Delegate Alumni

Omar Abudayyeh, Ph.D., Class of 2017
Fellow, McGovern Institute

Omar Abudayyeh works on novel genome editing and gene delivery tools and applies these tools to the study of aging. While CRISPR is perhaps best known as a DNA editing tool, Abudayyeh’s team has discovered new CRISPR enzymes, such as the RNA-targeting CRISPR-Cas13, and adapted these enzymes for novel technologies, such as a simple and inexpensive tool to detect human disease. This technology, called SHERLOCK, can detect viruses, bacteria – even genetic signatures associated with cancer – in virtually any location. Abudayyeh and McGovern Fellow Jonathan Gootenberg continue to mine bacterial systems for new technologies to better enable gene therapy as well as apply these technologies towards studying mechanisms of aging. Using next-generation single-cell sequencing and novel tools for perturbing cell states, Dr. Abudayyeh is determining, with unprecedented resolution, the cell types that arise in the aging brain and how mechanisms, such as senescence, drive detrimental processes in tissues. The ultimate goal is to use this information to build a detailed roadmap of aging circuits and eventually reverse aging states for regenerating tissues like the brain. In 2021, Abudayyeh and Gootenberg founded Tome Biosciences, a programmable gene insertion company. Dr. Abudayyeh graduated from MIT in 2012 with a B.S. in mechanical engineering and biological engineering, where he was a Henry Ford II Scholar (top graduating engineer) and a Barry M. Goldwater Scholar. Omar Abudayyeh carried out an undergraduate research thesis with Sangeeta Bhatia on non-invasive cancer diagnostics using nanoparticle sensors, then conducted his Ph.D. work in Feng Zhang’s lab at the McGovern Institute and Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. He is one of the first members of the McGovern Institute Fellows program, which supports the transition to independent research for exceptional recent Ph.D. graduates.

Her Excellency Shamma Al Mazrui, Class of 2014
Minister of Community Development, United Arab Emirates

Shamma Al Mazrui, previously the Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Chair of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) National Youth Council, has taken on a new role as the Minister of Community Development of the United Arab Emirates. In February 2016, at the young age of 22, she made history by becoming the youngest minister in the world as she was appointed Minister of State for Youth and Chair of the UAE National Youth Council. This prestigious cabinet position was awarded to her soon after she graduated from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, with a master’s degree in public policy. Born and raised in Abu Dhabi, she received a bachelor’s degree in economics in 2014, with a concentration in finance, from New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus. She also spent a term studying at the university’s Stern School of Business campus in New York. Her professional experience includes roles as a researcher at LCN Capital Partners in New York, and at Tamkeen, the UAE’s strategic affairs advisory unit. Furthermore, she served as an analyst at the UAE Embassy in Washington, where her responsibilities spanned the trade and economy division, the media and culture department, and the consular affairs section. Al Mazrui has been honored with the Abu Dhabi Education Council scholarship, reserved for the emirate’s top students, and the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Scholarship for exceptional students from all the member states of the UAE.

Her Royal Highness Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud, Class of 2014
Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the United States

Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud is the first woman to serve as Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States. Born in Riyadh, she grew up in Washington, D.C. and graduated from George Washington University. On her return to Saudi Arabia, she became CEO of the luxury retail corporation Alfa International, which operates the Harvey Nichols department store in Riyadh. She made a highly public commitment to expanding opportunities for women in her country, not only hiring women in positions where they had seldom been seen before, but also providing transportation and daycare for her female employees. She served Women’s Campaign International as the Saudi Arabia committee expert and mentor for the advancement of women’s leadership in the Middle East and North Africa. She was named “Most Creative Person of 2014” by the business publication Fast Company. Prior to her appointment as Ambassador, she was President of the Saudi Federation for Community Sports, and vice president for Development and Planning at the Saudi Arabian General Sports Authority.  She has also been active in raising awareness of breast cancer and raising funds for cancer research, leading imaginative campaigns such as the world’s largest human pink ribbon and the first Saudi female expedition to reach Everest base camp.

Ori Allon and Robert Reffkin, Class of 2006
Founders, Compass

After completing his military service in an elite infantry unit of the Israel Defense Forces, Ori Allon moved to Australia and received computer science degrees from Monash University and the University of New South Wales. His Ph.D. research led to the creation of a patented search engine technology he called Orion. After Google acquired Orion, Mr. Allon led the team at Google that integrated the Orion technology and algorithms with the Google search engine. He then started a company called Julpan, which he sold to Twitter in 2011. He served as Director of Engineering at the New York office of Twitter before starting the real estate firm Compass with fellow Academy alumnus Robert Reffkin. Ori Allon serves as the company’s Executive Chairman, Robert Reffkin as the Chief Executive Officer.

Prior to co-founding Compass, Robert Reffkin was Chief of Staff to the President and Chief Operating Officer of Goldman Sachs. He had spent five years working in the firm’s private equity arm, at Lazard and at McKinsey & Company. In 2005, he was appointed as a White House Fellow to serve as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury. A New Yorker with a B.A. and M.B.A. from Columbia University, he has run 50 marathons, one in each state, to raise $1 million for nonprofits, including New York Needs You, which he founded to support first-in-their-family college students. Allon and Reffkin, who met at the Academy’s International Achievement Summit in 2006, founded Compass in 2012.  The company, which employs advanced software to speed communication and facilitate transactions between real estate brokers, has grown explosively since its inception and is now among the largest real estate brokerages in the country. A 2019 funding round valued Compass at $6.4 billion.  According to reports in the financial press, an initial public offering in 2021 will be underwritten by Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

Séverine Auteserre, Class of 2000
Professor of Political Science, Barnard College, Columbia University

Séverine Autesserre is an award-winning author, peacebuilder, and researcher, as well as a Professor of Political Science at Barnard College, Columbia University. She is the author of The Frontlines of Peace, Peaceland, and The Trouble With the Congo, in addition to articles for publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, and Foreign Policy. Autesserre has been involved intimately in the world of international aid for more than 20 years. She has conducted research in 12 different conflict zones, from Colombia and Somalia to Israel and the Palestinian territories. She has worked for Doctors Without Borders in Afghanistan and Congo, and at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Her research has helped shape the intervention strategies of several United Nations departments, foreign affairs ministries, and non-governmental organizations, as well as numerous philanthropists and activists. She has also been a featured speaker at the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates and the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2021, she received the Emily Gregory Award, an honor awarded annually to an outstanding faculty member for excellence in teaching and for devotion and service to the students of Barnard College.

Emily Balskus, Ph.D., Class of 1988
Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University

Emily Balskus joined Harvard’s chemistry faculty in 2011 and is now Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, an Associate Member of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, a Faculty Associate of the Microbial Sciences Initiative at Harvard, and a member of the Harvard Digestive Diseases Center. In 2019, Dr. Balskus received the Blavatnik National Award for Young Scientists, the largest unrestricted scientific prize offered to America’s early career researchers.  A prize of $250,000 was awarded to each of three winners in different fields of science, selected from a pool of 343 nominees.  Balskus was awarded the chemistry prize for her discoveries concerning the chemistry of specific bacteria in the human gastrointestinal tract. She has identified species implicated in pancreatic cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and diabetes, and has discovered a specific bacterial product which may play a role in colorectal cancer.  Her studies are already contributing to new treatment options for Parkinson’s disease.  Her work, which links the disciplines of chemistry, biology and microbiology, is changing the way other researchers explore the world within us. In 2021, Balskus was chosen to receive the Waterman Award of the National Science Foundation, which includes $1 million in research funding.

Samantha Barry, Class of 2012
Editor-in-Chief, Glamour

In 2018, publisher Condé Nast announced that Irish journalist Samantha Barry would become the editor-in-chief of Glamour.  She is only the eighth person to lead the magazine in its nearly 80-year history, and the first to come from a background in broadcasting and digital media rather than print journalism.  She has worked in over 25 countries, reporting and training other journalists on broadcasting, technology and social media.  A graduate of University College, Cork and the City University of Dublin, Barry worked as an editor and foreign correspondent for the Irish broadcasting network RTE and for BBC World News before becoming Executive Producer for Social and Emerging Media at CNN Worldwide.  Under her leadership, CNN presence became the most followed news organization in the world of social media.  She led CNN’s social media coverage of the 2016 presidential election, winning the first Edward R. Murrow Award to be given for excellence in social media.

Ruzwana Bashir, Class of 2014
CEO and Founder,

At Oxford University, Ruzwana Bashir was the first British woman of Asian descent to serve as President of the prestigious Oxford Union debating society. After earning her MBA as a Fulbright Scholar at Harvard Business School, she worked in private equity at the Blackstone Group and investment banking at Goldman Sachs. She then worked directly with CEO Kevin Ryan at the Gilt Groupe online shopping site and was part of the founding team at Artsy, the online art dealer. In 2012, she founded, an online activities platform based in San Francisco, with support from Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and TPG Capital founder David Bonderman. A one-stop-shop to book travel activities, Peek provides tour operators with online booking capabilities and powerful inventory management tools. She was selected as one of Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30 in Technology,” Fast Company’s “100 Most Creative People” and Vanity Fair’s “Next Establishment.”

Nicola Benedetti, Class of 2005
Internationally Acclaimed Violinist

At 16 years of age, Scottish-born classical violinist Nicola Benedetti signed a £1 million, six-album deal with the Universal Music Group. Her recordings for the Decca and Deutsche Grammophon labels include the violin concertos of Szymanowski, Bruch, and Tchaikovsky and the bestselling “Homecoming: A Scottish Fantasy.” She is in constant demand as a featured soloist, appearing with the leading orchestras of Europe and the United States. In 2017, she became the youngest person ever to receive the Queen’s Medal for Music, and in 2019, she was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). In February 2018, she completed a ten-city tour of North America with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Her record pairing the violin concertos of the Russian romantic composer Alexander Glazunov and the 20th-century master Dmitri Shostakovich has been one of her most acclaimed to date. In 2020, she won her first Grammy Award for her recording of a violin concerto composed especially for her by Wynton Marsalis, whom she met at the Academy’s 2005 Summit in New York City. In 2022, Benedetti became both the first Scottish and first female Festival Director of the Edinburgh International Festival since its inception in 1947.

