Event Calendar

July 2020

Thu, Jul 9, 2020

Nikole Hannah-Jones and Khary Polk

“1619 and the Legacy that Built America,” with Nikole Hannah-Jones and Khary Polk

7:00 pm Virtual

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Nikole Hannah Jones will discuss “The 1619 Project” with Khary Polk, associate professor of Black studies and sexuality, women's and gender studies, to be followed by an audience Q&A.

Nikole Hannah-Jones was named a MacArthur Genius for “reshaping national conversations around education reform.” This is but one honor in a growing list: she’s won a Peabody, a Polk and, for her story on choosing a school for her daughter in a segregated city, a National Magazine Award. Most recently, The New York Times Magazine’s “The 1619 Project” she spearheaded on the history and lasting legacy of American slavery went viral, and her powerful introductory essay was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for commentary.

Hannah-Jones covers racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine, and has spent years chronicling the way official policy has created—and maintains—racial segregation in housing and schools. Her deeply personal reports on the Black experience in America offer a compelling case for greater equity. Hannah-Jones is the creator and lead writer of The New York Times' major multimedia initiative “The 1619 Project.” Named for the year the first enslaved Africans arrived in America, the project features an ongoing series of essays and art on the relationship between slavery and everything from social infrastructure and segregation, to music and sugar—all by Black American authors, activists, journalists and more. Hannah-Jones wrote the project’s introductory essay, which ran under the powerful headline "Our Democracy’s Founding Ideals Were False When They Were Written. Black Americans Have Fought to Make Them True." The essay earned her her first Pulitzer Prize for commentary.

Nothing we know about American life today has been untouched by the legacy of slavery. “The 1619 Project” quickly went viral—the print issue flew off shelves immediately, prompting hundreds of thousands of extra copies of to be printed—spreading its heartbreaking and absolutely essential message worldwide. Random House announced that it will be adapting the project into a graphic novel and four publications for young readers, while also releasing an extended version of the original publication, including more essays, fiction and poetry. In 2020, Hannah-Jones appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah to discuss the project. And an impactful ad about the project—a collaboration with Janelle Monáe—debuted at the Oscars just days later. In addition to Hannah-Jones’ Pulitzer, “The 1619 Project” has garnered The New York Times Magazine a record-breaking number of finalist nods for the upcoming 2020 National Magazine Awards.

Hannah-Jones has written extensively on the history of racism, school resegregation and the disarray of hundreds of desegregation orders, as well as the decades-long failure of the federal government to enforce the landmark 1968 Fair Housing Act. She is currently writing a book on school segregation called The Problem We All Live With, to be published on the One World imprint of Penguin/Random House. Her piece “Worlds Apart” in The New York Times Magazine won the National Magazine Award for “journalism that illuminates issues of national importance” as well as the Hillman Prize for Magazine Journalism. In 2016, she was awarded a Peabody Award and George Polk Award for radio reporting for her This American Life story, “The Problem We All Live With.” She was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists, and was also named to 2019’s The Root 100 as well as Essence’s Woke 100. Her reporting has also won Deadline Club Awards, Online Journalism Awards, the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service, the Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting and the Emerson College President’s Award for Civic Leadership. In February 2020, she was profiled by Essence as part of their Black History Month series, celebrating “the accomplishments made by those in the past, as well as those paving the way for the future.”

Hannah-Jones co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting with the goal of increasing the number of reporters and editors of color. She holds a master of arts in Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina and earned her B.A. in history and African-American studies from the University of Notre Dame. For the Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies, she investigated social changes under Raul Castro and the impact of universal health care on Cuba’s educational system. She was also selected by the University of Pennsylvania to report on the impact of the Watts Riots for a study marking the 40th anniversary of the Kerner Commission report. Along with The New York Times, her reporting has been featured in ProPublica, The Atlantic Magazine, Huffington Post, Essence Magazine, The Week Magazine, Grist and Politico Magazine, and on Face the Nation, This American Life, NPR, The Tom Joyner Morning Show, MSNBC, C-SPAN, Democracy Now and radio stations across the country.

