Two More MacArthur Fellowships from CUNY

A nonfiction author who earned her doctorate at the CUNY Graduate Center and a playwright-in-residence at Hunter College are among the 23 recipients of 2016 MacArthur Fellowships – the so-called “genius grants.” 

 Each fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation comes with an unrestricted $625,000 grant payable over five years.

Chancellor James B. Milliken stated: “Congratulations to author Maggie Nelson, who earned her doctorate from the CUNY Graduate Center in 2004, and playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, a master-artist-in-residence in Hunter College’s Playwriting MFA program, for having won these prestigious fellowships. Ms. Nelson brings to 21 the number of MacArthur Fellowship winners who are alumni of The City University of New York.  This is a source of enormous pride for CUNY and a testament to the quality of our students, faculty and graduates.” 

 In an independent analysis last year, CUNY was in the top 10 universities in the nation in numbers of alumni who had won MacArthur Fellowships, joining Berkeley as the only public universities on the list.  


Maggie Nelson, 2016 MacArthur Fellow, At home, Los Angeles

Author Maggie Nelson, who earned her CUNY Ph.D. in 2004, is “forging a new mode of nonfiction that transcends the divide between the personal and the intellectual and renders pressing issues of our time into portraits of day-to-day lived experience,” MacArthur’s website says. “Nelson’s five book-length works of nonfiction are grounded in experiences and topics with which she is struggling. She invites the reader into her process of thinking through and making sense of her unique concerns with the help of feminist and queer theory, cultural and art criticism, philosophy and psychology.”

Nelson, 43, whose undergraduate degree came from Wesleyan University, teaches in the School of Critical Studies at California Institute of the Arts.

 CUNY’s other MacArthur Fellow is Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, master-artist-in-residence in the Playwriting MFA program of Hunter College. 

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, 2016 MacArthur Fellow, New York, New York

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, 2016 MacArthur Fellow, New York, New York

MacArthur cites him as “a playwright drawing from a range of contemporary and historical theatrical genres … [who engages] frankly with complicated issues around identity, family, class, and race.

 Many of Jacobs-Jenkins’s plays use a historical lens to satirize and comment on modern culture, particularly the ways in which race and class are negotiated in both private and public settings. Although the provocation of his audience is purposeful, Jacobs-Jenkins’s creation of unsettling, shocking, often confrontational moments is not gratuitous; these elements are of a piece with the world he has established on stage and in the service of the story he is telling.” 

 Jacobs-Jenkins, 31, earned a B.A. from Princeton University, an M.A. from New York University, and graduated from the Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program at Juilliard. His plays have been performed at such venues as Lincoln Center Theatre/LCT3, Soho Rep, the Public Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, Actors Theater of Louisville, and Center Theatre Group, among many others. He also is in residency at Signature Theater.

 The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in New York City in 1847, the University comprises 25 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the CUNY School of Medicine, the CUNY Graduate School and University Center, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the CUNY School of Law, the CUNY School of Professional Studies and the CUNY School of Public Health and Health Policy. The University serves more than 274,350 degree-seeking students and 260,000 adult and continuing education students. College Now, the University’s academic enrichment program, is offered at CUNY campuses and more than 300 high schools throughout the five boroughs of New York City. The University offers online baccalaureate and master’s degrees through the School of Professional Studies.