Designing a Princeton Challenge

A “Princeton Challenge” is a credit-bearing, research-intensive, project-focused and/or community-engaged course (or course module) focused on COVID-19 or as well as other community-focused problems, offered in fall 2020. Like Princeton itself, these courses emphasize service and undergraduate research. The Princeton Challenge research project can be the center of the course or the focus of a significant assignment, such as the final paper.


Begin by defining the problem that you want your course and students to examine -- for instance, COVID-19’s impact, cultural representation, and/or intersection with structural inequalities.

Define your approach and methodology.  How will you teach your students to approach the problem you’ve defined?  Will they develop this methodological expertise during the project? Some resources on campus that could help guide your students include the reference librarian for your discipline, the Digital Learning Lab, Data and Statistical Services, the Map and Geospatial Information Center, the Center for Digital Humanities, and the Council on Science and Technology.

Determine how data (in its broadest sense) will be collected and analyzed for the research project. Will you collate it in advance for students, encourage students to find pre-existing data online, or collect new data as part of the project?  Does this moment offer new possibilities for data collection or analysis in your discipline?  Any data collection will need to be in compliance with University travel restrictions as well as Institutional Review Board policies for research on human subjects. Reference librarians and the Princeton Research Data Service could also be useful resources.

Determine how students will share their findings. Possibilities include a campus or public presentation, a poster session, a final paper, a digital exhibition, or a course website.  We encourage you to scaffold the project, giving students the opportunity to practice and get instructor and/or peer and/or community feedback on initial findings or early drafts. 



Consider community engagement in the project and course. Do you envision having a community partner or want to share your findings with a broad audience at the end of the semester? The Program for Community-Engaged Scholarship (ProCES) can facilitate connections to local governments, community organizations, and issue-based coalitions, in the Princeton area and far beyond.  Students may be able to suggest community stakeholders in their area.  Princeton courses have successfully partnered with libraries, museums, schools and educational institutions, governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations, community associations, and issue-based coalitions.

Consider the geographic scope of this investigation. Will the course project have a geographic focus? There are a number of options here.  Those include: no focus, limiting the scope to a geographic area you specify, selecting a small number of places for comparison in advance, a smorgasbord of case studies in which every student does an investigation that is local to them, and local to Princeton/Central Jersey.

Resources. The programs and offices listed above can help you plan and execute a Princeton Challenge course.  For community partnership or presentation questions and assistance, contact Trisha Thorme at the Program for Community-Engaged Scholarship, For course assessment questions and assistance, contact Kelly Godfrey at the McGraw Center,


Examples and Resources