Diversity at Reed

Community Reading Project

The primary objective of each Community Reading Project is to support the academic mission of the college. On occasion the Office for Institutional Diversity will host a major scholar or public intellectual whose work we believe will benefit the entire community. Such visits will include a reading component, a public lecture, and when appropriate, a workshop led by the special guest with targeted members of the community. It is our goal that every constituent group within the college be included and encouraged to participate. Each Community Reading Project will also seek to provide an enduring service to Portland’s non-Reed community.

Academic Year 2016–17: Michelle Alexander

Michelle Alexander is a highly acclaimed civil rights lawyer, advocate, and legal scholar. Alexander peels back the curtain on systemic racism in the American prison system in the pivotal New York Times best-seller, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. The book won the NCAAP Image Award for "outstanding literary work of non-fiction." Alexander argues that "we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it." Alexander is an associate professor of law at Ohio State University and holds a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. Formerly the director of the ACLU's Racial Justice Project in Northern California, Alexander served as a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun. Alexander's presence in the national media is significant and growing, having been featured on national radio and television outlets including NPR, The Bill Moyers Journal, the Tavis Smiley Show, C-SPAN's Washington Journal, MSNBC, Democracy Now, and more.

Image of book cover of crow Photo of Michelle Alexander

Academic Year 2015–16: Mitchell S. Jackson

Mitchell S. Jackson is a Portland, Oregon native who lives in Brooklyn, New York. He received an M.A. in writing from Portland State University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from New York University. He has been the recipient of fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, The Center for Fiction, and The Bread Loaf Writer's Conference. He published the e-book Oversoul: Stories and Essays in the summer of 2012 to critical acclaim. His novel, The Residue Years was released in the summer of 2013 and was praised by publications such as The New York Times, The Times of London, The Paris Review, and The Sydney Morning Herald. The novel won The Ernest Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. It was also a finalist for the Center for Fiction's Flaherty-Dunnan First novel prize, the PEN/Hemingway award for first fiction, and The Hurston / Wright Legacy Award for best fiction by a writer of African descent.

Photo of Mitchell S JacksonCover of the book, The Residue Years

Academic Year 2014–15: Junot Díaz

Junot Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Drown; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and This Is How You Lose Her, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist. He is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, PEN/Malamud Award, Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Guggenheim Fellowship, and PEN/O. Henry Award. A graduate of Rutgers College, Díaz is currently the fiction editor at Boston Review and the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Academic Year 2013–14: Rebecca Skloot

Rebecca Skloot, author of the best-seller The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks The Immortal LifeSkloot headshot

Rebecca Skloot spent over ten years uncovering the truth about the life, death, and ultimate "immortality" of a poor black tobacco farmer named Henrietta Lacks.

About the Book: "In The Immortal Life, Skloot tells the story of a young black woman who died of cervical cancer in 1951—and left behind an inexplicably immortal line of cells known as HeLa. Henrietta Lacks, whose cells—harvested without her knowledge or consent—contributed to scientific advancements as varied as the polio vaccine, treatments for cancers and viruses, in-vitro fertilization, and the impact of space travel on human cells. The story is also about her children, who were later used in research without their consent and who’ve never benefited from the commercialization of HeLa cells, though the cells have helped biotech companies make millions of dollars. Part detective story, part scientific odyssey, and part family saga, The Immortal Life’s multi-layered approach raises fascinating questions about race, class, and bioethics in America." ~Lyceum Agency.

Academic Year 2011–12: Claude Steele

Dr. Claude Steele

Claude Steele, preeminent social psychologist and I. James Quillen Dean of Stanford's School of Education

Claude Steele discusses his seminal work on stereotype threat and his book Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do. Steele received a BA from Hiram College and a PhD from Ohio State University. He served as the twenty-first provost of Columbia University and has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Education, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. His book Whistling Vivaldi provides an essential roadmap for understanding the link between identity and performance, and how those of us involved in education can make significant strides in mitigating the effects of negative stereotypes in our communities. Co-sponsored by the multicultural resource center and by Reed's Student Senate.