Khary Oronde Polk is an associate professor of Black studies and sexuality, women's and gender studies at Amherst College. He is a cultural historian of the African-American diaspora; a specialist in LGBTQ studies; and a scholar of race, gender and sexuality in the U.S. military. Polk received his Ph.D. in American studies from New York University, and teaches courses on Black sexuality, military history, Black European studies, and queer theory. His book, "Contagions of Empire: Scientific Racism, Sexuality, and Black Military Workers Abroad, 1898-1948" (University of North Carolina Press, June 2020) examines how the movement of African American soldiers and nurses around the world in the early-to-mid twentieth century challenged U.S. military ideals of race, nation, and honor.

Polk has written for the Studio Museum of Harlem, The Journal of Negro History, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Gawker, and the journal Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly. He has also contributed essays to a number of queer of color anthologies, including If We Have to Take Tomorrow, Corpus and Think Again. Polk is a member of the African Atlantic Research Group, and recently held a visiting professorship at the JFK Institute for North American Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin.

Wed, Jul 22, 2020

Side-by-side headshots of Leary, Rauch, McQuade

"COVID-19, Civil Unrest and Communitas: Mental Health and Emotional Well-Being in the Summer of 2020"

7:00 pm Virtual

Amherst trustee Kimberlyn Leary '82, senior vice president at the Urban Institute, professor of psychology and associate professor of health policy and management at Harvard University and lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, will talk with Paula Rauch '77 , M.D., the Timothy C. Davidson Chair of Psychiatry and founding director of the Marjorie E. Korff Parenting at a Challenging Time (PACT) Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. The discussion will be moderated by Associate Professor of Psychology Julia D. McQuade.

Kimberlyn Leary '82 is an associate professor of psychology at the Harvard Medical School and an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She served as an adviser to President Obama's White House Council on Women and Girls, developing the Advancing Equity initiative focused on improving life outcomes for women and girls of color. She also served as the division lead on the Flint water crisis at the White House Office of Management and Budget in the Health Division’s public health branch.

Leary began her career as a clinical practitioner focused on improving access to diverse communities. Her early work on “negotiated transactions” in psychotherapy expanded to broader research on negotiation and conflict management. Leary’s global work includes studying “critical moments” in mediations to end armed conflict in Southeast Asia and researching social enterprise ventures in the Middle East. She teaches courses on leadership and conflict transformation, on advanced negotiation and mediation, and on physician-community engagement and the doctor-patient relationship.

For almost 12 years, she served as chief psychologist at the Cambridge Health Alliance, delivering culturally sensitive care and supporting the hospital’s primary care centers, specialty mental health and acute emergency services. This work included facilitating partnerships with community agencies, law enforcement and school systems, and assisting with the health system’s transformation into an accountable care organization. At Amherst, she majored in psychology, graduated magna cum laude and was a member of the Sigma Xi honor society. She is currently a trustee at Amherst College.

Paula Rauch '77, M.D., is the founding director of the Marjorie E. Korff Parenting at a Challenging Time (PACT) program. Dr. Rauch is a consultation child psychiatrist; she specializes in the impact of medical illness on families and on the emotional health and well-being of children. Rauch has practiced at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) since 1982 and is an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She is the inaugural incumbent of the Timothy Christopher Davidson Chair of Psychiatry at the MGH.

Rauch has been honored with numerous clinical and teaching awards, including the Kenneth B. Schwartz Compassionate Caregiver of the Year Award and the Simon Wile Leadership in Consultation Award from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. She co-authored the books Raising an Emotionally Healthy Child When a Parent is Sick and Community Crises and Disasters: A Parent's Guide to Talking with Children of All Ages, along with academic chapters and journal articles.

Rauch graduated from Amherst College and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. She completed her psychiatry residency at the MGH and her child psychiatry fellowship at Cambridge Hospital. She is board-certified in adult and in child and adolescent psychiatry. She serves on the Science Advisory Board for the Military Child Education Coalition and as consultant to the PBS cartoon Arthur. She is a trustee emerita at Amherst College.

Julia D. McQuade, associate professor of psychology, earned a B.A. from Bates College and a Ph.D. from the University of Vermont.

