(All Portrait Images courtesy of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)
The John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today announced the Class of 2015 MacArthur Fellows and it’s a list rich with diversity and achievement. The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. There are three criteria for selection of Fellows: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.
The MacArthur Fellows Program is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations. In keeping with this purpose, the Foundation awards fellowships directly to individuals rather than through institutions. Recipients may be writers, scientists, artists, social scientists, humanists, teachers, entrepreneurs, or those in other fields, with or without institutional affiliations. They may use their fellowship to advance their expertise, engage in bold new work, or, if they wish, to change fields or alter the direction of their careers.
Although nominees are reviewed for their achievements, the fellowship is not a reward for past accomplishment, but rather an investment in a person’s originality, insight, and potential. Indeed, the purpose of the MacArthur Fellows Program is to enable recipients to exercise their own creative instincts for the benefit of human society.
The Foundation does not require or expect specific products or reports from MacArthur Fellows, and does not evaluate recipients’ creativity during the term of the fellowship. The MacArthur Fellowship is a “no strings attached” award in support of people, not projects. Each fellowship comes with a stipend of $625,000 to the recipient, paid out in equal quarterly installments over five years.
How Fellows are Chosen
Each year, the MacArthur Fellows Program invites new nominators on the basis of their expertise, accomplishments, and breadth of experience. They are encouraged to nominate the most creative people they know within their field and beyond. Nominators are chosen from as broad a range of fields and areas of interest as possible. At any given time, there are usually more than one hundred active nominators.
Nominations are evaluated by an independent Selection Committee composed of about a dozen leaders in the arts, sciences, humanities professions, and for-profit and nonprofit communities. Each nomination is considered with respect to the program’s selection criteria, based on the nomination letter along with original works of the nominee and evaluations from other experts collected by the program staff.
After a thorough, multi-step review, the Selection Committee makes its recommendations to the President and board of directors of the MacArthur Foundation. Announcement of the annual list is usually made in September. While there are no quotas or limits, typically 20 to 30 Fellows are selected each year. Between June of 1981 and September of 2013, 897 Fellows have been named.
Nominators, evaluators, and selectors all serve anonymously and their correspondence is kept confidential. This policy enables participants to provide their honest impressions independent of outside influence. The Fellows Program does not accept applications or unsolicited nominations.
There are no restrictions on becoming a Fellow, except that nominees must be either residents or citizens of the United States.
“These 24 delightfully diverse MacArthur Fellows are shedding light and making progress on critical issues, pushing the boundaries of their fields, and improving our world in imaginative, unexpected ways,” said MacArthur President Julia Stasch. “Their work, their commitment, and their creativity inspire us all.”
And the 2015 MacArthur Fellows are:
Patrick Awuah, Education Entrepreneur, Founder and President
Ashesi University College, Accra, Ghana
Patrick Awuah is an educator and entrepreneur building a new model for higher education in Ghana. Ashesi University, which Awuah founded in 2002, is a four-year private institution that offers a core curriculum grounded in liberal arts, ethical principles, and skills for contemporary African needs and opportunities. Awuah, a native of Ghana, was educated at American universities and began a successful career as a Microsoft engineer, but a vision for better higher education in Ghana drew him home. He saw a stark contrast between his college experience, which stressed critical thinking and problem solving, and the rote learning common in Ghana’s educational system. He was also convinced that a focus on ethical leadership in the next generation of Ghana’s leaders was the best means for combating pervasive corruption.
Students at Ashesi choose among degree programs in business management, computer science, management information systems, and engineering. All students participate in a four-year leadership seminar on ethics, collaboration, and entrepreneurship that concludes with a service-learning component. Fostering ethical leadership is central to the university’s ethos, and in 2008, students established an honor code holding themselves responsible for ethical behavior, the first of its kind in African universities. In addition, Awuah places an emphasis on ethnic, economic, and gender diversity in the Ashesi community, and the recently opened school of engineering will focus on gender parity in its admissions.
