Octavia Spencer Named Harvard University’s Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year for 2017

Hopper Stone/Twentieth Century Fox Film 

article by Ashley Lee via hollywoodreporter.com

Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer has been named 2017’s Woman of the Year by Harvard University‘s Hasty Pudding student theatrical group.  The Oscar winner and Hidden Figures actress will be honored — and roasted — Jan. 26 at the organization’s first-ever live-streamed ceremony.

The group stated in a release that they are “proud to honor an actress whose depth of talent has captivated audiences with her comedic wit and her graceful portrayals of the underrepresented.”

The Woman of the Year honor is given to performers who have made lasting contributions to entertainment. Established in 1951, the Woman of the Year has been given to Meryl Streep, Katharine Hepburn, Julia Roberts, Jodie Foster, Elizabeth Taylor, Lucille Ball, Anne Hathaway, Claire Danes, Helen Mirren, Amy Poehler and Kerry Washington.

To read more, go to: Octavia Spencer is Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year 2017 | Hollywood Reporter

Dr. G. Gabrielle Starr Named 10th President of Pomona College in CA, 1st Female and African-American

Pomona College President G. Gabrielle Starr (photo via Guggenheim Foundation)

New Pomona College President G. Gabrielle Starr (photo via Guggenheim Foundation)

article via jbhe.com

G. Gabrielle Starr was appointed the tenth president of Pomona College in Claremont, California. When she takes office on July 1, Dr. Starr will be the first woman and the first African American president of the highly ranked liberal arts college.

Pomona College enrolls about 1,650 students. African Americans make up 7 percent of the student body according to the latest Department of Education data. However, data supplied to JBHE shows that Black students make up more than 15 percent of the entering class at Pomona College this year.

Dr. Starr has been serving as dean of the College of Arts and Science at New York University. She joined the faculty at New York University in 2000.

Gabrielle Starr enrolled at Emory University at the age of 15. She earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree at Emory before going on to earn a Ph.D. at Harvard University. Her most recent book is Feeling Beauty: The Neuroscience of Aesthetic Experience (MIT Press, 2013).

Compton, CA Teen Elijah “E-Jayy” Christopher DeVaughn Overcomes Hardships to Earn Early Acceptance to Harvard

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(Screenshot via nbclosangeles.com)

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow @lakinhutcherson)

According to nbclosangeles.com, 17 year-old Elijah Christopher DeVaughn – known to family and friends as “E-Jayy” –  recently found out he was accepted into Harvard University after applying as an early action candidate.

E-Jayy was raised for 13 years primarily by his mother Sherree DeVaughn, a teacher, while his father was in a federal penitentiary.  E-Jayy, who commutes 45 minutes to the Chadwick School in Palos Verdes, CA (where he earns straight As in all AP courses as he attends on scholarship) said his rough Compton upbringing motivated him to succeed. “I think that struggle – it ignites a fire under you to want to work hard and to want to do more.”

To see video of E-Jayy and learn more of his story click here.  And if you really want to support this impressive young man and his future, do like I did and go to his GoFundMe page https://www.gofundme.com/fromcompton2harvard and make a donation to help him pay for expenses at Harvard that financial aid and scholarships won’t cover, such as travel, books, winter clothes, etc.

Source: Congratulations, E-Jayy! Compton Teen is Harvard-Bound | NBC Southern California

Danielle Allen Named University Professor at Harvard – Its Highest Faculty Member Honor

Harvard University Professor Danielle Allen (photo via harvardgazette.com)

Harvard University Professor Danielle Allen (photo via harvardgazette.com)

article via jbhe.com

Danielle Allen was appointed the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University, effective January 1. This is the highest honor bestowed on a faculty member at Harvard. Currently there are 24 University Professors at Harvard, including Henry Louis Gates Jr. and William Julius Wilson.

In announcing the appointment, Harvard President Drew Faust stated that “Danielle Allen is one of the most distinguished and creative scholars of her generation. Her interests bridge an extraordinary range of fields, her ideas illuminate new avenues of scholarship and education, and her influence extends across the academy and well beyond.”

Dr. Allen joined the faculty at Harvard in 2015. She is a professor of government, professor of education, and the director of the Edmond L. Safra Center for Ethics at the university. Before joining the faculty at Harvard, Dr. Allen was the UPS Foundation Professor in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Earlier, she served on the faculty at the University of Chicago for more than a decade.

Professor Allen is a summa cum laude graduate of Princeton University where she majored in the classics. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in the classics from Cambridge University. In addition, she has a master’s degree and Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University.

Dr. Allen is the author of five books including The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens (Princeton University Press, 2000) and Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality (Liveright, 2014).

Harvard Sociologist William Julius Wilson Leads $10 Million Study of Racial Inequality at Hutchins Center for African and African-American Research

Hutchins Center at Harvard (photo via newsone.com)

Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard (photo via newsone.com)

article via cnbc.com

U.S. policymakers need comprehensive, unbiased research if they are to adequately address America’s racial inequality, Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson told CNBC on Thursday.

William Julius Wilson (photo via sociology.fas.harvard.edu)

William Julius Wilson (photo via sociology.fas.harvard.edu)

Wilson’s call for research follows two years of political unrest that have swept the nation following controversies, such as the fatal police shooting of black motorist Philando Castile in Minnesota and the Flint, Michigan water crisis.

