Princeton’s Mudd library has posted a 1962 instructional film for students who were serving as campus tour guides.

At first what is striking about this film (above) is how much the Princeton undergraduate experience has changed in less than 50 years. For one, thing Princeton students are a much more cosmopolitan group, taking advantage of enviable opportunities to study and travel abroad and Princeton’s new bridge-year program, as well as engaging in worthy endeavors like Engineers Without Borders.

Princeton is emphatically not the all-male, all-white institution of the past. But what is just as  striking as the film rolls along is that some of the iconic cornerstones of a Princeton education are pretty much unchanged from what they were back then.

For example: the film’s emphasis on student independent work for upperclassmen. At about minute 7 in the film we see a senior show his original thesis research in the aeronautics department. That kind independent work is still very much a part of the engineering undergraduate experience today.

The 1962 film also hits another very familiar theme: the importance of learning engineering in a liberal arts setting.

“There is more to being a good engineer today than just getting a grasp of technical subjects,” a professor intones at about minute 14 in the film. “It’s been the experience of the University that an education in the liberal arts as a complement to engineering studies produces better engineers… You’ll be living in a world of non-engineers. You will have to know how to communicate with them. You will have to be able to understand their ideas, and you will have to know how to express your own.”

Amen.

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