In a little over a decade, Ashesi is already firmly established as one of Ghana’s premier universities. Every one of its graduates has found quality employment, and almost all remain in Africa, where many have started much-needed information technology businesses. Awuah’s innovation in higher education is not only empowering individual students; it also has the potential to transform political and civil society in Ghana and other African nations by developing a new generation of leaders and entrepreneurs.
Patrick Awuah received B.S. and B.A. degrees (1989) from Swarthmore College and an M.B.A. (1999) from the University of California at Berkeley. He was an engineer and program manager at Microsoft (1989–1997) prior to founding Ashesi University in 2002 in Accra, Ghana. In addition to serving as president of Ashesi, he is also a fellow of the African Leadership Initiative of the Aspen Global Leadership Network and a member of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations.
Kartik Chandran, Environmental Engineer
Associate Professor, Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering
Columbia University, New York, New York
Kartik Chandran is an environmental engineer integrating microbial ecology, molecular biology, and engineering to transform wastewater from a troublesome pollutant to a valuable resource. Traditional facilities for biologically treating wastewater remove pathogens, organic carbon, and nutrients (where necessary) through decades-old technology that requires vast amounts of energy and resources, releases harmful gases into the atmosphere, and leaves behind material that must be discarded. Chandran approaches wastewater treatment with the goal of producing useful resources such as fertilizers, chemicals, and energy sources, in addition to clean water, in a way that takes into account the climate, energy, and nutrient challenges we face today.
The key insight of Chandran’s research and applications thereof is that certain combinations of mixed microbial communities, similar to those that occur naturally, can be used to mitigate the harmful environmental impacts of wastewater and extract useful products. For example, Chandran has determined an optimal combination of microbes (and associated wastewater treatment technologies) to remove nitrogen from waste while minimizing the release of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas. This approach also involves reduced chemical and energy inputs relative to traditional treatments and has the added benefit of preventing algal blooms downstream by maximizing nitrogen removal. More recently, using ammonia-oxidizing bacteria, Chandran has enabled the transformation of bio-generated methane gas into methanol, a chemical that is both easily transported and widely useful in industry (including the wastewater industry).
Chandran imaginatively tailors his solutions to be locally appropriate. In rural Ghana, in conjunction with his Engineers without Borders students, he has re-engineered source-separation toilets to both provide sanitation and recover nutrients for use in agriculture. In Kumasi, Ghana, he is testing the large-scale conversion of sludge into biofuel while also providing new training opportunities for local engineers and managers. Through his groundbreaking research and its practical applications, Chandran is demonstrating the hidden value of wastewater, conserving vital resources, and protecting public health.
Kartik Chandran received a B.S. (1995) from the Indian Institute of Technology at Roorkee (formerly, University of Roorkee) and a Ph.D. (1999) from the University of Connecticut. He was a senior technical specialist (2001–2004) with the private engineering firm Metcalf and Eddy of New York, Inc., before returning to academia as a research associate (2004–2005) at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Currently an associate professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering at Columbia University, his work has been demonstrated in New York City and Ghana and has been published in such journals as PLoS ONE, Environmental Microbiology, Environmental Science & Technology, and Biotechnology and Bioengineering, among others.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Journalist
National Correspondent, The Atlantic, Washington, District of Columbia
Ta-Nehisi Coates is a journalist, blogger, and memoirist who brings personal reflection and historical scholarship to bear on America’s most contested issues. Writing without shallow polemic and in a measured style, Coates addresses complex and challenging issues such as racial identity, systemic racial bias, and urban policing. He subtly embeds the present—in the form of anecdotes about himself or others—into historical analysis in order to illustrate how the implications of the past are still experienced by people today.
In a series of blog posts about the Civil War and a long-form print essay on “The Case for Reparations” (2014), Coates grapples with the rationalizations for slavery and their persistence in twentieth-century policies like Jim Crow and redlining—the practice of denying loans and other financial services to African Americans. In “Reparations” Coates compellingly argues for remuneration for the economic impact on African Americans denied the ability to accumulate wealth or social status for generations. At once deeply felt and intensely researched, the essay prompted a national conversation.