Seth Bodnar, Class of 2002
President of the University of Montana

Seth Bodnar graduated first in his class from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He earned two master’s degrees as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and later served as an assistant professor in the Department of Social Sciences at West Point, where he taught economics. As a special forces officer in the U.S. Army, his overseas deployments included service as a rifle platoon leader in the 101st Airborne Division, detachment commander in the Army’s 1st Special Forces Group, and special assistant to the commanding general of the Multi-National Force in Iraq.  As a result of his outstanding leadership, he received an early promotion to the rank of Major. Before coming to the University of Montana, he was a senior executive at the General Electric Company, where he was responsible for long-term strategy and business transformation at GE Transportation, a global company with over 10,000 employees and approximately $5 billion in revenue.  He previously served as President of GE Transportation’s Digital Solutions business and was GE Transportation’s first-ever Chief Digital Officer.  In January 2018, he became the 19th President of the University of Montana.  He continues to serve in the Montana National Guard, and he is a board member of The Positivity Project, a non-profit organization focused on character education.

Edward S. Boyden, Ph.D., Class of 2014
Y. Eva Tan Professor in Neurotechnology, MIT

At MIT in the 1990s, Edward Boyden earned an undergraduate degree in physics, and both undergraduate and graduate degrees in electrical engineering and computer science. His early work experience included stints at Bell Labs and in video game design. At Stanford, he earned a doctorate in neuroscience before returning to MIT to pursue his research interest, developing tools for systematic analysis and engineering of the brain. At MIT, Boyden is the Y. Eva Tan Professor of Neurotechnology, a professor of biological engineering, brain and cognitive sciences, and media arts and sciences, and is an investigator at MIT’s McGovern Institute and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. As Leader of the Synthetic Neurobiology Group and Co-Director of the Center for Neurobiological Engineering, he is inventing technologies that enable the systematic mapping and engineering of the brain and the computations that it performs. Ultimately, he hopes to create neurotechnologies that will provide insights into how the brain generates thoughts and feelings, and to enable the correction of brain disorders that currently affect over a billion people worldwide. In 2015, he won the largest scientific prize in the world, the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, for his work on developing methods for controlling brain cells with light. In 2021 he was named to co-chair MIT’s new K. Lisa Yang Center for Bionics.  The center will focus in developing technologies that communicate directly with the nervous system to mitigate a broad range of disabilities.

The Honorable Brendan F. Boyle, Class of 2005
U.S. House of Representatives

Brendan Boyle was born and raised in the City of Philadelphia. The son of a janitor and a crossing guard, he was the first in his family to attend college. He earned academic scholarships to attend the University of Notre Dame and later earned a master’s degree in Public Policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. While at Harvard, he took a leave of absence to accept the Democratic nomination for a seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. After four years of service in Harrisburg, he was elected to the United States Congress, representing the District of his hometown.

Reuben E. Brigety II, Class of 1991
United States Ambassador to South Africa

Reuben E. Brigety II is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, where he served as Brigade Commander and earned  a B.S. degree in political science.  While serving as an officer in the United States Navy, he held staff positions at the Pentagon, and with fleet support units.  While in the Navy, he earned a Master of Philosophy degree in International Relations at Cambridge University.  After his military service he returned to Cambridge and completed a doctorate in International Relations.  Returning to the United States, he taught at George Mason University and the American University School of International Service in Washington, D.C.  He conducted research in the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan for the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch and served as a Special Assistant in the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development.  From 2008, he was Director of the Sustainable Security Program at the Center for American Progress and was a senior advisor for Development and Security to the U.S. Central Command Assessment Team in Washington and Qatar.  In 2009, he joined the State Department as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of African Affairs, with responsibility for Southern African and Regional Security Affairs.  In 2013, President Obama appointed him to be Representative of the United States of America to the African Union, and Permanent Representative of the United States to the UN Economic Commission for Africa.  From 2015 to 2020, he was Dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University.  In February 2020, he was chosen to serve as the 17th Vice Chancellor and President of Sewanee, the University of the South, a historic institution in Sewanee, Tennessee, founded in 1857. In July 2022, Brigety was confirmed by the United States Senate as the next Ambassador to South Africa.

Sergey Brin & Larry Page, Class of 2000
Founders of Google

It was Larry Page who first had the idea of analyzing Internet links to rate their relevance to a given information search. Initially, Page was only interested in writing an entertaining dissertation, but he soon realized his idea had far greater potential. With his classmate Sergey Brin, he presented his work to acclaim at the World Wide Web conference in 1998. Within a year they had raised over $30 million to start a company, Google Inc., providing a free Web search service that could return an ordered list of results in a fraction of a second. The simple white page with the multi-colored logo was an immediate hit with Web surfers around the world. The website generates enormous revenue by providing advertising space linked by content to the results of a given search. When Page took the company public in 2004, he and Sergey Brin became multi-billionaires overnight. That same year, they joined the select company of Academy of Achievement student delegates who have returned to the International Achievement Summit as honorees of the Academy. Today, Google is the most-used Web search service in the world, conducting more than a billion searches a day, in over 100 languages, and has given the English language a new verb: “to Google.” Larry Page and Sergey Brin have transformed the way the world accesses and uses information.

The Honorable Katie Boyd Britt, Class of 2019
United States Senator

Katie Britt had just graduated from the University of Alabama when she moved to Washington, D.C., to work for Senator Richard Shelby. By age 23, she was serving as his press secretary. She earned her law degree at the University of Alabama School of Law and practiced law at Butler Snow LLP in both Birmingham and Montgomery, Alabama. After serving as communications director for Senator Shelby’s 2016 re-election campaign, she returned to Capitol Hill as the senator’s chief of staff. The senator’s top adviser on all legal, policy, and campaign matters, Britt worked to develop bipartisan relationships with lawmakers and stakeholders to negotiate complex issues and legislation – including all Alabama appropriations issues. From 2018-2021, she served as president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama and worked to build coalitions and promote unity among the Alabama business community. Britt was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2022 and took office in January 2023. She is the first woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate from Alabama.

The Honorable Pete Buttigieg, Class of 2008
United States Secretary of Transportation

Pete Buttigieg became mayor of his hometown, the City of South Bend, Indiana, in January 2012. Elected at the age of 29, he was the youngest mayor of an American city with over 100,000 residents. His responsibilities included overseeing a city workforce of more than 1,000 employees and an annual budget topping $300 million. In 2013, he was named national Mayor of the Year by, sharing the award with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He was President of the Indiana Urban Mayors Caucus, and has served on the boards of the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns and the Truman National Security Project. The Washington Post called him “the most interesting mayor you’ve never heard of.” Mayor Buttigieg took a leave of absence to serve in Afghanistan during a seven-month deployment in 2014. As a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve, he earned the Joint Service Commendation Medal for his counterterrorism work. Following his return from Afghanistan, he sought a second term as Mayor of South Bend, and in November 2015, he was re-elected with over 80 percent of the vote. As a Rhodes Scholar, he studied philosophy, politics, and economics at Pembroke College, Oxford. A 2004 graduate of Harvard University, he earned a bachelor’s degree in American history and literature, and a citation in Arabic. In 2000, while still in high school, he won the nationwide J.F.K. Profile in Courage Essay Contest; in 2015, he received a J.F.K. New Frontier Award, given annually to two young Americans who serve as models for modern public service in the spirit of John F. Kennedy.  An unsuccessful effort to win the chairmanship of the Democratic Party raised his profile in the national media and prompted talk of a possible run for higher office.  In 2019, he announced his candidacy for President of the United States and quickly posted impressive fundraising and polling numbers. He emerged from the 2020 Iowa caucuses leading his fellow Democrats in the delegate count, and scored a strong second-place finish in the New Hampshire primary before withdrawing from the race in March of that year. The newly elected President Joseph Biden named Buttigieg to his cabinet as Secretary of Transportation, an appointment confirmed by the Senate in February 2021.

Cesar Conde, Class of 2003
Chairman, NBCUniversal News Group

In May 2020, Cesar Conde was named Chairman of the NBCUniversal News Group.  The son of a Peruvian immigrant father and Cuban exile mother, he was born in New York City and grew up in Miami, Florida.  At Harvard University, he was cofounder and President of the Cuban-American Undergraduate Students Association.  He was president of his class at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.  At age 28, Mr. Conde was the Vice President of Business Development at Univision Network, the largest Spanish language media company in the United States.  Chosen by President George W. Bush as a 2002-2003 White House Fellow, Conde served under Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.  Following his service in Washington, Conde returned to Univision and rose still higher.  Throughout his career, he has sought opportunities to support greater educational opportunities for Hispanic youth.  President Obama appointed Conde to a presidential advisory commission; he now serves on the board of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.  He became President of Univision in 2008, serving for five years before joining NBCUniversal in 2013. In 2015, he became Chairman of NBCUniversal International Group and NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises.  As Chairman, he was responsible for the operations and international expansion of NBCUniversal businesses outside of North America.  He also oversaw NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, a growing portfolio of media properties primarily serving Hispanic audiences in the United States.  Under Conde’s leadership, Telemundo hit a milestone in 2016, surpassing Univision for the first time, and outpaced Fox to become the nation’s fourth most-watched network in primetime among adults 18-49.  In his new role as Chairman of NBCUniversal News Group, he has oversight of NBC News, MSNBC, and CNBC, including their editorial and business operations.

Andrew Manuel Crespo, Class of 2008
Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

Andrew Manuel Crespo is a Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where he teaches criminal law and criminal procedure.  Professor Crespo’s research focuses on the institutional design and administration of the American penal system, with a particular focus on the administrative role courts play in regulating law enforcement behavior.  His scholarship has been honored by the Association of American Law Schools and profiled in The New York Times.  His leading articles have appeared in the Harvard Law Review, the Columbia Law Review, and the Yale Law Journal.  Professor Crespo also writes regularly about legal issues for the general public, with his contributions appearing in The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Boston Globe, and the Journal of the American Medical Association.  Prior to beginning his academic career, Professor Crespo served as a Staff Attorney with the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, where he represented adults and juveniles charged with serious felonies, ranging from armed robberies, to burglaries, to homicides.  Professor Crespo graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College, and from Harvard Law School in 2008, where he served as president of the Harvard Law Review, the first Latino to hold that position.  Following law school, Professor Crespo served as a law clerk for Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Karl Deisseroth, Ph.D., Class of 1989
D.H. Chen Professor of Bioengineering and of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine

Karl Deisseroth is a professor of bioengineering and psychiatry at Stanford University. The winner of the Kyoto Prize and the Heineken Prize, he teaches and directs Stanford’s undergraduate degree in bioengineering and treats patients with mood disorders and autism. Dr. Deisseroth focuses on developing molecular and cellular tools to observe, perturb, and re-engineer brain circuits. His laboratory employs a range of techniques including neural stem cell and tissue engineering methods, electrophysiology, molecular biology, neural activity imaging, animal behavior, and computational neural network modeling. Also a clinician in the psychiatry department, Dr. Deisseroth employs novel electromagnetic brain stimulation techniques in human patients for therapeutic purposes. He is a recipient of the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, an international award honoring outstanding achievements in three categories: Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics and Mathematics. Breakthrough Prize laureates receive $3 million each, the largest monetary award in the sciences.  He has shared the fruits of his research with the general pubic in his 2021 book Projections: A Story of Human Emotions.

