Dr. Joshua Bennett is the author of The Sobbing School (Penguin, 2016) and the Director of the June Jordan Fellowship. He holds a Ph.D. in English from Princeton University, and an M.A. in Theatre and Performance Studies from the University of Warwick, where he was a Marshall Scholar. In 2010, Dr. Bennett delivered the Commencement Address at the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated with the distinctions of Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude. Winner of the 2015 National Poetry Series, Dr. Bennett has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, Cave Canem, and the Ford Foundation. His writing has been published or is forthcoming in The American Poetry Review, Boston Review, The New York Times, Poetry and elsewhere. He is currently a Junior Fellow in the Society of Fellows at Harvard University.
Dr. Geraldine Downey is the Director of the Center for Justice and a Professor in the Department of Psychology and of the Social Relations Laboratory at Columbia University. Trained in developmental psychology and psychopathology, she has extensive experience doing research and teaching focused on promoting healthy development especially among those growing up in adverse circumstances. She has served in a number of institutional and organizational leadership and her mentorship of leaders was recently recognized with the Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award. Much of her work has focused on investigating the effect of rejection on people’s personality, behavior and relationships using established social cognition paradigms, experimental studies, physiological recordings, brain-imaging, and intensive longitudinal studies. Her research has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, Guggenheim Foundation, Russell Sage Foundation, and W.T. Grant Foundation. She has received grants from the Tow Foundation and the Mellon Foundation to support the work of the Center for Justice on criminal justice reform and fostering the successful reintegration of people coming home from prisons and jails through education and employment. Her work has been published in leading journals, including American Psychologist, Psychological Science, Child Development, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.
Dean Alondra Nelson is professor of sociology and Dean of Social Science at Columbia University. She was previously on the faculty of Yale University and received its Poorvu Award for teaching excellence. She is the author of The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation after the Genome, which will soon be available in an Arabic translation, and Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination, which was recognized with multiple scholarly awards and has been translated into French. Chair-elect of the Science, Knowledge and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association, her books also include Genetics and the Unsettled Past: The Collision of DNA, Race, and History and Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life. In 2002, she edited “Afrofuturism,” an influential special issue of Social Text. Alondra’s research has been supported by the Ford, Mellon, and National Science foundations. She has been a visiting fellow of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, the Bayerische Amerika-Akademie, the BIOS Centre at the London School of Economics, and the Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies. She has contributed to national policy discussions about social inequality and about the social implications of new technologies, including artificial intelligence, big data, and human gene-editing. Alondra serves on the board of directors of the Data & Society Research Institute and on the program committee of the YWCA of the City of New York. She sits on the editorial boards of Social Studies of Science, Social Text, and Public Culture. Her essays, reviews, and commentary have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Science, and on National Public Radio. Alondra is a magna cum laude graduate of the University of California at San Diego, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She earned her M.Phil. and Ph.D. in American Studies from New York University.
The Center for Justice at Columbia University is committed to reducing the nation’s reliance on incarceration and advancing alternative approaches to safety and justice through education, research and policy. Our mission is to help transform a criminal justice system from one that is driven by punishment and retribution to one that is centered on prevention and healing. Our initiatives are interdisciplinary and built around community collaboration. We work in partnership with schools, departments, centers and institutes across Columbia, other universities, government agencies, community organizations, advocates and those directly affected by the criminal justice system.
William Rand Kenan Jr. was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, on April 30, 1872. He resided for many years in Lockport, New York, where he died on July 28, 1965. As an alumnus and an honorary member of The University of North Carolina’s Board of Trustees, Mr. Kenan had a continuing interest in education and the development of the Chapel Hill campus of the University. In this he carried on a Kenan family tradition of service to North Carolina that began in 1735 with the arrival of the first Kenan family from Scotland to settle in Upper Hanover County. Mr. Kenan felt so keenly about the importance of education that he stated in Article Nine of his will: “I have always believed firmly that a good education is the most cherished gift an individual can receive, and it is my sincere hope that the provisions of this Article will result in a substantial benefit to mankind.” In addition to several charitable bequests and lifetime provision for a number of employees, Mr. Kenan in his will directed the remainder of his estate, $95 million, become the corpus of the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust. It is administered in accordance with the laws of New York State, of which Mr. Kenan died resident.