Coates opens a window to the formation of his worldview in his memoir, The Beautiful Struggle (2008), a reflection on race, class, and masculinity told through the lens of growing up in Baltimore as the son of a former Black Panther. Coates describes the evolution of his views on constructions of race in Between the World and Me (2015). In this passionate and lyrical book-length essay addressed to his teenage son, he unflinchingly articulates the physical and mental experience of being a black man in America today. A highly distinctive voice, Coates is emerging as a leading interpreter of American concerns to a new generation of media-savvy audiences and having a profound impact on the discussion of race and racism in this country.
Ta-Nehisi Coates attended Howard University. His articles have appeared in local and national publications, including the Village Voice, the Washington City Paper, the Washington Post, the New York Times Magazine, Time Magazine, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic, where he is currently a national correspondent. He was a Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012 and a journalist-in-residence at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism in 2014.
Gary Cohen, Environmental Health Advocate
Co-Founder and President, Health Care Without Harm, Reston, Virginia
Matthew Desmond, Urban Sociologist
Associate Professor of Sociology and Social Studies, Department of Sociology, Harvard University
Matthew Desmond is a social scientist and ethnographer revealing the impact of eviction on the lives of the urban poor and its role in perpetuating racial and economic inequality. In his investigations of the low-income rental market and eviction in privately owned housing in Milwaukee, Desmond argues persuasively that eviction is a cause, rather than merely a symptom, of poverty.
He created the Milwaukee Area Renters Study, examined court records, and conducted extensive ethnographic fieldwork to construct a vivid picture of the remarkably high rates of eviction and the ways in which it disrupts the lives of low-income African Americans, in particular. His findings indicate that households headed by women are more likely to face eviction than men, resulting in deleterious long-term effects much like those caused by high rates of incarceration among low-income African American men. He also captures how landlords, local government, and city police interact with tenants, as well as the constrained choices and lack of agency suffered by low-income renters. For example, Desmond exposed the fact that women reporting domestic violence in Milwaukee were often evicted—the result of a local ordinance that classified such reports as “nuisance calls.” The ordinance has since been reconsidered, and Milwaukee has changed its policy of fining landlords whose tenants repeatedly called the police. The American Civil Liberties Union has challenged similar policies elsewhere.
Desmond is also taking a fresh look at the survival strategies of struggling families, overturning the longstanding assumption among policymakers that the destitute turn to extended kin for assistance. Today, poor families often form intense, but brief relationships with strangers, creating a network of “disposable ties” to meet pressing needs. As Desmond brings his findings beyond academic circles in editorials and his forthcoming book, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (2016), he is shedding light on how entrenched poverty and racial inequality are built and sustained by housing policies in large American cities.
Matthew Desmond received two B.S. (2002) degrees from Arizona State University and an M.S. (2004) and Ph.D. (2010) from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He was a Junior Fellow at the Society of Fellows at Harvard University (2010–2013), before joining the faculty of Harvard’s Department of Sociology and Committee on Degrees in Social Studies in 2012. In addition to publishing articles in such journals as American Journal of Sociology and American Sociological Review, he is the author of the award-winning book, On the Fireline (2007), coauthor of Race in America (2015) and The Racial Order (2015), and editor of the forthcoming inaugural issue ofRSF: Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, on the theme of severe deprivation.
William Dichtel, Chemist
Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology,
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
Michelle Dorrance, Tap Dancer and Choreographer
Founder and Artistic Director, Dorrance Dance/New York, New York, New York
Michelle Dorrance is a tap dancer and choreographer breathing new life into a uniquely American art form in works that combine the musicality of tap with the choreographic intricacies of contemporary dance. Dorrance uses her deep understanding of the technique and history of tap dancing to deconstruct and reimagine its artistic possibilities.