Melissa Dell, Ph.D., Class of 2014
Professor, Department of Economics, Harvard University

Melissa Dell joined Harvard’s economics faculty in 2014 and was promoted to full professor in 2018. A development economist, much of her work has focused on the long-term impact of historical factors such as war, colonialism and climate change on developing economies in Asia and Latin America. Dell grew up in Enid, Oklahoma, where she overcame poor eyesight to become a champion long-distance runner. She graduated summa cum laude in economics from Harvard, earned her master’s with distinction as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, and her Ph.D. at MIT. The first graduate of her high school to attend Harvard, she founded a nonprofit and produced a book, The College Matters Guide to Getting Into the Elite College of Your Dreams, to assist ambitious students from underserved communities. Concurrently with her appointments at Harvard, she has served as a Visiting Professor at the Stanford Institute for Economic Research and is a Faculty Research Fellow of the National Bureau of Economic Research.  She has been recognized as one of the world’s leading young economists by The Economist magazine and by the International Monetary Fund.  In 2018, she was the recipient of the Ellen Bennett Research Prize, and in 2020, the John Bates Clark Medal of the American Economic Association, the top prize for an economist under 40.  Her work has investigated the historic roots of economic conditions in Vietnam, Indonesia, Taiwan and Japan, the mining industry in Peru, the impact of government action on the underground drug economy, and of trade-induced worker displacement in Mexico.  Most recently, she has undertaken pioneering applications of machine learning technology to mine vast quantities of historic economic data for new insights into the challenges of economic development.


Illac Diaz, Class of 2008
Founder, MyShelter Foundation and Liter of Light

Born in the Philippines, Illac Diaz completed a Master’s in Public Administration as a Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.  His best-known project, Liter of Light, addresses the problem of energy poverty by in rural areas that lack access to affordable electricity.  The project teaches villagers how a recycled plastic water bottle can be filled with water and bleach and hung in an opening of the roof to diffuse sunlight in a dark house.  Liter of Light has illuminated the lives of more than 690,000 people around the world.  Diaz and MyShelter have also devised inexpensive solar lighting systems employing small solar panels, LED lights and recycled batteries to bring environmentally sustainable electric light to areas far from the conventional electrical grid.  These systems, which create business opportunities for women entrepreneurs in underdeveloped communities are expected to benefit a million customers in 15 countries around the world. In 2015, Diaz and Liter of Light received the $1.5 million Zayed Future Energy Prize, awarded by the United Arab Emirates for achievements in sustainable energy development. Diaz and Liter of Light received the Asia Pacific Social Innovation and Partnership Award in 2020 for their “Light It Forward” campaign, which mobilizes artists, the media, businesses and service groups to change the world, even while masses of people are confined to their homes by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Honorable James Joshua Edelman, Class of 2000
Justice, High Court of Australia

Justice Edelman attended the 2000 International Achievement Summit in London while studying as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. He completed his doctorate in law the following year and returned to his home state, Western Australia, to practice law. In 2005, he took up a position as a Fellow and Tutor in Law at Keble College and lecturer at Oxford. He practiced law full-time in England while teaching, becoming the youngest law professor at Oxford. He has written and edited six books on damages, interest awards, equity, unjust enrichment, and torts. In 2011, he returned to Western Australia to accept a commission as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia. In 2015, he was appointed to a Federal Court, and in the closing weeks of 2016 was appointed to the highest court in the Australian judicial system. At age 42, he is the youngest judge to be called to the High Court since 1930. He had previously appeared before the High Court on three occasions, winning the release of men wrongly convicted of murder.

José Manuel Edwards Silva, Class of 2006
Chamber of Deputies, Republic of Chile

As an undergraduate, José Edwards was a co-founder of Un Techo para Chile, a non-governmental organization that built thousands of emergency houses all over Latin America. After graduating as a transport engineer from Catholic University of Chile, he worked as an investment analyst in the Chilean Stock Exchange, and continued his work with Techo. He attended the 2006 International Achievement Summit while studying at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government as a Catherine B. Reynolds Fellow. In 2009, Mr. Edwards was elected to Chile’s National Congress, where he represents the country’s only minority-majority district. In office, he has sought equality of access to education, justice and public benefits for the district’s indigenous people, the Mapuche. Issues confronting his district include clean water, rural public transportation and economic development. He chairs the Economic Committee and sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee, where he has devoted much of his energy to the Alianza del Pacifico. The member states of this alliance — Mexico, Peru, Colombia and Chile — are achieving a degree of integration that is unprecedented among Latin American countries.

Jordan Ellenberg, Ph.D., Class of 1989
Author and Mathematician, John D. MacArthur Professor of Mathematics, University of Wisconsin

The son of two statisticians, Jordan Ellenberg excelled in mathematics from an early age, and competed for the U.S. in the International Mathematical Olympiad three times, winning two gold medals and one silver medal. He graduated from Harvard, earned a master’s degree in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins, and then returned to Harvard for his Ph.D. in math. In 2004, he joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where he is now the John D. MacArthur Professor of Mathematics. Mr. Ellenberg’s research centers on the fields of number theory and algebraic geometry, the parts of mathematics which address fundamental questions about algebraic equations and their solutions in whole numbers. His research has uncovered new and unexpected connections between these subjects and algebraic topology, the study of abstract high-dimensional shapes and the relations between them. He has been writing for a general audience about math for more than 15 years; his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington PostWiredThe Believer and The Boston Globe. He is also the author of the “Do the Math” column in Slate. His novel, The Grasshopper King, was a finalist for the 2004 New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award.

The Honorable Nancy Freudenthal, Class of 1972
Chief Judge, U.S. District Court of Wyoming

Nancy Freudenthal earned her bachelor’s and law degrees, both with honors, from the University of Wyoming. From 1980 until 1989, she served as Attorney for Intergovernmental Affairs under two Governors of Wyoming, while also teaching environmental law at the University of Wyoming. She served on the State Tax Commission and was Chairman of the Board of Equalization until 1995, when she joined the law firm of Davis & Cannon. For eight years, she was the First Lady of Wyoming, while her husband, Dave Freudenthal served as the state’s Governor. In 2010, President Barack Obama nominated her to the federal bench, and following confirmation by the U.S. Senate, she was sworn in as U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Wyoming. Judge Freudenthal is the seventh federal district judge to serve Wyoming since statehood, and the first woman district court judge in the state. She has been Chief Judge of the District since 2011.

The Honorable Jesse M. Furman, Class of 1990
District Judge, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

Jesse Furman is a Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Furman graduated from Harvard in 1994 and studied at Oxford University as a Henry Fellow.  He earned his law degree at Yale and served as a law clerk for federal judge and future Attorney General Michael Mukasey.  He then served as a law clerk for the United States Court of Appeals and for Judge Jose Cabranes. From 2002 until 2003, he served as a clerk to United States Supreme Court Justice David Souter.  Furman was with the law firm Wiggin & Dana until 2004, when he became an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York. From 2007 until 2009, he was Counselor to the Attorney General of the United States.  In 2011, President Barack Obama nominated Furman to a seat on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The United States Senate confirmed his nomination in February 2012.  In January 2019 Judge Furman ruled against the Trump administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 United States Census.

The Honorable Juan Manuel Galán Pachón, Class of 2002
Senator of the Republic of Colombia

Juan Manuel Galán Pachón is a Colombian politician and member of the Liberal Party, currently serving as Senator of Colombia. He is the son of Luis Carlos Galán Sarmiento, a politician and presidential candidate who was shot to death in 1989 by hit men hired by the notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar. Also in 1989, Juan Galán graduated from the Instituto Pedagógico Nacional in Bogotá, and after his father’s assassination, his family moved to France. He attended the Paris Institute of Political Studies and obtained a Certificate of Political Studies in 1992. He went on to graduate from the École des Hautes Études Internationales, also in Paris, in 1997, with a master’s degree in international affairs. Later that year, Galán returned to Colombia to begin his political career. He drew controversy by backing the candidate running against his uncle in Bogotá’s mayoral race, and infuriated members of the New Liberalism Party, founded by his father, when he criticized some of his father’s former associates for exploiting his father’s image for political gain. In 1998, he supported Conservative Party presidential candidate Andrés Pastrana Arango, and after Pastrana’s election, was named Deputy Director for Youth at the Ministry of National Education. In 2003, he earned a master’s of science degree in foreign service from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He was appointed as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary at the Colombian Embassy in London, in 2004, by Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez. The following year, he resigned his office in London and returned to Colombia to run for the Senate. He easily defeated his opponent in the 2006 Senate race, and again when he ran for re-election in 2010. Juan Galán is a member of the Senate’s First Commission, which deals with Statutory Laws and Internal Affairs, and has supported voluntary euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide; marriage for same-sex couples; and drug liberalization policies. He has been married to Carmenza Lian Barrera since 2002, with whom he has two children.

Anthony Goldbloom, Class of 2014
Founder and CEO, Kaggle

Anthony Goldbloom is the founder and CEO of Kaggle. In 2011 and 2012, Forbes magazine named Anthony as one of the “30 Under 30” in technology, in 2013 the MIT Tech Review named him one of the top “35 Innovators Under 35” and the University of Melbourne awarded him an Alumni of Distinction Award. He holds a first call honors degree in Econometrics from the University of Melbourne. Anthony has published in the The Economist and the Harvard Business ReviewHe was working as a research economist at the Reserve Bank of Australia when he conceived the idea that became Kaggle. Since countless analytic strategies can be applied to building a predictive model from any given set of data, why not make a sport of finding the most effective one?  He started Kaggle as an online platform where companies and researchers could post their data, and statisticians and data miners could process the data and compete to produce the best predictive models. Since then, Kaggle has grown to a community of more than half a million data scientists all over the world. In March 2017, an acquisition agreement was announced whereby Kaggle becomes a distinct team within the Google Cloud team.