“People have been exposed to multiple and reinforcing hardships — racial hardships and economic hardships,” Wilson told “Squawk Box.”“What we hope to do is to analyze these problems at once.”

Wilson is currently leading “Multidimensional Inequality in the 21st Century: the Project on Race and Cumulative Adversity,” a study of poverty, crime, housing and homelessness funded by a $10 million grant from the Hutchins Family Foundation.

“Our goal is to provide information to policymakers who want to make good decisions,” said Wilson. “If they have the information, we can decide how to attack the problem.”

Glenn Hutchins, chairman of North Island — the investment firm that manages his personal wealth — is also the benefactor of Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Research.

Hutchins echoed Wilson comments, telling CNBC in the same interview: “We have the opportunity to do non-ideological, evidence-based policy making.”

The study would provide direction amid the country’s tumultuous political climate, said Hutchins, a former Bill Clinton advisor and co-founder of technology investment powerhouse Silver Lake Partners.

Hutchins hopes his family foundation’s grant will ensure that Wilson and his colleagues can “create the type of policies that can pragmatically get at this complex problem.”

To see video and read more, go to: http://www.cnbc.com/2016/10/06/new-10-million-harvard-study-to-investigate-racial-hardships.html

Harvard Junior Rahsaan King Launches Educational Non-Profit to Help Struggling Teens

Harvard student and Students of Strength founder Rahsaan King (photo via seas.harvard.edu)

article by Adam Zewe via seas.harvard.edu

Harvard student Rahsaan King, A.B. ’17, is acutely aware that his life could very easily have taken a tragic turn.

While growing up in a tough neighborhood in Houston, King fell in with a rough crowd of young men, many of whom dropped out of school, wound up in prison, or became victims of gang violence. All signs pointed to King following a similar path—he  was expelled from the private boarding school he attended, Chinquapin Preparatory School, squandering his first chance for success.

“During my time away from prep school, I realized how beautiful that experience was—what a great opportunity it had been for me—and something in me changed,” he said. “I studied harder. I became more focused and ambitious. I was hungry for excellence and education.”

Readmitted to Chinquapin, King was given a second chance and this time he buckled down. He was elected to lead the student council, graduated at the top of his class, and was accepted into Harvard, earning a prestigious Gates Millennium Award to supplement his tuition.

“Education was my way out of darkness. It was my way out of poverty,” he said. “Once I succeeded, I felt compelled to help other people do what I have done.”

So after beginning his education at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences where he is an applied math concentrator, King took a small-time tutoring business he had started in high school and expanded it into a nationwide educational social enterprise, Students of Strength, that connects underachieving students with on-demand tutors.

Students of Strength is unique because it enables middle and high school students to receive academic help instantly from coaches at prestigious universities, including Harvard, Yale, and MIT. The system incorporates a user-friendly mobile app that makes it easy for students to reach tutors and ask questions.

Beyond tutoring, academic coaches also serve as mentors who offer advice on preparing for/applying to college, and encouragement when students feel lost, overwhelmed, or hopeless. The program provides test pep and character-building curricula that use videos, games, and practice problems to prepare students for the intellectual and emotional challenges inherent to pursuing higher education.

“Because the students are interacting with peers instead of professionals, it makes it much easier for them to relate to their academic coaches,” King said.

Having relatable mentors is especially important for the underserved students who are the focus of the program. For every two sessions the organization sells, it donates one to a low-income student. Corporate sponsors are able to “adopt” low-income schools to provide Students of Strength coaches for entire classes of underprivileged students.

A dedicated group of volunteer liaisons help King recruit new academic coaches at universities across the nation. He hopes to have 10,000 tutors on board by the end of 2016.

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Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative Receives $1,000,000 Grant from Google

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Bryan Stevenson at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., Feb. 26, 2016. (photo via theroot.com)

article by Angela Bronner Helm via theroot.com

Tech giant Google announced on Friday that its philanthropic arm would be donating $1 million to Bryan Stevenson’s Alabama-based non-profit, Equal Justice Initiative.

The Harvard-educated Stevenson is a lawyer who has for decades fought the good fight—winning major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent prisoners on death row, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill and aiding children prosecuted as adults in a deeply flawed American criminal justice system.

EJI has also created the nation’s first lynching memorial and fastidiously marked lynching sites throughout the South.

Justin Steele, a principal with Google.org and the Bay Area and racial justice giving lead told USA Today, “I think what’s exciting about what EJI is doing is that at a national level it is really trying to tell the untold history around race in this country and help people develop a deeper understanding for the narrative around race and how we have gotten to where we are.”

Google.org made the announcement during a Black History Month celebration at its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters where Stevenson gave a speech on how the Google grant will help further his work.

USA Today reports that the racial justice grants were born out of a growing consensus inside Google that it must respond to the police slayings of African Americans and the fatal shooting of nine black citizens inside a Charleston, S.C., church last summer.

In November, Google.org made its first racial justice grants, giving $2.35 million to community organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area. This week, Google.org made four more grants, totaling $3 million.

Keeping in line with the activist mantra of organizing locally and thinking globally, the Equal Justice Initiative grant was the only grant gifted to a national non-profit—all other money was given to local organizations in the Bay Area working to eliminate racial disparities in education.

To see video of Bryan Stevenson’s Google talk, click here.

Read more at USA Today.