Tap is primarily an aural dance form, with dancers creating complex syncopations through technical feats of footwork. In a high-contrast physical style, Dorrance maintains the essential layering of rhythms in tap but choreographs ensemble works that engage the entire body: dancers swoop, bend, leap, and twist with a dramatic expression that is at once musical and visual. In SOUNDspace (2011), she shapes the architecture of the stage space by moving dancers in and out of view; the dancers create an acoustic chamber as the audience is surrounded with textured rhythms created by leather, wood, and metal taps on the stage, backstage, and balcony.
Dorrance has moved beyond the episodic nature of traditional tap pieces—with solo dancers competing for the most audacious phrase—to craft evening-length ensemble works that tell compelling stories through rhythm and the arrangement of visual information. The Blues Project (2013) is an encyclopedic depiction of the history of the blues as told through tap-based works as well as an active collaboration between the dancers and the musicians who accompany them. In ETM: The Initial Approach (2014), Dorrance creates a fusion of acoustic and electronic sound. The dancers perform on platforms that are activated by their contact to emit sounds and enable electronic looping, allowing a real-time exploration of how movement and sound affect each other. Dorrance’s choreographic sense of tap as a musical and visual expression is bringing it to entirely new contexts and enhancing the appreciation of tap as an innovative, serious, and evolving art form.
Michelle Dorrance received a B.A. (2001) from the Gallatin School at New York University. A member of the faculty of the Broadway Dance Center since 2002, Dorrance has performed with preeminent tap companies and has taught and choreographed for institutions and groups across the United States and abroad. She toured with the Off-Broadway production of STOMP (2007–2011) before founding Dorrance Dance/New York. The troupe has performed Dorrance’s choreographic works at such venues as Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, the Joyce Theatre, and Danspace Project, as well as at numerous festivals throughout North America and Europe.
Nicole Eisenman, Painter, New York, New York. Age: 50
Nicole Eisenman is an artist who is expanding the critical and expressive capacity of the Western figurative tradition through works that engage contemporary social issues and phenomena. Over the course of nearly four decades and working across various media, including painting, sculpture, drawing, and printmaking, Eisenman has restored to the representation of the human form a cultural significance that had waned during the ascendancy of abstraction in the twentieth century.
She draws on narrative and rhetorical modes—including allegory and satire—to explore such themes as gender and sexuality, family dynamics, and inequalities of wealth and power. At the same time, she stages dialogues with artists from the past, both by referencing specific works and by employing stylistic and thematic approaches derived from art historical movements. In a series of paintings of beer-garden scenes (2008– ), for example, Eisenman updates Renoir’s tableaux of bourgeois leisure, replacing the nineteenth-century French characters that populate Renoir’s originals with a dense, New York crowd. The Triumph of Poverty (2009) presents a complex allegory of contemporary economic conditions. Eisenman’s skill as a painter of imaginative compositions is evidenced not only through the array of social types represented but also through the bold contrasts of color that inject the work with emotional and psychological intensity.
As a draftswoman, Eisenman deftly conveys the weight and movement of the human body through skillful manipulations of line and shading. In her print Man Holding His Shadow (2011), she uses lithography, a medium at one remove from the artist’s hand, to reflect on the limits of representation while maintaining her painterly style of mark making. More recently, she has brought her wry, intelligent vision to sculpture, proving that she is equally adept at imagining and shaping forms in three dimensions. In her challenging engagement with the human figure and investigation of social meaning, Eisenman is developing new conventions of figuration to address enduring themes of the human condition.
Nicole Eisenman received a B.F.A. (1987) from the Rhode Island School of Design. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions at such institutions as the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Carnegie Museum of Art, Kunsthalle Zürich, and the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, Germany. In 2014, she was the subject of a midcareer retrospective exhibition organized by the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis, and that travelled to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego.
LaToya Ruby Frazier, Photographer and Video Artist
Assistant Professor, Department of Photography,
School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
LaToya Ruby Frazier is a photographer and video artist who uses visual autobiographies to capture social inequality and historical change in the postindustrial age. Informed by documentary practices from the turn of the last century, Frazier explores identities of place, race, and family in work that is a hybrid of self-portraiture and social narrative. The crumbling landscape of Braddock, Pennsylvania, a once-thriving steel town, forms the backdrop of her images, which make manifest both the environmental and infrastructural decay caused by postindustrial decline and the lives of those who continue—largely by necessity—to live amongst it.