Jonathan Gootenberg, Ph.D., Class of 2017
Fellow, McGovern Institute

Jonathan Gootenberg draws from fundamental microbiology to engineer new molecular tools, which he applies to the study of aging. These tools, including the popular genome editing system CRISPR, allow for unprecedented manipulation and profiling of cellular states in the body and have multiple applications in basic science, diagnostics, and therapeutics. Along with McGovern Fellow Omar Abudayyeh, Gootenberg uses gene editing, gene delivery, and cellular profiling methods to understand the changes that occur in the brain and other organs during aging, with the goal of generating new therapies for degenerative disease. In 2021, Abudayyeh and Gootenberg founded Tome Biosciences, a programmable gene insertion company. Gootenberg earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and biological engineering at MIT. He received his Ph.D. in Systems Biology from Harvard University, during which he conducted research with Aviv Regev and Feng Zhang at the McGovern Institute and Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. He is one of the first members of the McGovern Institute Fellows program, which supports the transition to independent research for exceptional recent Ph.D. graduates.

Viviana Gradinaru, Ph.D., Class of 2017
Director of the Center for Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, California Institute of Technology

Viviana Gradinaru began her studies in biology at the University of Bucharest, Romania, before transferring to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), where she completed her degree in physics before earning a doctorate in neuroscience at Stanford. Today, she is Professor of Neuroscience and Biological Engineering at Caltech and Director of the institute’s Center for Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience. The research team led by Professor Gradinaru is developing and using visual methods — optogenetics and tissue clearing — to investigate the circuitry underlying functions such as locomotion, reward, and sleep. These investigations could enable us to predict and modify how neural circuits are wired, how neurons degrade, and how powerful chemicals are released or blocked in the brain. This work may lead to new therapies for neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s. Her work has been recognized with the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award and a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

Carmen G. Iguina González, Class of 2019
Nominee for the District of Columbia Court of Appeals

Carmen G. Iguina González was announced by President Biden in April 2024 as his nominee to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. Iguina González has been a counsel at Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP in Washington, D.C., since 2022 and Director of the Howard University School of Law Civil Rights Clinic since 2024. She previously worked at the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project as a Senior Staff Attorney from 2020 to 2022 and at the ACLU of Southern California as a Staff Attorney from 2014 to 2017 and an Equal Justice Works Fellow from 2012 to 2014. She also worked as an associate at Jones Day from 2018 to 2020. Iguina González served as a law clerk for Justice Sonia Sotomayor on the U.S. Supreme Court from 2017 to 2018, Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit from 2011 to 2012, and Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York from 2010 to 2011. She received her J.D., magna cum laude, from New York University School of Law in 2010 and her A.B., magna cum laude, from Harvard University in 2005.

Sachin H. Jain, M.D., Class of 2005
President and CEO, SCAN Group & Health Plan

Dr. Sachin H. Jain is President and CEO of SCAN Group and Health Plan. From 2015 to 2020, he served as president and chief executive officer of the CareMore Health System. He is also a consulting professor of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine and a contributor to Forbes magazine. Prior to joining CareMore, Dr. Jain was Chief Medical Information and Innovation Officer at Merck & Co. He also served as an attending physician at the Veterans Administration Boston Medical Center and a faculty member of both Harvard Medical School and Harvard Business School.  From 2009-2011, Dr. Jain worked in the Obama Administration, where he was senior advisor to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  Dr. Jain was the first deputy director for policy and programs at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI). He also served as special assistant to the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Dr. Jain graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College with a BA in government and continued on to earn his M.D. from Harvard Medical School and an MBA from Harvard Business School.  He trained in medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Medicine, and continues to practice medicine at CareMore. He is co-founder and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Elsevier journal Healthcare: The Journal of Delivery Science & Innovation and is an elected member of the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI).  He has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles in journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, Health Affairs, and the Harvard Business Review blogs and was an editor of the book, The Soul of a Doctor (Algonquin Press). Dr. Jain is the recipient of the 2022 Champion for Health Award from the Partners in Care Foundation in recognition of his efforts to improve U.S. healthcare delivery.

Alec Karakatsanis, Class of 2017
Founder and Executive Director, Civil Rights Corps

Alec Karakatsanis created Civil Rights Corps to challenge mass incarceration and to expose other inequities in the nation’s criminal justice system. He is devising new litigation strategies to pursue cases involving human caging, wealth-based detention, surveillance, immigration law, and the death penalty. Today, Alec is one of the most important young leaders litigating issues related to the criminalization of poverty. He has attacked the system of money bail by bringing lawsuits under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Civil Rights Corps has won a series of landmark cases with this strategy, eliminating the money bail system in seven states and other jurisdictions.  Karakatsanis graduated from Yale with a degree in ethics, politics and economics. At Harvard Law School, he reported on the Supreme Court for the Harvard Law Review. After law school, he clerked for federal judge Myron Thompson in Montgomery, Alabama, and worked as a civil rights lawyer and public defender. Alec has stated that “I think that everybody should make a decision about how they want to live their life, and how they have the most impact on other people while they are here. You can use what you have learned, and the skills that you have, and the wealth you have accumulated, and do a great deal of good to really change our society.”

Lt. Gen. Leonard J. Kosinski, USAF, Class of 2003
Director for Logistics, the Joint Staff, the Pentagon

After earning a B.S. in operations research at the U.S. Air Force Academy, then-Lieutenant Kosinski earned an M.S. in industrial engineering at Texas A&M University. He earned his pilot’s wings and has served with distinction commanding jet aircraft in support of numerous U.S., NATO and UN operations. He flew combat and humanitarian support missions during the Kosovo crisis, and coordinated hundreds of NATO missions throughout the air campaign. He spent two years studying at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, where he earned an MBA and received the Dean’s Award for graduating in top academic standing. He earned an M.A. at the Fletcher School, specializing in international security studies. Today, Maj. Gen. Kosinski is the Deputy Commander, Fifth Air Force, and Director, Joint Air Component Coordination Element-Japan, Yokota Air Base, Japan. Prior to his current position, Maj. Gen. Kosinski was the Director for Logistics, Headquarters U.S. Africa Command, Stuttgart, Germany. In April 2022, Kosinski was nominated for promotion to lieutenant general and appointment as director of logistics of the Joint Staff. He previously served as the deputy commander of the Fifth Air Force from 2020 to 2022.

Eric S. Lander, Ph.D., Class of 1974
Founding Director, Broad Institute

From an early age, Eric Lander made a name for himself as a mathematical prodigy, winning the Westinghouse Science Talent Search. Class valedictorian at Princeton, Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, he was poised for a career as a theoretical mathematician. Yet he was dissatisfied. He wanted his research to serve a more immediate human purpose. He embarked on a career teaching managerial economics at Harvard Business School; although he loved the teaching, he found the research unsatisfying. In the midst of a promising career, with a growing family to support, he dropped everything and made a mid-life course correction. Although he was already a professor in the business school, he undertook basic studies in biology. He soon found a new application of his mathematical prowess in the emerging field of genomics, the study of all the genes in a given organism, and their function in sickness and in health. He played a leading role in the Human Genome Project, and is the first listed author on the article describing the complete human genome published in Nature in 2001. Today, he is Founding Director of the Broad Institute, a joint project of Harvard, MIT and the Whitehead Institute, where he is leading a revolution in our understanding of the nature of life — and the causes and treatment of disease.

Travis LeBlanc, Class of 2003
Partner, Cooley LLP

A graduate of Princeton University and Yale Law School, Travis LeBlanc holds degrees in public administration from Harvard‘s Kennedy School of Government and in international law from Cambridge.  He served in the Justice Department during the Obama administration and was a special assistant to California Attorney General Kamala Harris.  He was an associate at the law firms of Williams & Connolly in Washington, D.C. and Keker & Van Nest in San Francisco.  A leading authority on consumer protection, cybersecurity and the regulation of emerging technologies, LeBlanc served as Chief of the Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau, where he led hundreds of consumer protection actions, fighting fraud and anti-competitive practices.  He later served as a partner at the law firm of Boies Schiller Flexner.  In 2018, President Trump named LeBlanc to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent, bipartisan panel of advisers that monitors the government’s national security activities to ensure that U.S. counterterrorism actions are conducted with respect for civil liberties. In 2022, the US Senate confirmed LeBlanc as a member of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board for his second term.  He is now a partner of the law firm of Cooley LLP, where he serves as vice chair of Cooley’s cyber, data and privacy practice.

Katie Ledecky, Class of 2014
Olympic Gold Medalist

At age 15, Katie Ledecky was the youngest member of the U.S. delegation at the 2012 Olympics in London. Her youth was no handicap. She defeated the defending world and Olympic champion in her own country, and took home the gold medal in the 800-meter freestyle, breaking an American record that had stood for 24 years. At the FINA international competition in Barcelona the following year, she won the world championship in four events and broke world records in two. The international swimming federation (FINA) named her World Swimmer of the Year. From June to August of 2014, she set world records in the 400-, 800- and 1500-meter freestyle races, and then broke her own records in the 400 and 1500 at the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in Australia. An honors student at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Maryland, she graduated high school in 2015, and accepted an athletic scholarship to attend Stanford University. She chose to defer her entry to Stanford until after the 2016 Olympics. In her spare time, she volunteers with Wounded Warriors, the Shepherd’s Table Homeless Center, Bikes for the World and the Help 2.0 Clean Water Project. In 2015, Katie Ledecky broke the 1500-meter freestyle world record. In early 2016, she broke her own 800-meter freestyle world record in the Arena Pro Swim Series. At the 2016 Rio Olympics in one of the greatest performances in Olympic history she earned four gold medals in the 200-, 400- and 800-meter freestyle races, as well as the 2×400 relay, and set a new world record in the 800-meter.  In 2018, in her first professional event, she broke her own world record in the women’s 1,500-meter freestyle, finishing 49 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor. It is the 14th time she has set a world record. In 2022, she won her fourth 1,500-meter freestyle title at the world swimming championships. It is her record-extending 17th world title. On July 29, 2023, 26-year-old Katie Ledecky once again reigned supreme in the women’s 800-meter freestyle at the world championships, eclipsing Michael Phelps’ record with her 16th individual gold and cementing her position as an unrivaled force in the swimming world. Her 8:08.87 finish, while four seconds shy of her 2016 world record, marked a historic achievement – the first swimmer to consecutively clinch a single event six times at the championships. Katie Ledecky, the most decorated women’s swimmer in history, will be honored by President Joe Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on May 5, 2024.

Steven Levitt, Ph.D., Class of 1985
University of Chicago Economist and Author

Steven Levitt is the William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, where he directs the Becker Center on Chicago Price Theory. Professor Levitt earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1989 and his Ph.D. from MIT in 1994. He has taught at the University of Chicago since 1997. In 2004, he received the John Bates Clark Medal, awarded to the most influential economist under the age of 40. In 2006, he was named one of TIME magazine’s “100 People Who Shape Our World.” He co-authored Freakonomics, which spent over two years on the New York Times bestseller list and has sold more than four million copies worldwide. Super Freakonomics, released in 2009, includes brand-new research on topics from terrorism to prostitution to global warming. He is also the co-author of the popular Freakonomics blog.

