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Drew Students Access Greatness

Speakers and professors have Pulitzers, ‘genius grants,’ a Nobel.

November 2018 – Drew University offers students an all-access pass to award-winning scientists, writers, activists and artists.

Some are professors, while others are artists-in-residence or featured speakers. What they share is that their life’s work is world-class, as evidenced by their Pulitzer Prizes, MacArthur Foundation “genius grants” and even a Nobel Prize.

Take, for example, Dr. William Campbell, an associate fellow in Drew’s Research Institute for Scientists Emeriti, who earned the 2015 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his role in developing a drug to combat parasitic diseases like river blindness. Campbell, who mentored Drew students for 20 years, returns to campus annually to speak to science honor students about his life in science and the arts.

Another recurring speaker is the Rev. Dr. William Barber II, a 2003 graduate of Drew Theological School, who this year earned a MacArthur genius grant for his leadership in the revival of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign. Barber, whose social activism also was honored by Politico and Unity Magazine, delivered the sesquicentennial address at Drew’s 2017 Commencement, where he urged graduates to “stand up for what is right against what is wrong.”

Students also experienced a string of Pulitzer Prize winners in the past two years:

Colson Whitehead, who earned the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for The Underground Railroad, spoke about his development as a writer, read a passage from his phenomenal book and answered questions about his influences as a guest of the Drew Forum series.


Jennifer Egan, who earned the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for A Visit from the Goon Squad, read from her 2017 bestseller, Manhattan Beach, reflected on her research and writing and answered questions from students as a guest of the Writers@Drew series.


Julia Wolfe, who earned the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in Music and a genius grant the following year, taught a course on documentary expression with Associate Professor Rebecca Soderholm, led a campus residency of her music ensemble, partnered with Professor Jennifer Olmsted on the New York City Semester on Social Entrepreneurship and spoke at 2017 Commencement as an artist-in-residence at Drew.


Finally, top professors achieved international recognition in 2018:

Courtney Zoffness, an assistant professor of English who directs Drew’s creative writing program, scored the world’s richest short story prize for “Peanuts Aren’t Nuts,” which a judge described as a “high-tariff endeavor, exactly brought off.” Zoffness, a Drew professor since 2012, also advises Insanity’s Horse, the university’s art and literary magazine and coordinates Writers@Drew.


Patrick McGuinn, a professor of political science and education and senior research specialist at the Consortium for Policy Research in Education, earned a policy fellowship at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government. McGuinn, a Drew professor since 2005, is nationally recognized as an expert on education policy, particularly federal initiatives like No Child Left Behind.


Alicia Ostriker, the Distinguished Poet in Residence who teaches in the Master of Fine Arts in Poetry and Poetry Translation program at Drew’s Caspersen School of Graduate Studies, was named State Poet for New York. Ostriker, a Drew professor since 2009, has achieved awards and fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts, Guggenheim Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation and Poetry Society of America.