The Notion of Family, a series of unflinching black-and-white photographs, shows her mother, grandmother, and the artist herself in a Braddock unmoored by disinvestment and demographic decline. Frazier’s stark portraits underscore the connection between self and physical space and make visible the consequences of neglect and abandonment—unemployment, environmental health crises, and lack of access to services—for Braddock’s historically marginalized working-class African American community. In a photolithograph and silkscreen print series from 2011, entitled Campaign for Braddock Hospital (“Save Our Community Hospital”), Frazier sets up an ironic juxtaposition between upbeat consumer capitalism and the challenges of working people. Images of Braddock from a 2010 Levi Strauss campaign bearing the slogan “Ready to Work” are set in counterpoint to quotes from Braddock residents about the closure of the town’s only hospital—and its principal employer—that same year.
In more recent photographic work, Frazier documents Braddock from the skies in full-color aerial shots that record the extensive transformations of a community after years of economic collapse. Frazier’s uncompromising and moving work illustrates how contemporary photography can open conversations about American history, class structures, and social responsibility.
LaToya Ruby Frazier received a B.F.A. (2004) from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and an M.F.A. (2007) from Syracuse University. She held artist residencies at the Lower Manhattan Culture Council (2009–2010) and the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program (2010–2011) and was the Guna S. Mundheim Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin (2013–2014) before assuming her current position as assistant professor in the Department of Photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Frazier’s work has appeared in numerous exhibitions, including solo shows at the Brooklyn Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston. The Notion of Family, Frazier’s first book, was published in 2014.
Ben Lerner, Writer
Professor, Department of English,
City University of New York, Brooklyn College, New York, New York
Mimi Lien, Set Designer, New York, New York. Age: 39
Mimi Lien is a set designer for theater, opera, and dance whose bold, immersive designs shape and extend a dramatic text’s narrative and emotional dynamics. Lien combines training in set design and architecture with an innate dramaturgical insight, and she is adept at configuring a performance space to establish particular relationships—both among the characters on stage and between the audience and the actors—that dramatize the play’s movement through space and time.
In sets for both large-scale immersive works and for more traditional proscenium stages, Lien envelops the audience in a specific mood or atmosphere. For Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 (2013), Lien designed a full-scale Tsarist Russian salon that summoned up the decadence of early nineteenth-century Moscow and the chaotic emotional lives of the Russian elite. Her simple and stark set for Born Bad (2011)—brown shag carpet, worn wallpaper, and three wooden chairs on a platform that is overhung by a low ceiling—created a claustrophobic environment that heightened the play’s portrayal of family tensions.
For other works, Lien choreographs the movement of set pieces so that they become participants in the dramatic action. She propelled the narrative action forward in An Octoroon (2014), as a series of cascading false walls enacted a sequence of startling set transformations. With surrealist touches such as a sloping floor and an aperture that opened and closed to create a sliver of light suggesting a tightrope, Lien brought to life the eeriness of Hades’ underworld in Eurydice (2008), while also evincing the devotion of Eurydice’s father as he constructs (onstage) a string room for her that is held aloft by helium balloons. In projects that range from large regional theaters, to small experimental, hybrid pieces, to a performance in an 81-acre meadow, Lien is revitalizing the visual language of theater and enhancing the performance experience for theater-makers and viewers alike.
Mimi Lien received a B.A. (1997) from Yale University and an M.F.A. (2003) from New York University. Her designs of sets for theater, dance, and opera have been seen nationally and internationally at such venues as Soho Repertory Theatre, the Public Theater, Lincoln Center Theater, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the Joyce Theater, Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, the Goodman Theatre, and Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre (Russia), among many others. She is an artistic associate with Pig Iron Theatre Company and The Civilians and co-founder of the performance space JACK.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Playwright, Composer, and Performer,
New York, New York
Lin-Manuel Miranda is a composer, lyricist, and performer reimagining American musical theater in works that fuse traditional storytelling with contemporary musical styles and voices. Well-versed in the structure and history of musical theater, Miranda expands its idiom with the aesthetic of popular culture and stories from individuals and communities new to Broadway stages.