Tara Lipinski, Class of 1993
Olympic Gold Medalist

Tara Lipinski is an internationally acclaimed figure skater who won the gold medal at the 1998 Nagano Olympics — the youngest individual gold medalist in the history of the Winter Games. In 1997, she was also the youngest-ever winner of the U.S. and World Figure Skating Championships. In the years since her Olympic triumph, she has worked as a television sports commentator for NBC, NBC Sports and Universal Sports. Today, she regularly appears as a TV analyst for the World Figure Skating Championships, the Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series and the U.S. Figure Skating National Championships. At the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, she was a commentator and analyst for NBC Sports.

David R. Liu, Ph.D., Class of 1990
Director of the Merkin Institute of Transformative Technologies in Healthcare, Broad Institute

David R. Liu graduated first in his class at Harvard in 1994. During his Ph.D. research at U. C. Berkeley, Liu initiated the first general effort to expand the genetic code in living cells. Today, Dr. Liu is Director of the Merkin Institute of Transformative Technologies in Healthcare, and Vice-Chair of the Faculty at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. He is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and holds endowed chairs at the Broad Institute and Harvard. At the Broad Institute, he developed more precise systems of CRISPR gene editing technology, known as base editors. In a 2019 paper published in the journal Nature, he demonstrated the development of a still more sophisticated form of CRISPR technology he calls “prime editing.” The new system can swap any single letter of the genetic code for any other, enabling researchers to write edited genetic information directly into the genome. It is predicted that prime editing can correct approximately 89 percent of the mutations that cause heritable human diseases. Dr. Liu’s lab has already used prime editors to overwrite the genetic variations that cause sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, and Tay-Sachs disease. Other researchers will be able to freely access the new technology through a nonprofit repository where Liu’s team has already placed the DNA blueprints for making prime editors. Dr. Liu is a founder or co-founder of seven biotechnology and therapeutics companies. He has published more than 180 papers and is the inventor of more than 70 issued U.S. patents. In 2017, Nature named him one of the top ten 10 researchers in the world, while Foreign Policy named him one of its “Leading Global Thinkers.”

The Honorable Debra Ann Livingston, Class of 1977
Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

In 2020 Debra Ann Livingston was named Chief Judge of the Second Circuit, with jurisdiction over the federal courts in the states of Connecticut, New York and Vermont. She was first appointed U.S. Circuit Judge for this circuit in 2007.  Prior to these appointments, she was a law professor and Vice Dean at Columbia Law School. Judge Livingston joined the Columbia faculty in 1994, and she continues to teach criminal procedure on a regular basis. She is a recipient of Columbia’s annual Wein Prize for Social Responsibility. She received her bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, from Princeton University, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa; she received her law degree, magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School, where she was an editor on the Harvard Law Review. Following law school, she served as a law clerk to Judge J. Edward Lumbard of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Judge Livingston was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York from 1986 to 1991, and she served as a deputy chief appellate attorney in the Criminal Division from 1990 to 1991. She was an associate with the New York law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison from 1985 to 1986, and again from 1991 to 1992, when she elected to pursue an academic career. She was a member of the University of Michigan’s Law School faculty from 1992 until 1994. Judge Livingston is a co-author of the casebook, Comprehensive Criminal Procedure, and has published academic articles on various legal topics. She has taught courses in evidence, criminal law and procedure, law and policing, and national security and terrorism. From 1994 to 2003, she was a commissioner on New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board. She has also served as a member of the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Evidence Rules.

The Honorable Anna Marie Manasco, Class of 1998
United States District Court Judge, Northern District of Alabama

Anna Marie Manasco earned her B.A., summa cum laude, from Emory University, her Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from the University of Oxford, and her Juris Doctor from Yale Law School, where she served as an executive editor of the Yale Law & Policy Review.  She served as a law clerk to Judge William H. Pryor Jr. of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. From 2009 to 2020, she was a partner at the firm of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings in Birmingham, Alabama, where her practice focused on trial strategy and appeals in complex commercial litigation. She has represented clients before the Supreme Court of Alabama, numerous federal courts of appeals and the Supreme Court of the United States.  In December 2019, President Trump nominated her to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. Her nomination was confirmed by the United States Senate in May 2020.

The Honorable Wes Moore, Class of 2004
Governor of Maryland

Wes Moore is a youth advocate, Army combat veteran, social entrepreneur and author. Born in Baltimore, he graduated from Valley Forge Military College, and at age 19 was the youngest commissioned officer in the U.S. Army. He continued his education at Johns Hopkins University, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa, with a double degree in international relations and economics. He continued his study of international relations as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. As a paratrooper and captain in the United States Army, he completed a combat tour of duty in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne Division. He was then appointed as a White House Fellow, assisting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He has served on the boards of the Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and Johns Hopkins University, and founded an organization called STAND! that works with Baltimore youth involved in the criminal justice system. Wes Moore is also the founder and CEO of BridgeEdU, a social enterprise that assists young people in making the transition from high school to college and employs mobile technology to maximize students access to financial aid. His first book, The Other Wes Moore, was released in 2010 and became an instant New York Times bestseller; his 2015 book The Work — also a New York Times bestseller — was featured by Oprah Winfrey on her show SuperSoul Sunday.  He is also the author of Five Days, a narrative of events in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray from injuries sustained while in police custody. He was the executive producer of the 2016 documentary film All the Difference, which follows two young African American men as they graduate from high school and try to navigate higher education. The film was first broadcast on the PBS television program POV. In 2017 Moore became CEO of Robin Hood. This New York-based anti-poverty organization distributes over $130 million annually to over 200 programs, including schools, food pantries, homeless shelters, job training centers, health care providers, legal clinics, and early childhood programs. In 2021, Moore stepped down from his position at Robin Hood and announced his candidacy for Governor of Maryland. Moore took office in January 2023, becoming the first Black governor of the state and the third Black person elected as governor of a U.S. state.

The Honorable Seth Moulton, Class of 2009
United States House of Representatives

After graduating from Harvard with a degree in physics, Seth Moulton enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served two tours of duty as a platoon commander in Iraq. He participated in the initial invasion and in the 2004 Battle of Najaf. He later served as a liaison to senior Iraqi military and political leaders for General David Petraeus. Although he left active duty in 2006, and was accepted into a joint degree program at Harvard Business School and the John F. Kennedy School of Government, he returned to Iraq for another year as a special assistant to General Petraeus. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat in 2014. Congressman Moulton has focused on veterans’ health care, among other issues, and has served on the House Armed Services Committee, the House Budget Committee and the House Small Business Committee.

Josh Nesbit, Class of 2012
CEO of Medic Mobile

Josh Nesbit is the Chief Executive Officer of Medic Mobile, a nonprofit organization founded to improve health in the hardest-to-reach communities. Medic Mobile’s software helps over 12,000 community health workers provide care for more than one million families in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The organization focuses on ensuring safe pregnancies, increasing coverage for childhood immunizations, delivering lifesaving treatments for children, monitoring stock levels for essential medicines, and tracking disease outbreaks more rapidly. In 2014, Medic Mobile received a Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. Before co-founding Medic Mobile, Mr. Nesbit studied global health and bioethics at Stanford University, where his qualitative research focused on pediatric HIV/AIDS in Malawi. He is an Ashoka Fellow, PopTech Social Innovation Fellow, Echoing Green Fellow, and Rainer Arnhold Fellow. He has served on the Board of Directors for Developing Radio Partners and IntraHealth International. Selected by Devex as one of the 40 Under 40 Leaders in International Development, he has also received the Truman Award for Innovation from the Society for International Development, and was named by Forbes as one of the world’s top 30 social entrepreneurs. In 2016, Josh Nesbit received a Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award. He is continually inspired by community health workers around the world and emboldened by a vision of global health equity.


Collin O’Mara, Class of 2004
President and CEO, National Wildlife Foundation

Collin O’Mara serves as President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, America’s largest wildlife conservation organization with 51 state and territorial affiliates and nearly six million hunters, anglers, birders, gardeners, hikers, paddlers, and wildlife enthusiasts. Under O’Mara’s leadership, the National Wildlife Federation is focused on recovering America’s wildlife ranging from bison and bighorn sheep to pollinators like monarch butterflies and native bees, improving management of and access to public lands, restoring America’s water bodies, advancing environmental education and connecting every American child with the great outdoors.  He is regularly called before Congress to testify about wildlife, water, and sportsmen issues.  Prior to heading the National Wildlife Federation, he led the State of Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.  When he was appointed in 2004, he was the youngest state cabinet official in the nation.  A native of Syracuse, New York, O’Mara was a Marshall Scholar at the University of Oxford, a University Fellow at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, and a Presidential Scholar at Dartmouth College.  O’Mara and his wife Krishanti are both Academy of Achievement alumni.

Benj Pasek, Class of 2014
Oscar-winning Composer and Lyricist

Benj Pasek is half of the award-winning songwriting team behind the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen.  The show, set at a high school, received glowing reviews for its moral complexity as well as its musical ambition.  Mr. Pasek and his music-and-lyrics writing partner, Justin Paul, won a 2016 Obie (the major award for Off Broadway productions) for Musical Theater for the premiere production of Dear Evan Hansen, as well as a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lyrics.  The production was quickly picked up for transfer to Broadway.  Pasek and Paul previously enjoyed Tony-nominated success as the creative duo behind the Broadway musical A Christmas Story, which broke box-office records at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. In addition to its Tony nominations for Best Score and Best Musical, the show was nominated for the Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk Awards. The team made their debut with the musical Edges, which has already had more than 250 productions on five continents. Pasek and Paul’s other works include the Off Broadway musical Dogfight, and musical adaptations of James and the Giant Peach and If You Give a Pig a Pancake. Their songs were featured on the second season of NBC’s Smash and rose to the top 25 on the iTunes pop chart. Their work has been heard on numerous TV shows, including Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and was featured on the MTV series Happyland. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Pasek has lectured and taught master classes at institutions throughout North America, Europe and Australia, including Columbia, Harvard and Princeton. Disney has also hired Pasek and Paul them to write new songs for a live-action remake of Snow White.  Pasek and Paul won the 2017 Oscar for Best Song as well as the Golden Globe for their song “City of Stars” from the hit film La La Land.  They continued their remarkable winning streak by taking home the 2017 Tony Award for Best Original Score for the Broadway production of Dear Evan Hansen, which also won the year’s Tony Award for Best Musical. In 2018, they received a second Golden Globe for Best Original Song for “This Is Me” from the 20th Century Fox film musical The Greatest Showman.

