Two of the 2017 class of MacArthur’s “genius grants” will go to two New Jersey residents, Jess Mazzola reported in The Star-Ledger/NJ.com.
The foundation describes the awards as “no-strings-attached” funding that goes to “extraordinarily talented and creative individuals as an investment in their potential.”
The money, known as a “genius grant,” is paid out in quarterly installments over five years. It does not have to be spent on specific projects, as is the case with many other fellowships. Instead, the MacArthur Foundation says, it is meant as an investment in people who are already doing good things in the world.
The Class of 2017 is made up of 24 fellows from across the United States, with two hailing from New Jersey.
Damon Rich, Newark
Damon Rich, a designer and urban planner, works at Hector, a company he co-founded in Newark.
In a Mac Foundation interview, Rich, 42, described his understanding of urban planning, which centers on the idea that building and city design is a reflection of our values – “whether it’s about the divisions and the difficulties of our society, or how we’ve worked to make the places where we all live better for everyone.”
From 2008 to 2015, Rich served as the chief urban designer and director of planning for the City of Newark.
In a statement to NJ Advance Media, Rich said he was “full of gratitude especially to Newarkers who welcomed a stranger to their town nearly 10 years ago... I look forward to putting time and resources towards continuing this city’s story of striving for self-determination.”
Betsy Levy Paluck, Princeton
Paluck is a research psychologist at Princeton University. Her research focuses on why people engage in destructive behaviors, and why those ideas and actions can sometimes become societal norms.
In a Mac Fellowship interview, Paluck, 39, said she does most of her research in the field. Her work has ranged from studying the influence of a popular radio show on violent behaviors in Rwanda to how influential kids in schools can affect positive behavior changes on their peers.
She called the fellowship “the ultimate green light...for your next big idea,” and said she hopes to use some of it to continue training the next generation of psychologists to conduct more field research on human behavior.