Grinnell College today announced the 10-member selection committee that will determine winners of the 2011 Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize. The award program, which received more than 1,000 nominations from 66 countries, honors individuals under the age of 40 who have demonstrated leadership in their fields and who show creativity, commitment and extraordinary accomplishment in effecting positive social change.
The selection committee will be chaired by George A. Drake, a 1956 graduate who served as Grinnell’s president from 1979 to 1991 and is currently professor emeritus of history and president emeritus at the college. From 1991-93, he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Lesotho, teaching English in a Catholic mission school.
Selection committee members will pick one to three winners to receive an award of $100,000, half to the individual and half to an organization committed to the winner’s area of social change for a total of up to $300,000 in prize monies. The pool of nominees spans a diverse array of social issues, including hunger relief, childhood education, environmental issues, literacy, youth arts, fair housing, violence prevention, immigration, GLBTQA youth services, hospice care, children’s mental health, and global peace, among many others.
In addition to selection committee chair Drake, the nine other members – largely Iowa-based – are recognized individuals who work for social change in various capacities. Their backgrounds, accomplishments and experiences reflect the diversity in both Grinnell and the state. These members include one representative each from the college’s faculty, student body, alumni, staff and trustees, plus prominent individuals not formally affiliated with Grinnell.
o Rekha Basu, columnist for The Des Moines Register. She focuses on human rights, racial and gender issues, and cultural trends. Her byline has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The International Herald Tribune and The Nation, among other publications.
o Monica Chavez-Silva, director of community enhancement and engagement, Grinnell College. She is responsible for building partnerships and identifying opportunities for Grinnell College’s participation in community improvements.
o Laura M. Ferguson, M.D., member of the Grinnell College board of trustees and a 1990 graduate. She practices medicine in Grinnell and is a member of the Grinnell Regional Medical Center Board.
o Emily Westergaard Hamilton, executive director, Des Moines “I Have a Dream” Foundation and a 2002 graduate. Her organization works with at-risk youth to help every student graduate from high school and go to college.
o Ben Offenberg, Grinnell College senior and student body president. He is a biological chemistry major, has lettered in varsity football and varsity track and field, and is a member of the Grinnell Mock Trial team.
o Suku Radia, president and CEO, Bankers Trust. He is active in numerous professional, economic development, educational and charitable organizations, including United Way of Central Iowa and the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines.
o Suzanne E. Siskel, director of social justice philanthropy, Ford Foundation. She oversees efforts to mobilize philanthropic resources for social change and promote social justice throughout the world.
o Marsha K. Ternus, former chief justice, Iowa Supreme Court. As chief justice, she made the improvement of court oversight of child welfare cases a priority for the Iowa Judicial Branch.
o Eliza Willis, professor of political science, Grinnell College. She teaches courses on Latin American politics, global development, international political economy, and the political economy of developing countries and previously served as chair of the Grinnell faculty.
“We are delighted these 10 exceptionally talented, experienced and socially conscious individuals have agreed to be selection committee members for The Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize,” said Grinnell President Raynard S. Kington, M.D., Ph.D. “In creating this prize program, we seek to recognize young individuals who embody our core values and organizations that share our commitment to change the world for the better. I am confident our selection committee members will bring extraordinary knowledge, sensitivity and passion to that goal.”
The Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize directly reflects Grinnell’s historic mission to educate men and women “who are prepared in life and work to use their knowledge and their abilities to serve the common good.” Nominations were open to U.S. citizens as well as nationals of other countries and were encouraged across a wide range of fields, including science, medicine, the environment, humanities, business, economics, education, law, public policy, social services, religion and ethics, as well as projects that cross these boundaries. Special efforts were made to seek nominees who worked in areas that may not have been traditionally viewed as directly connected to social justice, such as the arts and business. No affiliation to Grinnell College was required.
Grinnell College is a nationally recognized, private, four-year, liberal arts college located in Grinnell, Iowa. Founded in 1846, Grinnell enrolls 1,600 students from all 50 states and from as many international countries in more than 26 major fields, interdisciplinary concentrations and pre-professional programs.