The Honorable Pamela Pepper, Class of 1982
Chief Judge, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin

Her strongest memory from her time as a student delegate was drumming up the courage to ask Ed Asner for his autograph, which she still possesses. She obtained her undergraduate degree in theater/interpretation from Northwestern University. Following graduation, she attended Cornell Law School, where she engaged in moot court competitions and served as an editor on the law review. Post law school, she had the privilege of clerking for the Hon. Frank M. Johnson, Jr. of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Spending a year under the tutelage of a judicial integrity giant and a historic Civil Rights era icon was a pinnacle of her career and life. After completing her clerkship, she joined the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois, the federal prosecutor’s office in Chicago. This role afforded her extensive courtroom experience, handling trials before the U.S. District Court and appeals before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. After four years, she transitioned to the United States Attorney’s Office in Milwaukee, dedicating three years to prosecuting drug- and gang-related offenses. She departed government service in 1997 to establish a solo practice. In her practice, she defended clients in criminal cases across all stages, from investigation through appeal in both federal and state courts. Additionally, she became a renowned speaker on law practice management and taught legal writing and practice management at Marquette Law School. She also obtained a graduate certificate in alternative dispute resolution from Marquette Graduate School. In July 2005, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals appointed her to a seat on the bankruptcy court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, where she served for nearly ten years, including a tenure as chief judge of the four-judge court from 2010 until December 2014. She contributed as an editor for the American Bankruptcy Law Journal and held positions on the board of the American Bankruptcy Institute and as an officer of the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges. She regularly spoke at bankruptcy bar associations on evidence and has been a faculty member at the Federal Judicial Center. On December 8, 2015, President Obama appointed her to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, marking her as the first woman to hold a position on that court. On November 1, 2019, she assumed her current role as the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

Kim Petras, Class of 2017
Grammy Award-winning Singer-Songwriter

Somewhere between nineties American pop and eighties European disco, rises the undeniable voice of Kim Petras. Nodding to influences as diverse as Britney Spears, Baltimora, and the “Brat Pack,” the “side bun” sporting German-born and Los Angeles-based songstress powers up a new pop paradigm, sharing intimate lovelorn storylines over explosive production. By the age of twenty, she started making regular trips across the world to Los Angeles in order to write with top producers such as The Stereotypes. In 2015, she found herself penning music in mom’s basement while waiting for another visa. Stricken by heartache, the songs reflected raw emotion that spoke to producer Aaron Joseph. Working with Aaron, Dr. Luke, and other top-notch producers and writers, her sound came to life Kim’s 2017 debut single “I Don’t Want It At All” unlocks her world. Buoyed by shimmering synths and a club-ready beat, the track sees her spout sassy lines like, “I want all my clothes designer; I want someone else to buy ‘em” and “Just close your eyes and swipe it, sweetie” over production blessed by Aaron Joseph, Cirkut, and Luke with co-writing from Lil Aaron. Her brand of escapism remains rooted in a boundless capacity for empathy. Knowing herself from the age of two, Kim notably began transitioning with female hormone therapy following her twelfth birthday before receiving gender reassignment surgery at the age of 16 and making worldwide headlines. Her bravery quietly and subconsciously punctuates the music. “I have unique experiences and have had unique experiences, because I am transgender,” she continues. “Those experiences one-hundred percent go into my music. Being the outcast and being bullied makes you work harder in life. I had to fight for everything, because I was not the cool kid and had very few friends. At the same time, I’m just a girl going through heartbreak. It feels the same way to me as any other girl would feel about it. Whether or not you connect with people has nothing to do with your gender or sexuality.” Ultimately, her experience and intimate understanding of pop yields a universal vision that’s as incomparable as it is inimitable. In 2019, Petras independently released her debut album, Clarity, and her second studio album, Turn Off the Light. Petras signed with Republic Records in 2021 and released the EP Slut Pop, her first project with Republic, the following year. Petras’s collaborative 2022 single “Unholy” with Sam Smith topped charts internationally, including the UK Singles Chart and the Billboard Hot 100, making her the first openly transgender solo artist to reach number one in the United States. In 2023, Petras won a Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for her and Sam Smith’s hit, “Unholy,” making her the first openly transgender woman singer to win a Grammy.

Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, Ph.D., Class of 2002
Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of California, Santa Cruz

Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, Ph.D., professor and chair of astronomy and astrophysics at University of California, Santa Cruz, has been honored by the High-Energy Astrophysics Division (HEAD) of the American Astronomical Society with the 2019 HEAD Mid-Career Prize.  The award recognizes Ramirez-Ruiz “for his key contributions to our physical understanding of transient phenomena involving compact objects.”  He was previously awarded the 2017 Edward A. Bouchet Award from the American Physical Society. The Bouchet Award recognizes a distinguished minority physicist who has made significant contributions to physics research. Dr. Ramirez-Ruiz was chosen for the award in recognition of his “important contributions to the dynamics of plasma in extreme astrophysical environments.” While at UC Santa Cruz, he has also earned a Packard Fellowship, a Radcliffe Fellowship, and a $5 million Niels Bohr Professorship by the Danish National Research Foundation. The five-year Niels Bohr award supports an international research collaboration in theoretical astrophysics led by Dr. Ramirez-Ruiz, who divides his time between UC Santa Cruz and the Niels Bohr Institute (NBI) at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. The collaborative program, called the NBI Center for Transient Astrophysics, focuses on the physics of transient astronomical phenomena such as exploding stars and gamma-ray bursts. Dr. Ramirez-Ruiz has been working to develop the theoretical framework needed to interpret observations of astronomical transients and maximize the scientific yield of large survey projects. At the University of Copenhagen, he works with Professor Jens Hjorth, director of the Dark Cosmology Centre at NBI. A long-term associate at the center, Dr. Ramirez-Ruiz was named affiliated professor of high-energy astrophysics at NBI in 2014. A graduate of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, he earned a bachelor of science degree in physics, with honors. As a student, he won numerous honors including the Leon Lederman Award in Physics. He was conducting research at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the U.S. on an NIS Award in Space Science when he received word that he had been awarded the Young Scientist Presidential Award, Mexico’s highest academic youth honor, personally awarded by the President of Mexico. In 2003, he earned a Ph.D. in astronomy and astrophysics at Cambridge University. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University from 2003 to 2007, prior to beginning his professorship at UC Santa Cruz.

Lisa Randall, Ph.D., Class of 1980
Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of Science, Harvard University

The first female theoretical physicist to gain tenure at Harvard, Lisa Randall is the proponent of a radical new cosmology that may overturn our old conceptions of time, space and the universe. The Standard Model of physics has proved highly accurate in predicting the relative strength of the known forces in verifiable ways, with the exception of gravity, which appears inexplicably weak in relation to the other forces, such as electromagnetism. Randall has proposed that most of the gravity in the universe is concentrated in a dimension that is hidden from us — that our picture of the universe is distorted because we live in “a three-dimensional sinkhole.” She outlines these ideas for the general reader in her book Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions. While in high school, she won the Westinghouse Science Talent Search and, in 1980, attended the Academy of Achievement’s Salute to Excellence program as a student delegate. She earned her Ph.D. at Harvard and held professorships at MIT and Princeton before returning to Harvard as full professor in 2001. In 2007, TIME magazine named her to its list of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.”

Bruce Reed, Class of 1978
White House Deputy Chief of Staff

Bruce Reed comes to his current role as Deputy Chief of Staff to President Joseph Biden with a decade of previous experience as a White House policy advisor in both the Clinton and Obama administrations. An Idaho native, he graduated from Princeton and earned his master’s in English literature as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. He began his career as chief speechwriter for Senator Al Gore of Tennessee and policy director at the Democratic Leadership Council, then headed by Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. He served as deputy campaign manager for policy in the1992 Clinton-Gore presidential campaign. In the administration of President Clinton he was director of the Domestic Policy Council. He later served as CEO of the Democratic Leadership Council. A longtime contributor to Slate and The New Republic, he co-wrote his 2006 book The Plan: Big Ideas for America with fellow White House veteran Rahm Emmanuel. During the Obama administration, he served as Executive Director of the Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction commission, then as Assistant to the President and asChief of Staff to Vice President Joe Biden. In 2013, he became the first President of the newly established Broad Foundation.  Prior to joining the Biden administration, he was Co-Chair of the Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative and was the founder and first CEO of Civic, a social enterprise and public policy firm.

Jennifer Robinson, Class of 2008
Doughty Street Chambers

Jennifer Robinson is a practicing attorney with the civil liberties firm Doughty Street Chambers in London. She also serves as an adjunct law professor at the University of Sydney Law School in Australia. At the Australian National University, Ms. Robinson graduated with a double degree in law and Asian studies. She was the University Medalist in Law and a Distinguished Scholar for Asian Studies. As a Rhodes Scholar, she completed a bachelor of civil law (BCL), with distinction, and an M.Phil in public international law.  In 2011, she began a five-year term as Director of Legal Advocacy for the London-based Bertha Foundation, where she oversaw the development of the Bertha Justice Initiative, a program that supports over 100 fellowship positions, every two years in 17 different countries, for the next generation of human rights lawyers. Robinson has a special interest in the West Papuan independence movement, as attorney to the leader-in-exile, and as co-founder of the legal networking organization International Lawyers for West Papua. As a media and free speech law expert, Robinson is best-known for her longtime representation of WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange.  Her other high-profile clients include The New York Times, scientist Richard Dawkins and the actress Rose McGowan. She represented actress Amber Heard as a witness in British court in 2021, during the The Sun newspaper’s successful defense against the libel case brought by Heard’s ex-husband Johnny Depp. In 2021, Robinson announced the creation of the Acacia Scholarships, in partnership with the Public Education Foundation of Australia. The program encourages public school alumni to donate to their old school districts, providing them with the funding, mentoring and networking advantages previously reserved for alumni of Australia’s private schools.


Pardis Sabeti, M.D., Class of 2000
Associate Professor, Center for Systems Biology, Harvard University Howard Hughes Investigator, Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT

When the Ebola epidemic began in West Africa, Dr. Pardis Sabeti led a team that did something critically important: it sequenced virus samples from infected patients almost as soon as the outbreak began. This marked the first in-depth use of real-time DNA sequencing in the midst of such a deadly pandemic. She and her team were able to clearly determine that the virus was being spread by human-to-human contact — and not from mosquito, pig or other transmissions. In the wake of this widespread human crisis, at a time when myths and theories were running rampant, Dr. Sabeti’s work proved the power of real data to establish scientific conclusions. Tragically, several of her research collaborators died from Ebola contamination during the outbreak. Her high-risk work was ultimately critical to the containment and suppression of the disease, and in December 2014, Dr. Sabeti was included as one of 22 people named by TIME magazine when it chose “The Ebola Fighters” as its Person of the Year.

