college seal The Presidential Scholars Program brings some of the most distinguished voices in the area of anti-racist scholarship and policy to Amherst for short-term residencies. During their time at Amherst, visiting scholars present a public lecture in the President’s Colloquium on Race and Racism, hold seminars, and meet with students, faculty, and staff.

Launched in conjunction with Amherst’s 2020 Anti-Racism Plan, the Presidential Scholars program will bring four scholars per year to campus for the next two years. Presidential Scholars are nominated by faculty and other community members and hosted by the Center for Humanistic Inquiry and the President’s Office.

Upcoming 2022–2023 Events

Hilton Als’ Preliminary Schedule

Thursday, February 23

  • 2:30 - 3:50 p.m. Class Visit: African American Political Thought

Friday, February 24

  • 5:00 p.m. Curator’s Talk: “God Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin”
 (Mead Art Museum)
  • 6:00 p.m. Reception for National Book Award Authors and Opening of “God Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin”
 (Mead Art Museum)

Saturday, February 25

  • 2:00 p.m. LitFest Craft Talk on curatorial practice with select group of students

Sunday, February 26

  • 1:00 p.m. President’s Colloquium on Race and Racism: Hilton Als in conversation with Professor Frank Leon Roberts, followed by book signing (Johnson Chapel)

An older, distinguished man in a white shirt with a bookcase in the background Pulitzer Prize-winning Essayist & Author, Hilton Als

February 24–26, 2023

Als became a staff writer at The New Yorker in 1994 and a theater critic in 2002. Week after week, he brings to the magazine a rigorous, sharp, and lyrical perspective on acting, playwriting, and directing. With his deep knowledge of the history of performance—not only in theater but in dance, music, and visual art—he shows us how to view a production and how to place its director, its author, and its performers in the ongoing continuum of dramatic art. His reviews are not simply reviews; they are provocative contributions to the discourse on theater, race, class, sexuality, and identity in America.

Als is the author of the books My Pinup (2022), The Women (1996) and White Girls, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and winner of the Lambda Literary Award in 2014. He is currently working on a new book titled I Don’t Remember (Penguin, 2023), a book length essay on his experiences in AIDS era New York. Als has curated many shows including “Alice Neel, Uptown,” along with an accompanying book on the artist (2107) as well as “God Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin”, a special iteration of the exhibit will be at the Mead Art Museum from February 24 - July 9, 2023.

Als won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 2017. Among his many honors, he also was awarded a Guggenheim for creative writing in 2000 and the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism in 2002. Als is an associate professor of writing at Columbia University’s School of the Arts and has taught at Yale University, Wesleyan, and Smith College. He lives in New York City.

(Photo credit Rivkah Gevinson)

The front of Johnson Chapel bathed in deep purple light

Hilton Als in Conversation with Professor Frank Leon Roberts

Sunday, February 26 at 1 pm in Johnson Chapel. The President’s Colloquium on Race and Racism presents Hilton Als in conversation with Frank Leon Roberts. Introductions and remarks by President Michael A. Elliott.

A photo of Saidiya Hartman Saidiya Hartman

April 4-7, 2023

Saidiya Hartman is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, where her major fields of inquiry are African American and American literature and cultural history, slavery, law and literature, and performance studies. Author of Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-making in Nineteenth-Century America (1997), Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route ( 2007), and Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval (2020), she is on the editorial board of Callaloo and has been the recipient of numerous prestigious fellowships.

Previous 2022–2023 Presidential Scholars

A concert with a piano and jazz band on stage

Jason Moran

Pianist and composer Jason Moran has established himself as a risk taker and trendsetter for new directions in jazz. Since 2000, Moran and the other members of his trio The Bandwagon have dazzled audiences at venues worldwide. Moran has also composed for Alonzo King LINES Ballet; conceived a jazz and skateboarding collaboration; written the film score for Selma; and paid homage to two legendary pianists in his Blue Note album All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller and his multimedia program In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall 1959. Moran is a faculty member at the New England Conservatory, the Kennedy Center’s artistic director for jazz and a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship (“Genius Grant”).

A woman with short hair wearing a suit and speaking in front of a microphone

Karma Chávez

Karma R. Chávez is the Bobby and Sherri Patton Professor of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies and Department Chair at the University of Texas at Austin. She is co-editor of Keywords for Gender and Sexuality Studies (New York University Press, 2021); Queer and Trans Migrations: Dynamics of Illegalization, Detention, and Deportation (University of Illinois Press, 2020); Text + Field: Innovations in Rhetorical Method (Penn State Press, 2016) and Standing in the Intersection: Feminist Voices, Feminist Practices in Communication Studies (SUNY Press, 2012); and author of Queer Migration Politics: Activist Rhetoric and Coalitional Possibilities (University of Illinois Press, 2013); Palestine on the Air (University of Illinois Press, 2019); and The Borders of AIDS: Race, Quarantine, and Resistance (University of Washington Press, 2021).

2021–2022 Presidential Scholars

Watch conversations with the four Presidential Scholars for 2021–22. In its first year, the program brought preeminent scholars from a wide range of disciplines to Amherst in order to deepen and enrich our campus-wide conversation about racial justice, racial history, and anti-racist scholarship, action, and policy. During short-term residencies, visiting scholars presented public lectures in the President’s Colloquium on Race and Racism, visited classes, and met with students, faculty, and staff. Scholars were nominated by faculty and other community members and hosted by the Center for Humanistic Inquiry in partnership with the President’s Office.

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein

Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein

Dr. Prescod-Weinstein is an assistant professor of physics and astronomy and core faculty in women’s and gender studies at the University of New Hampshire.

Watch the Video

Viet Thanh Nguyen

Viet Thanh Nguyen

Author, critic-at-large for The Los Angeles Times, and recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Grant, Viet Thanh Nguyen speaks with Jennifer Acker ’00, editor-in-chief of The Common.

Watch the Video

Kwame Anthony Appiah

Kwame Anthony Appiah

Watch a conversation with renowned ethicist and professor of philosophy and law at NYU, Kwame Anthony Appiah, as well as an interview between Professor Appiah and Sophie Wolmer ’23.

Watch the Video

Harriet Washington

Harriet Washington

A conversation with National Book Critics Circle Award-winning science writer, editor, and ethicist Harriet Washington, and an interview between Washington and Aditi Nayak ’23.

Watch the Video