This visionary gift affirms the importance of exploring American history and identity through multiple perspectives, and forges strong new links between the humanities and the social sciences,” said President Christopher L. Eisgruber. “We are grateful to Blair and Cheryl for their commitment to this Center, which will facilitate innovative interdisciplinary research and teaching about some of the most urgent questions facing America today.”
Aisha M. Beliso-De Jesús, director of the Program in American Studies and professor of American studies, will lead the center.
“The creation of this center strengthens Princeton’s voice in the global dialogue on the complex and diverse meanings of what it means to be America, and American,” said Beliso-De Jesús. “The center creates a collaborative hub where scholarship and teaching in many fields of study converge to illuminate and engage with the multiple strands of American viewpoints, politics, identities, histories and practice.”
The Effron Center for the Study of America offers race and ethnicity studies — including Asian American, Latino, Native American and Indigenous, and American Jewish studies — in a holistic context of partnerships across the University, including with Princeton’s African American studies department, programs in gender and sexuality studies, English, history, law, religion, environmental studies, and the Lewis Center for the Arts.
“The center will provide a space for intellectual discussions to produce transformative research and teaching that is guided by principles of civil rights, freedom, social justice, and inclusion,” said Beliso-De Jesús.
The center’s undergraduate certificate tracks in Asian American and Latino studies, which complement the original American studies track, offer students opportunities for detailed focus on particular strands of American identity and how they relate to other narratives of America.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity for a flourishing academic program to expand the range and depth of its research and teaching agenda and to foster greater interdisciplinary collaboration,” said Gene A. Jarrett, Dean of the Faculty and the William S. Tod Professor of English.
University trustee and alumni co-chair of the Venture Forward campaign committee Blair Effron ’84 and his wife Cheryl Effron devote significant philanthropic and volunteer support to nonprofits that focus on social services, education, the arts, and civic engagement. Their previous support of Princeton has included a major gift naming the Effron Music Building.
Blair Effron is a co-founder and partner of Centerview Partners, an independent investment banking and advisory firm. He serves on the boards of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New Visions for Public Schools, and the Council on Foreign Relations. He received an A.B. in history at Princeton and holds an MBA from Columbia University. Cheryl Cohen Effron is a real estate developer known for her re-development of under-utilized buildings including the Falchi Building and The Factory in Long Island City, and Chelsea Market in Manhattan. She is past board president of the Dalton School (NYC) and on the boards of the Brookings Institution, Greater NY, the Charles H. Revson Foundation, International Rescue Committee, Friends of the High Line, the American Museum of Natural History, the Markle Foundation and Rethink Food. She is also a senior advisor to Tishman Speyer Properties.
Their gift establishing the Effron Center for the Study of America represents a key milestone in Venture Forward, The Princeton Campaign, an engagement and fundraising campaign dedicated to meeting today’s complex challenges and those of the future.
The Venture Forward campaign has three goals: seeking critical philanthropic support for the University’s highest strategic priorities, which include American studies; building community and alumni engagement; and sharing Princeton’s defining principles and their impact on the world.
The campaign is focused on Princeton University’s strengths in the liberal arts, pushing the bounds of knowledge across disciplines, and collaborating to champion inclusion, the humanities, science, art, public policy and technology.
“The establishment of the Effron Center exemplifies the spirit of Venture Forward,” said Provost Debbie Prentice. “It creates a space for daring to ask questions. It’s an invitation to possibility.”
Photos, clockwise from top left: William A. Gleason, the Hughes-Rogers Professor of English and American Studies, and Aisha Beliso-De Jesús, professor of American studies and director of the programs in American studies, Asian American studies and Latino studies, facilitate discussion at a community forum that brought students and faculty together to consider key issues in America today. Photo by Sarah Malone; “Diet for a Small Planet” author Frances Moore Lappé links democracy and sustainability in the keynote address at the 2019 conference “Considering the Counterculture.” Photo by Sarah Malone; Student and faculty participants in “Col(LAB) 2.0: Strange Life: Beauty, Race, & War” — including, at right, Allison Carruth, professor of American studies and the High Meadows Environmental Institute — prepare lactic acid serums in the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment. Photo by Sarah Malone; Students in the course “American Agrarians” complement textual analysis and seminar discussion with learning how to tap maple trees for sap, and sharpening skills on a two-person crosscut saw. Photos by Tessa Lowinske Desmond; In a visit to the Princeton University Library Special Collections, students in the spring 2019 course “America Then and Now” examine early colonial texts. Photo by Sarah Malone; *Faculty titles are as of the present. At the time of the photos, Aisha Beliso-De Jesús was acting associate director, and Allison Carruth was Anschutz Distinguished Fellow at Princeton, and associate professor of English at UCLA.