Andrew Serazin, D.Phil., Class of 2005
President, Templeton World Charity Foundation

As a researcher, entrepreneur, and executive, Andrew Serazin combines the resources of science, technology, and the humanities to address some of humanity’s greatest challenges. As President of the Templeton World Charity Foundation, Dr. Serazin is responsible for all aspects of the Foundation’s philanthropic activities as well as effective stewardship of its financial resources.  He is also a Trustee and past Chair of the Development Committee of the Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, one of the world’s largest organizations providing education and socio-emotional support for refugees. From 2006 to 2012, Dr. Serazin served as Program Lead in Global Health Discovery & Translational Science at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He founded and led Grand Challenges Explorations, an early-stage medical research fund that has been recognized as one of the most successful programs in Gates Foundation history. As a complement to his philanthropic endeavors, Dr. Serazin is the founder and chairman of Matatu, Inc., a venture-backed biotechnology company dedicated to applying insights about microbiome and nutrition to health. He has also worked as a key scientific advisor to Mars, Inc., one of the world’s largest food companies, in the development of nutritious food choices for consumers in Africa and Asia.   Earlier in his career, Dr. Serazin was a departmental lecturer in the Zoology Department at the University of Oxford. As a Rhodes Scholar, he received his doctorate from the University of Oxford for his work on developing new drugs and vaccines against malaria. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of Notre Dame. His original research has been presented at many international meetings and in leading peer-reviewed journals, including SciencePLOS MedicineNature Immunology, and Lancet.  In 2019, he was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.  His wife Emily Ludwig attended the International Achievement Summit as a delegate of the Academy’s Class of 2006.

Stav Shaffir, Class of 2017
Leader of the Green Party of Israel

In 2012, Stav Shaffir became the youngest female member in the history of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. A professional journalist and peace activist, she rose to prominence as a leader of the largest protest movement in Israel’s history, the movement for housing, social services, equality and democracy that brought hundreds of thousands of Israelis into the streets in the summer of 2011.  A veteran of the Israel Defense Forces he holds a degree in journalism and sociology from City University London, where she was the recipient of the Olive Tree Scholarship, a dedicated initiative for young leaders from the Middle East. At age 27 she was elected to the Knesset as a member of the Labor Party. Elected to a second term in 2015, Shaffir chaired the transparency committee and the social justice caucus. She has been an outspoken advocate for fiscal oversight of settlement funding, increased support for affordable housing, and equal rights for women and the LGBTQ community. In 2017, she became the first chair of the international Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s committee on government transparency.  After losing a contest for leadership of the Labor Party in 2019, she resigned her seat in the Knesset and became leader of Israel’s Green Movement.  Reorganizing the movement as a political party, she led the Greens into a new alliance alongside other parties in the Democratic Union but failed to win a seat in the Knesset elections of 2020.

Beth Shapiro, Ph.D., Class of 2000
Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz

Beth Shapiro is an evolutionary molecular biologist best known for her studies of ancient DNA.  From her base at the University of California, Santa Cruz, she has traveled to Kenya, Canada, Alaska and Siberia collecting samples of the bones, teeth, skulls and tusks of creatures long extinct — mammoths, mastodons and saber-toothed cats.  In the Yukon, she has uncovered remains buried under layers of volcanic ash for 130,000 years.  By extracting and comparing DNA samples from remains of different eras, she has traced the evolution, diversification and extinction of entire species.  Her research has challenged long-held beliefs about the extinction of the giant mammals and diversity loss among species such as the great North American bison.  Dr. Shapiro earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Georgia and her doctorate in zoology as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford.   She received a University Research Fellowship from the Royal Society in 2006, a MacArthur “genius grant” in 2009, and was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in 2010.  Her recent research publications have included studies of prehistoric human migration in the Middle East and North Africa, the kinship of brown bears and polar bears in the last Ice Age, and the molecular epidemiology of the AIDS virus.

Mikhail G. Shapiro, Ph.D., Class of 2005
Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering and Heritage Principal Investigator, California Institute of Technology

A native of Russia, Mikhail Shapiro is Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering and Heritage Principal Investigator at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). His laboratory develops technologies to image and control biological function non-invasively at the molecular level, with applications in basic biology and cellular therapy. Dr. Shapiro received his Bachelor of Science degree in neuroscience from Brown University, where he worked to develop implantable systems allowing paralyzed patients to control computers with their thoughts. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in biological engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, followed by postdoctoral research in biophysics at the University of Chicago. In 2011, he launched his independent research program at the University of California, Berkeley, and moved to Caltech in 2014 to join its chemical engineering faculty, with appointments in bioengineering and medical engineering. Dr. Shapiro’s research has been recognized by the Hertz, Soros, Miller and Life Science Research Foundation Fellowships; the Hertz Ph.D. Thesis Prize; the Burroughs Wellcome Career Award at the Scientific Interface; the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Young Faculty Award and Director’s Fellowship; the Pew Scholars Award; the Sontag Foundation Distinguished Scientist Award; the Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering; and the Technology Review TR35 Award for top innovators under age 35. Additionally, Dr. Shapiro has served as a Defense Sciences Research Council Fellow and a member of the National Academy of Sciences Standing Committee on Technology Insight. Apart from his academic career, he has been active in biotechnology entrepreneurship. He was a co-founder of Cyberkinetics, the company that developed the first implantable brain-computer interface, and was a venture principal at Third Rock Ventures, where he helped launch Foundation Medicine and Afferent Pharmaceuticals. In 2018, he received the Roger Tsien Award for Excellence in Chemical Biology from the World Molecular Imaging Society.  The award recognizes his pioneering development of acoustic and magnetic biomolecules that allow the imaging of cells deep inside the body using magnetic fields and sound waves. This technology makes it possible to study cellular function in intact organisms and develop new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to diseases such as cancer and neurodegeneration. HIs work has won him the 2019 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science.


Brad Smith, Class of 2009
Health Care Entrepreneur and Public Servant

Born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, Brad Smith graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University. Following graduation from Harvard, he worked on the campaign of U.S. Senator Bob Corker and served in the White House Office of Political Affairs.  He attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, earning an M.Phil. in Comparative Social Policy.  Returning to Tennessee, he served as Chief of Staff at the Tennessee Department of Economic Development and as the founding Executive Director of the Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), a non-profit focused on bringing diverse stakeholders together to improve K-12 education in Tennessee.  He was the Co-Founder and CEO of Aspire Health, which he grew from an idea into the nation’s largest home-based palliative care provider, operating in 25 states and over 70 cities. Aspire was sold to Anthem in June 2018.  More recently, he served as Chief Operating Officer of Anthem’s Diversified Business Group (DBG), which included companies specializing in primary care, specialty benefit management, healthcare research, program integrity, and behavioral health.  In the administration of President Donald Trump, Smith served as Deputy Administrator and Director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Esperanza Spalding, Class of 2014
Singer, Songwriter and Jazz Bassist

Vocalist, composer and instrumentalist Esperanza Spalding fell in love with music as a little girl in Portland, Oregon. She first drew acclaim as a child violinist before discovering the upright bass as a teenager. Within months she was playing in local clubs, exploring pop, rock, hip-hop and especially jazz. By age 20, she was an instructor at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music, and was performing with singer Patti Austin and a stellar roster of jazz greats. Her 2008 album, Esperanza, topped Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz chart. The following year, she was invited to perform at The White House and the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Stockholm. At the 53rd annual Grammy Awards, she was honored as Best New Artist of the Year. With her 2011 album, Chamber Music Society, she became the bestselling contemporary jazz artist in the world. On the follow-up, Radio Music Society, she played her own compositions alongside an eclectic selection of tunes by everyone from the Beach Boys to one of her heroes, jazz great Wayne Shorter. With every performance, every recording, she continues to explore an ever-expanding musical universe.

Debbie Sterling, Class of 2014
Founder and CEO, GoldieBlox

Debbie Sterling is the Founder and CEO of GoldieBlox, the award-winning children’s multimedia company offering a unique line of construction toys designed to interest young girls in building and engineering, including the world’s first girl engineer character. Sterling herself discovered engineering in her freshman year at Stanford, and graduated in 2005 with a degree in mechanical engineering and product design. After graduation, she worked as marketing director for a national jewelry brand, and then as a brand strategist for Hornall Anderson, advising the agencyʼs top clients, including Microsoft, T-Mobile, Frito Lay and the New York Knicks. Recalling how few women there had been in her engineering program, she noted that men still greatly outnumber women in science, technology, engineering and math. Because girls often lose interest in these subjects in elementary school, she devised a line of toys to capture girls’ interest at an early age. By tapping into their verbal skills, the GoldieBlox “story + construction set” bolsters confidence in girls’ spatial skills while giving them the tools they need to create, design and build. She has been named Time’s “Person of the Moment,” honored by the National Retail Foundation as one of 25 “People Shaping Retail’s Future,” and was recently added to Fortune magazine’s prestigious “40 Under 40” list. In 2015, she was inducted as a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship and honored by the National Women’s History Museum with a “Living Legacy” Award for her work to empower girls around the world. In 2022, The Jim Henson Company and GoldieBlox teamed up for Gizmo Girls, an animated series aimed at upper preschoolers that combines math, science, and empowerment. Debbie Sterling is an engineer, entrepreneur, and one of the leaders in the movement toward empowering girls to build their confidence, dreams, and ultimately, their futures.

Bryan A. Stevenson, Class of 1977
Founder and Executive Director, Equal Justice Initiative

Bryan Stevenson is the Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, Alabama. He is a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned. Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges, eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aiding children prosecuted as adults. Mr. Stevenson has successfully argued several cases in the U.S. Supreme Court, and recently won a historic ruling that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger are unconstitutional. He and his staff have won reversals, relief or release for over 115 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row. He has initiated major new anti-poverty and anti-discrimination efforts that challenge the legacy of racial inequality in America, including major projects to educate communities about slavery, lynching and racial segregation. Mr. Stevenson is also a law professor at the New York University School of Law. His work fighting poverty and challenging racial discrimination in the criminal justice system has won him numerous awards, including the prestigious MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Prize. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Just Mercy, which was named by TIME Magazine as one of the “10 Best Books of Nonfiction for 2014.”  Under Stevenson’s leadership, the Equal Justice Initiative unveiled the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama in 2018.  Located in a six-acre field of green space, the central structure of the memorial displays 800 hanging columns of Corten steel, representing the 800 counties of the United States where more than 4,400 African Americans were lynched between the years 1877 and 1950.  The memorial offers all Americans a place to confront and contemplate a painful chapter of their shared history.  Bryan Stevenson’s work is the subject of the documentary film True Justice, and the feature film Just Mercy, both released in 2019.