In the Heights (2007), which Miranda began to write while in college, is set in Manhattan’s Dominican district, Washington Heights, and expresses the pathos of an immigrant community losing its neighborhood to gentrification and its younger generation to assimilation and upward mobility. In the opening scene, Miranda showcases his linguistic dexterity in the character Usnavi (played by Miranda himself), who interweaves song, dance, and narration to introduce the other various characters. They, in turn, express themselves in musical styles ranging from hip-hop to salsa.
Miranda continues to explore the dramatic potential of hip-hop in Hamilton (2015), in which he uses an urban soundscape to tell the story of Alexander Hamilton’s rise from an orphaned West Indian immigrant to America’s first Treasury Secretary. Miranda presents policy battles, love triangles, and duels through high velocity lyrics, replete with false and slant rhymes, that expand the range of both pop and Broadway music. The daring pairing of street culture with America’s founding narrative recalls the youthful, defiant spirit of the American Revolution, and cross-racial casting connects the present day to the diverse immigrant society of the thirteen rebel colonies. Melding a love of the musical with a pop culture sensibility, Miranda is expanding the conventions of mainstream theater and showcasing the cultural riches of the American urban panorama.
Lin-Manuel Miranda received a B.A. (2002) from Wesleyan University. His other theater credits include co-composer and co-lyricist of Bring It On: The Musical (2011); actor in revivals of tick, tick…BOOM! (2014) and Merrily We Roll Along (2012); new original music for a revival of Working (2012); and the mini-musical, “21 Chump Street,” for This American Life (2014). He is also a member of the improv hip-hop group, Freestyle Love Supreme.
Dimitri Nakassis, Classicist
Associate Professor, Department of Classics,
University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
Dimitri Nakassis is a classicist transforming our understanding of prehistoric Greek societies. His rare intellectual breadth, comprising philology, archaeology, and contemporary social and economic theory, has equipped Nakassis to challenge the long-held view that Late Bronze Age Mycenaean palatial society (1400–1200 BC) was a highly centralized oligarchy, quite distinct from the democratic city-states of classical Greece.
Instead, he proposes that power and resources were more broadly shared. This thesis, developed in his first book, Individuals and Society in Mycenaean Pylos (2013), is derived from a meticulous reinterpretation of Pylos’s administrative and accounting records (found on clay tablets and written in the early Greek script, Linear B). Standard interpretations of the tablets suppose a rigid political structure in which a small group of palace elites controlled and distributed all resources. Nakassis re-examined this model using a traditional method, prosopography, but through the lens of contemporary theoretical discussions of agency and structure. He determined that some recurrences of a personal name refer to the same individual playing multiple, sometimes competing, roles. This insight offers an alternative picture of the Mycenaean world as a more open society with a dynamic and competitive economic structure that displays some similarities to the democratic polis of classical Greece.
Nakassis is testing his hypothesis through an archaeological survey, the Western Argolid Regional Project, that will reconstruct the settlement history of a core region of the Mycenaean world from prehistory to modern times and clarify how Mycenaean states mobilized labor, incorporated peripheral communities, and expressed power over many centuries. He is also co-directing a new study of the Linear B tablets from Pylos that includes the use of digital imaging technologies (three-dimensional scanning and Reflectance Transformation Imaging, a kind of computational photography) to produce high-quality print and digital editions of these important documents for the first time. Nakassis’s multifaceted approach to the study of Bronze Age Greece is redefining the methodologies and frameworks of the field, and his nuanced picture of political authority and modes of economic exchange in Mycenaean Greece is illuminating the prehistoric underpinnings of Western civilization.
