Two Arts & Science alumni—incarceration law scholar Andrea Armstrong (CAS '96) and poet Ada Limón (GSAS '01)—were among the twenty recipients recently recognized by the MacArthur Foundation as 2023 MacArthur Fellows. The distinction, commonly referred to as the MacArthur "Genius" Grant, awards $800,000 over five years to creatives, scholars, and intellectuals who are on the cutting edge of their fields. Free from guidelines or criteria, “Genius” grants allow recipients to expand their work in the most productive way possible.
After graduating from the College of Arts & Science in 1996, Andrea Armstrong earned advanced degrees from Princeton and Yale, and is a trailblazer in incarceration law and the study of American prisons. Armstrong's investigation into deaths at East Baton Rouge Parish Prison in Louisiana led her to start the Incarceration Transparency Project—an online database that tracks poor living conditions and deaths in American prisons. Armstrong created a guide for law professors interested in contributing data from their own communities' public records. The Incarceration Transparency Project also acts as a memorial website, with obituaries of those who died while incarcerated bringing humanity to statistics.
Ada Limón earned her MFA from the Graduate School of Arts & Science in 2001, and currently serves as the 24th Poet Laureate of the United States. Limón's poetry reflects on suffering, disappointments, and difficulties, but contrasts these elements with a focus on the bright moments of creation in everyday life. Limón's six books of poetry deal with personal and ordinary matters, incorporating aspects of nature and references to animals as grounding themes. Currently living in Lexington, Kentucky, Limón's focus on nature within her poetry also serves to remind readers of the passage of time and our own role in the natural world. This is prevalent in Limón's most recent publication, The Hurting Kind.