Lectures and Special Events

New Science, New Solutions: Changing the Future for At-Risk Youth

December 9, 2015


Photo Credit: Mary Ellen Mark

Can science, ethics, and law identify new pathways out of poverty? Anna Deavere Smith hosts a panel of leading thinkers to explore new approaches to one of society’s most intractable problems. Join us for a lively conversation about how programs, policies, and scientific research are paving the way for new solutions that address poverty, injustice, and inequality.

This program is presented in collaboration with the New York University Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue.




Ana Bermúdez
Commissioner Bermúdez isNYC Department of Probation’s (DOP’s) first Latina and second woman to be appointed Commissioner. A graduate of Brown University and Yale Law School, Commissioner Bermúdez began her professional career representing children in family court cases at the Legal Aid Society. For over twenty years, she has been a tireless advocate for children and teenagers involved in the justice system through the development and implementation of strengths-based interventions, the application of restorative and youth development practices, and the design of programs that ensure successful re-integration for adjudicated juveniles. During her tenure as DOP’s Deputy Commissioner of Juvenile Operations from 2010 through 2014, she successfully led city-wide initiatives that focused on improving outcomes for court-involved youth through interdisciplinary collaborations. With her appointment to Commissioner in March 2014, she continues to lead the Department in its mission to enhance public safety through appropriate and individualized intervention in the lives of DOP clients to enable them to permanently exit the justice system.   


Frances Champagne
Professor Champagne is an associate professor of psychology at Columbia University. She is involved in several Columbia Population Research Center (CPRC) initiatives focused on the understanding of gene-environment interactions. Professor Champagne’s research explores the implications of the interplay between genes and the environment in shaping development and the role of epigenetic mechanisms in linking experiences with developmental outcomes. Her research uses rodent models to study epigenetics, neurobiology, and behavior, and also collaborates with clinical researchers who would like to apply the study of epigenetics to better understand origins of variation in human behavior. In addition to investigating the modulating effects of mother-infant interactions, Professor Champagne is currently exploring a broad array of social influences and environmental exposures.

Fagan Harris

Fagan Harris
From Baltimore, Maryland, Mr. Harris is the co-founder and CEO of Baltimore Corps, an organization dedicated to building a stronger Baltimore by mobilizing a new generation of leaders focused on urban renewal, and is is proud to work everyday strengthening one of America's greatest cities. Previously, Mr. Harris worked at College Track, a national after school program dedicated to creating college-going cultures in historically underserved communities. As a Fellow at the Emerson Collective, he staffed the White House Council for Community Solutions where he supported efforts to harness the talents of Opportunity Youth. As a passionate service advocate, Mr. Harris has worked to ask and empower millennials to pursue careers of social impact at Stanford University (where he was Student Body Vice-President) and later, at the Franklin Project, a national cross-sector effort dedicated to revitalizing citizenship through service. Mr. Harris studied international human rights in Ireland as a Senator George J. Mitchell Scholar and holds a Masters of Philosophy in Comparative Social Policy from the University of Oxford where he was a Rhodes Scholar.


Bruce McEwen
Dr. McEwen is the Alfred E. Mirsky Professor at Harold and Margaret Milliken Hatch Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology at The Rockefeller University. He studies how stress and sex hormones act on the brain, taking an interdisciplinary approach that combines behavioral analysis and measurements of hormone levels with neurochemical, morphological, neuropharmacological, cellular, and molecular methodologies, as well as collaborative translational studies. McEwen’s laboratory has helped create a new understanding of how the brain changes in adult life and in development, with implications for understanding the impact of stress on the brain and sex differences in human brain function, abnormalities, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and aging. He served on the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Socioeconomic Status and Health, is a member of the National Council on the Developing Child, and is the co-author of the titles The End of Stress as We Know It and The Hostage Brain


Dorothy Roberts
Professor Roberts is the George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology and the Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and is an acclaimed scholar of race, gender and the law. Her pathbreaking work in law and public policy focuses on urgent contemporary issues in health, social justice, and bioethics, especially as they impact the lives of women, children, and African-Americans. Her major books include Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century (New Press, 2011); Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare (Basic Books, 2002), and Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty (Pantheon, 1997). She is the author of more than 80 scholarly articles and book chapters, as well as a co-editor of six books on such topics as constitutional law and women and the law.

Anna Deavere Smith (host, moderator)
Ms. Smith is an American actress, playwright, and professor, as well as a trustee of the American Museum of Natural History. She is currently the artist-in-residence at the Center for American Progress. She has appeared in television and film, and is known for her pioneering one-woman “documentary theater” stage plays. Smith is the recipient of numerous awards, among them the National Humanities Medal, presented to her by President Obama in 2013. She has been the recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Grant, The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, two Tony nominations, and two Obies. She was runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her play Fires In the Mirror, and holds honorary degrees from Yale University, Juilliard, Barnard, the University of Pennsylvania, Radcliffe, Wesleyan, Williams College, Northwestern University as well as many other institutions.