Working in fields ranging from financial services, geobiology, civil and human rights, and climate change science to synthetic chemistry, playwriting, and poetry, the twenty-three fellows will each receive $625,000 over five years. Popularly known as the "genius awards," the fellowships provide recipients with maximum freedom to follow their own creative vision, with no stipulations or reporting requirements.
"We want to give people new wind against their sails," Cecilia A. Conrad, a managing director of the foundation and the leader of the fellows program, told the New York Times.
This year's fellows include Ahilan Arulanantham, a human rights lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union who is leading the organization's efforts to secure the right to due process for immigrants facing deportation and working to set new precedents for the constitutional rights of non-citizens; Daryl Baldwin, a linguist and cultural preservationist at Miami University of Ohio working to restore the linguistic, cultural, and intellectual heritage of the Myaamia (Miami) nation to its present-day descendants; Kellie Jones, an art historian and curator at Columbia University whose research and curatorial practice have been instrumental in introducing the work of critically important but underrecognized African-American artists to the canons of modern and contemporary art; and Maggie Nelson, a writer on the faculty of the School of Critical Studies at the California Institute of the Arts who renders pressing issues of our time into portraits of day-to-day experience in works of nonfiction marked by the interplay between personal experience and critical theory.
Other recipients include Victoria Orphan, a geobiologist at the California Institute of Technology whose studies of microbial communities in extreme environments are shedding new light on the biogeochemical processes underlying the cycling of nutrients and energy that shape the Earth's climate; José A. Quiñonez, a financial services innovator with the San Francisco-based Mission Asset Fund whose model for establishing the creditworthiness of underbanked individuals is affording them a pathway to mainstream financial services and improving their financial stability; Claudia Rankine, a poet who crafts critical texts for understanding contemporary American culture in inventive, ever-evolving forms of poetic expression; and Rebecca Richards-Kortum, a bioengineer at Rice University who develops point-of-care diagnostic technologies for use in low-resource settings and is inspiring the next generation of engineers to translate lessons from the classroom into solutions that address global health disparities.
"While our communities, our nation, and our world face both historic and emerging challenges, these twenty-three extraordinary individuals give us ample reason for hope," said MacArthur president Julia Stasch. "They are breaking new ground in areas of public concern, in the arts, and in the sciences, often in unexpected ways. Their creativity, dedication, and impact inspire us all."
For a complete list of the 2016 MacArthur Fellows, see the MacArthur Foundation website.