McQuade’s courses cover topics of psychopathology and psychological research. In McQuade’s "Abnormal Psychology" course, students learn about the symptom presentations, theories of etiology and treatments of major psychological disorders. McQuade also teaches an in-depth seminar on "Child and Adolescent Clinical Psychology," which focuses on the clinical presentation of disorders during childhood and emphasizes the importance of developmental changes and the connection between theory, empirical research and case examples. In McQuade’s statistics course, students learn how to use statistics to answer and interpret research questions, providing them with a foundational knowledge of statistics that can enable them to critically evaluate scientific claims and to answer their own research questions. McQuade’s "Introduction to Psychology" course provides students with an introduction to the science of psychology and of how we understand the mind and behavior.

McQuade’s research investigates the complex interplay of cognitive, biological and environmental processes that influence the social-emotional functioning of children and adolescents. McQuade’s work seeks to understand how a child’s own internal vulnerabilities interact with their environment to set the stage for these challenges, and how these internal vulnerabilities may then be influenced by the environment, such as experiences of peer victimization and parenting behaviors. McQuade’s work is strongly influenced by a developmental psychopathology perspective, acknowledging that clear distinctions between “normal” and “abnormal” behavior do not exist and that there is multifinality and equifinality in risk factors.

Tue, Jul 28, 2020

Headshots of Alfeld and Horton

"Attack, Defend, Steal: Student-Led Research Projects in Adversarial Machine Learning"

5:30 pm Virtual

Machine learning systems are constantly making decisions based on data. They decide what ads you see when you visit a webpage, whether or not your credit card transactions are flagged as fraudulent, and whether a self-driving car accelerates or brakes—all without humans in the loop. Hackers can (and do!) manipulate data to trick these systems. Adversarial Learning researchers try to make life harder for these hackers. Assistant Professor of Computer Science Scott Alfeld will discuss prior research projects on adversarial learning led by his students. These include attacks against learning systems, methods of hardening learners against attackers, and sneakily stealing data from sequential learners. This discussion will be moderated by Beitzel Professor in Technology and Society (Statistics and Data Science) Nicholas Horton.

Scott Alfeld, assistant professor of computer science, teaches topics in AI, machine learning and security, ranging from the highly practical to the purely theoretical. Alfeld aims to span the same spectrum in teaching introductory courses as well. Alfeld graduated from the University of Utah and earned both a M.S. and Ph.D. from the Department of Computer Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Alfeld’s primary research is at the intersection of machine learning and security. They study settings where an intelligent adversary has limited access to perturb data fed into a learned or learning system. The goal of this research is two-fold: to detect attacks and to build/augment learning systems to be more robust to undetected attacks. In addition, they develop methods for inferring properties of the underlying sensors (whether trustworthy or not) and incorporating that knowledge into the data analysis pipeline.

Before coming to Amherst, Alfeld taught computer science and public speaking/debate professionally in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Madison, Wis. As a volunteer, they gave guest lectures for courses from the Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth (a nonprofit organization offering courses for advanced students in grades 2 through 12) and taught locksport (recreational lockpicking and related physical security topics) through Sector67 in Madison.

Nicholas Horton, the Beitzel Professor in Technology and Society (Statistics and Data Science), teaches a variety of courses in statistics, data science and related fields, including probability, mathematical statistics, regression and design of experiments. Horton is passionate about improving quantitative and data literacy for students with a variety of backgrounds as well as engagement and mastery of higher-level concepts and capacities to undertake research. Horton graduated from Harvard College and earned a Sc.D. from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Horton has won a number of teaching awards, including the Undergraduate Teaching Award from the Boston Chapter of the American Statistical Association in 2018, the Robert V. Hogg Award For Excellence in Teaching Introductory Statistics from the Mathematical Association of America in 2015, and the Journal of Statistics Education award for best paper in 2011.

As an applied biostatistician and data scientist, Horton’s work is based squarely within the mathematical, statistical and computational sciences, but spans other fields in order to ensure that research is conducted on a sound footing. The real-world data problems that these investigators face often require the use of novel solutions and approaches, since existing methodology is sometimes inadequate. Bridging the gap between theory and practice in interdisciplinary statistics and data science settings is often a challenge, and has been a particular focus of Horton’s work.