Dimitri Nakassis received a B.A. (1997) from the University of Michigan and an M.A. (2000) and Ph.D. (2006) from the University of Texas at Austin. He joined the faculty of the University of Toronto in 2008, where he is currently an associate professor in the Department of Classics, and he has been a visiting professor at the University of Colorado Boulder (2014–2015), the Florida State University (2007–2008), and Trinity University (2006–2007). His articles and essays have appeared in the American Journal of Archaeology, Hesperia, and Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies, among others.
John Novembre, Computational Biologist
Associate Professor, Department of Human Genetics,
University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Christopher Ré, Computer Scientist
Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science, Stanford University, Stanford, California
Marina Rustow, Historian
Professor, Department of Near Eastern Studies and Department of History, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey
Juan Salgado, Community Leader
President and CEO, Instituto del Progreso Latino, Chicago, Illinois
Beth Stevens, Neuroscientist
Assistant Professor of Neurology, F. M. Kirby Neurobiology Center,
Boston Children’s Hospital, Department of Neurology, Harvard Medical School
Lorenz Studer, Stem Cell Biologist
Director, Center for Stem Cell Biology, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York
Alex Truesdell, Adaptive Designer and Fabricator
Executive Director and Founder, Adaptive Design Association, Inc., New York, New York
Basil Twist, Puppetry Artist and Director
New York, New York
Basil Twist is a puppeteer and theater artist whose experiments with the materials and techniques of puppetry explore the boundaries between the animate and inanimate, the abstract and the figurative. Twist’s works range from productions of classic stories to abstract visualizations of orchestral music and are informed by puppetry traditions from around the world, including hand puppets, bunraku, and string-and-rod marionettes.
His best-known work, Symphonie Fantastique (1998), uses a complex choreography of fabric, feathers, tinsel, and cutouts in a 500-gallon tank of water to evoke human characteristics and emotions and illuminate Berlioz’s score in unexpected ways. Twist has brought puppetry to new audiences and venues with a captivating beauty and refinement. He tells the story of La Bella Dormente nel Bosco (Sleeping Beauty in the Woods, 2005) with life-sized marionettes, controlled by puppeteers on an overhead bridge, and onstage singers. In Petrushka (2001), he employs meticulously crafted, life-like puppets moved by puppeteers who are sometimes visible (as in the bunraku tradition) to underscore the theme of tragic manipulation in the love-triangle plot. More recently, Twist has returned to his roots in abstraction in The Rite of Spring (2013); he enacts the intensity of both Stravinsky’s score and the response to the original ballet’s debut in 1913 through cascading curtains of billowing silk, crumpled paper, curling smoke, projections, and just a single dancer.
In addition to his own productions, Twist is a frequent collaborator with renowned opera companies, choreographers, and playwrights, and he has trained and mentored an entire generation of young puppet artists at the Dream Music Puppetry Program based at the HERE Arts Center. Twist’s wide-ranging and trailblazing body of work is revitalizing puppetry as a serious and sophisticated art form in and of itself and establishing it as an integral element in contemporary theater, dance, and music.
Basil Twist received a D.M.A. (1993) from the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts de la Marionnette. His additional works include Master Peter’s Puppet Show (2002), Hansel and Gretel (2006), Dogugaeshi (2004), and Arias with a Twist (2008). He has designed and directed puppets for a number of collaborative theatrical and opera productions, such as Red Beads (Mabou Mines, 2005) and The Long Christmas Ride Home (written by Paula Vogel, 2004), and original dance works, including Darkness and Light (Pilobolus, 2008) and Cinderella (Dutch National Ballet, 2012). Since 1999, he has served as director of the Dream Music Puppetry Program at the HERE Arts Center in New York City.
Ellen Bryant Voigt, Poet, Cabot, Vermont
Heidi Williams, Economist
Class of 1957 Career Development Assistant Professor, Department of Economic
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Peidong Yang, Inorganic Chemist
S. K. and Angela Chan Distinguished Professor of Energy, Department of Chemistry
University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California