Nicholas André G. Johnson on Being Princeton’s First Black Valedictorian

Education & Skills

By: Nicholas André G. Johnson

In May 2020, in the depths of the pandemic, Canadian Nicholas André G. Johnson broke new ground as Princeton’s first Black valedictorian. In over 274 years, no other Black student had been recognized in this way by the institution, making Nicholas a ground breaker and as we’ll hear—a mentor to other Black professionals forging their path through academic and professional settings.

Nicholas talks about the experience of being the first Black valedictorian and the intense media attention he received from both American and Canadian press. He shares how his passion for technology and for building connects to what he sees as his life’s work—creating value in the world.

We also discuss how organizations can engage Black professionals to bring their authentic selves into the workplace. Conference Board of Canada research found that Black Canadians had the highest rate of feeling like they needed to adjust their identity in a corporate setting. A concerning finding since almost half of the Black respondents said they needed to engage in code switching to fit in.

Finally, Nicholas shares his advice for following your passions, building a community, and connecting with others to make a difference in the world.

Read our research—Bridging the Gap Between Identity and Social and Emotional Skills: Black Canadians’ Perspectives of Social and Emotional Skills in the Workplace.

Nicholas André G. Johnson

Nicholas André G. Johnson

Operations Research PhD Candidate, MIT; Researcher in Residence, Bain Capital Crypto