Sarah Stillman, Class of 2006
Staff Writer, The New Yorker

Sarah Stillman is an esteemed professor, journalist, and a staff writer for The New Yorker, specializing in immigration policy and the criminal justice system. She graduated from Georgetown Day School in Washington, D.C., and Yale University in 2006, where she founded the interdisciplinary feminist journal, Manifesta, and co-directed the Student Legal Action Movement. Stillman furthered her studies as a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University and was embedded with the 116th Military Police Company in 2009. She currently teaches investigative reporting at Yale University and created the Global Migration Project at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Stillman has written extensively on a range of critical social issues including civil forfeiture, debtors’ prisons, Mexico’s drug cartels, and Bangladesh’s garment-factory workers. Her investigative journalism has earned her several prestigious accolades: the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics (2005), multiple National Magazine Awards for Public Interest (2012, 2019), the George Polk Award, the Overseas Press Club’s Joe and Laurie Dine Award, the Hillman Prize for Magazine Journalism, the Michael Kelly Award (2012), and a MacArthur Fellowship (2016). In 2024, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for her searing indictment of the U.S. legal system’s reliance on the felony murder charge and its disparate consequences, often devastating for communities of color. Before joining The New Yorker, Stillman wrote about America’s wars overseas and the challenges facing soldiers at home for publications like The Washington Post, The Nation, and Slate. She has also co-taught a seminar at Yale on the Iraq War and ran a creative-writing workshop for four years at the Cheshire Correctional Institution, a maximum-security men’s prison in Connecticut. Her work is included in The Best American Magazine Writing 2012, and she continues to impact public understanding and policy through her thorough and compassionate reporting.

Maria Strømme, Class of 2005
Professor of nanotechnology, Uppsala University, Sweden

Maria Strømme holds a doctorate in solid-state physics and obtained the chair position in nanotechnology at Uppsala University in 2004, as the youngest technology chair professor in Sweden. She has built a research group consisting of 22 members working on developing nanomaterials and nanotechnology-based analysis methods for biotech and energy-storage applications. Strømme has authored more than 150 peer-reviewed research papers, several book sections and popular science articles, and a number of invited conference presentations and papers. She is the inventor behind eight patents families, including some 27 patents/patent applications, of which some have been out-licensed to national and international industrial partners. She acts as external reviewer of research applications for national and international research-funding agencies Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Israel, the United States, Finland, Japan, and other countries and presently holds funding-agency board positions in Sweden and Norway. In 2005 she was the only person in Scandinavia identified as a “young international scientific leader” by the American Academy of Achievement Summit. Strømme is a member of the Royal Society of Science in Uppsala (Kungl. Vetenskapssocieteten) and also of the Swedish Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA). She is currently one of the advisors (Forskningsberedningen) to the Swedish Minister of Research and Education. She is a frequently invited speaker on the topic of how nanotechnology may change our way of living, and she has appeared as a guest in several media programs.

Jake Sullivan, Class of 2000
National Security Advisor to President Joseph R. Biden

Jake Sullivan is the national security advisor to President Joseph R. Biden, a visiting lecturer in law at Yale Law School, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Jake served in the Obama administration as national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and director of policy planning at the U.S. Department of State, as well as deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He was the senior policy adviser on Secretary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and previously served as deputy policy director on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential primary campaign and as a member of the debate preparation team for Barack Obama’s general election campaign. Jake has also been a senior policy adviser and chief counsel to Senator Amy Klobuchar from his home state of Minnesota, worked as an associate for Faegre & Benson LLP, and taught at the University of St. Thomas Law School. He clerked for Judge Stephen Breyer of the Supreme Court of the United States and Judge Guido Calabresi of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He holds both undergraduate and law degrees from Yale and a master’s degree from Oxford.

Taylor Swift, Class of 2008
Singer and Songwriter

A prodigiously talented singer and songwriter, Taylor Swift’s dedication to music began in childhood. She started crafting songs at the age of five, and by the time she turned ten, was performing at karaoke contests, festivals and county fairs around her hometown of Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. At age 12, she persuaded her parents to move to Nashville so she could pursue her singing career. In only two years, she had signed a publishing contract with Sony, making her the youngest professional songwriter in the industry. In 2006, when she was 16, her self-titled debut album was released and had soon sold more than three million copies. She wrote every song on the album, including the year’s number one country single, “Our Song.” Taylor Swift is an 11-time Grammy winner, the youngest recipient in the history of the music industry’s highest honor, the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. She was the first woman to win Album of the Year twice, in 2008 for Fearless and in 2015 for 1989. She is the only artist in history to have an album hit the $1-million first-week sales figure three times (2010’s Speak Now, 2012’s RED and 2014’s 1989). She’s a household name whose intensely catchy yet deeply personal self-penned songs transcend music genres, and a savvy businesswoman who has built a childhood dream into an empire.  In 2021, her album Folklore received the Grammy Award for Album of the Year — a third win in this category for Taylor Swift.

Sabriye Tenberken, Class of 2003
Co-founder, Braille Without Borders

As the first blind student at Bonn University, Sabriye Tenberken studied the Mongolian, Chinese and Tibetan languages in conjunction with sociology and philosophy, developing the first Braille script for the Tibetan language, initially for her own use. In 1997, she traveled on her own through the Tibetan Autonomous Region to investigate the situation of blind children there. The following year, she returned to Tibet to open a training center for the blind, including a preparatory school, a Braille printing press, a vocational training farm and a medical massage training program. In 2001, with her Dutch colleague, Paul Kronenberg, she co-founded Braille Without Borders (BWB) to empower blind and visually impaired people around the world. A BWB international center is now being built in Kerala, India, where blind people from developing countries will train to establish social projects for the blind in their own countries. In recognition of her service to humanity, Ms. Tenberken has received the Albert Schweitzer Award, has been honored as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, was named a “Hero of 2004” by TIME magazine, and has been knighted by the Queen of the Netherlands.

Herschel Walker, Class of 1980
College Football Hall of Fame

An inactive child by his own account, Herschel Walker went on to set all-time football records at every level of play, from high school to the pros. He finished his professional career with a total of 8,225 yards and 61 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 512 passes for 4,859 yards and 21 scores. In 1981, he became the first Academy of Achievement honor student to return to the annual program as a recipient of the Golden Plate Award. The following year, while a junior at the University of Georgia, he won the Heisman Trophy as the outstanding player of the year. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999, and was selected as the second greatest player in college football history, just behind the legendary Red Grange. Mr. Walker has also devoted himself to working with numerous charitable and educational organizations.

Shad White, Class of 2008
State Auditor, Mississippi

In July 2018,  Shad White was sworn in as Mississippi’s new State Auditor.  The first millennial to hold statewide office in Mississippi, he may be the first of his generation to assume such a position anywhere in the Deep South.  A native of Sandersville, Mississippi — population 731 — White graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Mississippi’s Honors College with a B.A. in Economics and Political Science. During his senior year of undergraduate studies, he authored an honors thesis critiquing Mississippi’s education funding formula.  In 2008, the Board of Trustees of Mississippi’s university system adopted the recommendations of a report he authored on fairer textbook pricing and information policies. He undertook graduate studies as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, and later earned a degree from Harvard Law School.  White ran Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant’s 2015 re-election campaign and served as Bryant’s policy director.  More recently, he was director of the Mississippi Justice Institute and lead attorney for the Mississippi Center for Public Policy.  Governor Bryant appointed him to complete the term of the previous State Auditor, who resigned to accept another position with the state.  In November 2019, White was elected to a full term in the office.

Damian Williams, Class of 2005
United States Attorney, Southern District of New York

Damian Williams is the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.  Nominated by President Biden in August 2021 and confirmed by the United States Senate in October 2021, Mr. Williams is the chief federal law enforcement officer for the District, which was established in 1789 and encompasses the boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx in New York City, along with Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, and Westchester counties. As United States Attorney, Mr. Williams supervises the investigation and prosecution of all federal crimes and the litigation of all civil matters in which the United States has an interest.  He leads a staff of approximately 450 lawyers, special agents, paralegals and other support professionals.  Mr. Williams also serves as Chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee (AGAC), a select group of United States Attorneys who advise the Attorney General on matters of policy, procedure, and management. Prior to his confirmation as United States Attorney, Mr. Williams served as Chief of the Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force in the Southern District of New York.  As an Assistant United States Attorney, Mr. Williams primarily investigated and prosecuted white collar cases involving corruption in financial markets and politics.  Among other matters, he prosecuted Congressman Chris Collins for insider trading and lying to the FBI and New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for bribery, extortion, and money laundering. Mr. Williams earned an A.B. in Economics from Harvard University, a M.Phil. in International Relations from the University of Cambridge, and a J.D. from Yale Law School.  He served as a law clerk to Judge Merrick B. Garland of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and then to Justice John Paul Stevens of the United States Supreme Court.

Feng Zhang, Ph.D., Class of 2000
W. M. Keck Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Feng Zhang is a bioengineer focused on developing tools to better understand nervous system function and disease. His lab applies these means to interrogate gene function and study neuropsychiatric diseases in animal and stem cell models. These novel tools, which he has made widely available, are accelerating biomedical research around the world. In 2012, he submitted a breakthrough paper which reported the first successful programmable genome editing of mammalian cells, and remains the most-cited paper in genome editing. Dr. Zhang’s technique for mammalian genome editing has had enormous impact on experimental science and holds great promise for therapeutic applications. He is also widely recognized for developing another breakthrough technology called optogenetics, with fellow Academy of Achievement alumni Karl Deisseroth of Stanford and Edward Boyden of MIT. In 2023, Dr. Zhang formally launched, Aera Therapeutics, with $193 million in financing from GV, the venture capital arm of Alphabet Inc., and other investors including ARCH Venture Partners and Lux Capital. The Boston company is devising a new nanoparticle technology based on previously overlooked human proteins that assemble into virus-like structures. Dr. Zhang showed they can be used to sneak medicines based on the genetic molecule RNA into human cells grown in a dish. If Aera’s approach works in people, it could broaden the reach of genetic therapies, which currently have limited clinical applications, partly because there aren’t enough methods for getting those medicines to hone in on the right cells.