MacArthur Award Winners (“Genius Grants”)

The MacArthur Fellowship, provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and commonly known as the “genius” grant, is a “$625,000, no-strings-attached award to extraordinarily talented and creative individuals as an investment in their potential,” according to the MacArthur website. Fellows are selected based on “exceptional creativity,” “promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishments” and “potential for the Fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.”

Faculty and Wesleyan alumni who have received the award include:

Ruth Behar ’77
MacArthur Class of 1988
Ruth Behar ’77 is a cultural anthropologist whose work focuses on folk religion, women’s lives, and personal narration in historical and contemporary Cuba, Mexico, and Spain. She is a professor at the University of Michigan.

Anthony Braxton, John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, Emeritus
MacArthur Class of 1994
Anthony Braxton, John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, Emeritus, is an innovative musician and composer who has been at the forefront of improvised music for decades.

Majora Carter ’88
MacArthur Class of 2005
Majora Carter ’88 is an urban revitalization strategist transforming the quality of life for South Bronx residents by creating new opportunities for transportation, recreation, nutrition, and economic development.

Vincent Fecteau ’92
MacArthur Class of 2016
Vincent Fecteau ’92 is a sculptor creating deceptively intricate, abstract pieces that provoke thoughtful reflection and bring viewers to the threshold between visual perception and objective knowledge of three-dimensional space.

Mary Halvorson '02
MacArthur Class of 2019
Mary Halvorson '02 is a guitarist, ensemble leader, and composer who is pushing against established musical categories with a singular sound on her instrument and an aesthetic that evolves with each new album and configuration of bandmates.

Saidiya Hartman '84, Hon. '19
MacArthur Class of 2019
Saidiya Hartman '84, Hon. '19 is a scholar of African American literature and cultural history whose works explore the afterlife of slavery in modern American society and bear witness to lives, traumas, and fleeting moments of beauty that historical archives have omitted or obscured.

James Longley ’94
MacArthur Class of 2009
James Longley ’94 is a filmmaker deepening our understanding of the conflicts in the Middle East through intimate portraits of communities living under extremely challenging conditions.

Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02
MacArthur Class of 2015
Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 is a playwright, composer and performer (In the Heights and Hamilton), who is expanding the conventions of musical theater with a popular culture sensibility and musical styles and voices that reflect the diverse cultural panorama of the American urban experience.

Maggie Nelson ’94
MacArthur Class of 2016
Maggie Nelson ’94 is a writer rendering pressing issues of our time into portraits of day-to-day experience in works of nonfiction marked by dynamic interplay between personal experience and critical theory.

Eiko Otake, Menakka and Essel Bailey ’66 Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the College of the Environment
MacArthur Class of 1996
Eiko (and Koma) Otake are dancers and choreographers who have created an unusual theater of movement that engenders beautiful and mysterious images.

Cameron Rowland '11
MacArthur Class of 2019
Cameron Rowland is an artist making visible the institutions, systems, and policies that perpetuate systemic racism and economic inequality.

Sam-Ang Sam, PhD ’89
MacArthur Class of 1994
Sam-Ang Sam, PhD ’89, is a musician and cultural preservationist who works with the Khmer people in the United States and Cambodia to preserve and reinvigorate the Khmer performing arts.

Carl Schorske, former professor of history and social science
MacArthur Class of 1981
Carl Schorske (1915–2005) was an intellectual historian who explored the relationship between European high culture and social and political change. He taught at Wesleyan from 1946 to 1960.

Tyshawn Sorey, MA ’11, assistant professor of music
MacArthur Class of 2017
Tyshawn Sorey, MA ’11, assistant professor of music, is a composer and musician assimilating and transforming ideas from a broad spectrum of musical idioms and defying distinctions between genres, composition, and improvisation in a singular expression of contemporary music.


Liz Lerman
MacArthur Class of 2002
Liz Lerman is a choreographer demonstrating that dance can build upon people’s experience to recreate their connections across ages and communities.

Chimamanda Adichie
MacArthur Class of 2008
Chimamanda Adichie is a fiction writer exploring the circumstances that lead to ethnic conflict in richly imagined novels and stories inspired by events in her native Nigeria.

John Ashbery
MacArthur Class of 1985
John Ashbery is best known as a poet, but he is also an art critic, a playwright, and a translator.

Junot Díaz
MacArthur Class of  2012
Junot Díaz is a fiction writer using raw, vernacular dialogue and spare, unsentimental prose to draw readers into the various and distinct worlds that immigrants must straddle.

George Saunders
MacArthur Class of 2006
George Saunders is a writer satirizing and humanizing the moral dilemmas faced by Americans in the twenty-first century.

Mark Strand
MacArthur Class of 1987
Mark Strand is a poet and writer whose work is distinctive for its deeply inward sense of language.