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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 will present a public lecture in the President’s Colloquium on Race and Racism, hold seminars, and meet with students, faculty, and staff.

Viet Thanh Nguyen Viet Thanh Nguyen

February 24 - 27, 2022

Author, critic-at-large for The Los Angeles Times, and recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Grant, Viet Thanh Nguyen is professor of English, American studies and ethnicity, and comparative literature at the University of Southern California. His debut novel, The Sympathizer, won the Pulitzer Prize, was a Dayton Literary Peace Prize winner, and made the finalist list for the PEN/Faulkner award. Nguyen and his family came to the United States as refugees during the Vietnam War in 1975. As he grew up in America, he noticed that most movies and books about the war focused on Americans, while the Vietnamese were silenced and erased. He was inspired by this lack of representation to write about the war from a Vietnamese perspective. The Committed, published in 2021, has been called “a masterwork” and “revelatory.” Nguyen’s book, Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War, was a finalist for the National Book Award. His collection of short stories, The Refugees, explored questions of immigration, identity, love, and family. In 2018, Nguyen called on 17 fellow refugee writers from across the globe to shed light on their experiences, and the result was The Displaced.

Viet Thanh Nguye:  The Committed We were the unwanted, the unneeded, and the unseen, invisible to all but ourselves. Less than nothing, we also saw nothing as we crouched blindly in the unlit belly of our ark, 150 of us sweating in a space not meant for us mammals but for the fish of the sea.”

From the prologue of The Committed

Upcoming Speakers

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein Chanda Prescod-Weinstein

MARCH 27 - APRIL 2, 2022

Dr. Chanda 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. Originally from East L.A., Dr. Prescod-Weinstein is a graduate of Harvard College, University of California — Santa Cruz, and the University of Waterloo. One of under 100 Black American women to earn a PhD from a department of physics, she is a theoretical physicist with expertise in particle physics, cosmology, and astrophysics, with an emphasis on dark matter. In addition, Dr. Prescod-Weinstein is a theorist of Black feminist science, technology, and society studies, and a monthly columnist for New Scientist. Her research and advocacy for marginalized people in physics and astronomy have won multiple awards, and her first book, The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred, is now available from Bold Type Books.

Past Speakers

Harriet Washington and the book A Terrible Thing to Waste

Harriet Washington

Watch a talk by science writer, editor, and ethicist Harriet Washington, the inaugural Presidential Scholar, as well as an interview between Washington and Aditi Nayak ’23.

Kwame Anthony Appiah and his book, The Lies that Bind

Kwame Anthony Appiah

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

bookscovers: A Terrible Thing to Waste, by Harriet Washington; The Lies that Bind: Rethining Identity, by Kwame Anthony Appiah; The Committed, by Viet Thanh Nguyen; The Disordered Cosmos, by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein

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.