Meet the World-Changing Fellows of the 2021 MacArthur Program

MacArthur Foundation Fellow

The MacArthur Foundation helps helpers. For the past forty years, the MacArthur Foundation has supported generations of innovators, entrepreneurs, and creatives who are using their passion and skills to build a better, cleaner future. 

According to their website, “MacArthur is placing a few big bets that truly significant progress is possible on some of the world’s most pressing social challenges, including advancing global climate solutions, decreasing nuclear risk, promoting local justice reform in the U.S., and reducing corruption in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria.”

By investing in solution-makers, the MacArthur Foundation remains committed to doing real, actionable good. As part of their program, the foundation has an annual fellowship where some of the brightest minds are given a no-strings-attached grant of $625,000 over the course of five years to pursue their visions. 

Needless to say, recipients of the fellowship have gone on to accomplish life-changing work that ultimately makes the world a better place. 

Previous notable fellows of the MacArthur program are poet Ocean Vuong, economist Isaiah Andrews, neuroscientist Damien Fair, physicist Monika Schleier-Smith, and historian Natalia Molina. 

This year’s class of recipients promise the same zest and ingenuity to identify and fix some of the world’s greatest problems, ranging from climate change to racial injustice. 

“As we emerge from the shadows of the past two years, this class of 25 Fellows helps us reimagine what’s possible. They demonstrate that creativity has no boundaries,” said Cecilia Conrad, the Managing Director for the MacArthur Fellows. 

“It happens in all fields of endeavor, among the relatively young and more seasoned, in Iowa and Puerto Rico. Once again, we have the opportunity for exultation as we recognize the potential to create objects of beauty and awe, advance our understanding of society, and foment change to improve the human condition.” 

Meet 5 Members Of The 2021 MacArthur Fellowship:


Cristina Ibarra: Documentary Filmmaker

Photo courtesy of John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Cristina Ibarra is a documentary filmmaker creating long-form narratives about Latino families. Her work to portray the real lives of the people who live in borderland communities is also a lens into issues like intergenerational life, displacement, labor struggles, and community violence.

“Ibarra recently developed a digital essay documenting her family’s history in El Paso. The online project sets the stage for a feature-length work, currently in development, about the challenges and resiliency of this border community. Ibarra’s studies of human connectivity in the wake of difficult histories offer new perspectives from which to consider identity, family, aspiration, and the role of history in the vitality of American communities today.” — MacArthur Fellowship


Marcella Alsan: Economist and Physician

Photo courtesy of John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Marcella Alsan is an economist and physician investigating discrimination and racial disparities in healthcare. Not only does she study and identify the issues in healthcare, her data is also used to come up with solutions to provide equal access to healthcare for marginalized communities. 

“Alsan is currently engaged in a number of projects to further explore how physician messaging affects patient health behaviors, including if non-Black physicians’ acknowledgment and discussion of the medical field’s past injustices improves take-up of health care services among Black patients. She is also working with a group of interdisciplinary collaborators to tailor communications about the COVID-19 vaccine for communities that have limited confidence in and connection to the health care system. Through these and other projects, Alsan is bringing powerful evidence to bear on the importance of diversity in the medical profession and on efforts to improve health outcomes for historically marginalized and mistreated populations.” — MacArthur Fellowship


Joshua Miele: Adaptive Technology Designer

Photo courtesy of John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Joshua Miele is a blind adaptive technology designer developing devices for blind and visually impaired (BVI) people.

Miele’s work is centered on using the science of sound and directional aspects of hearing; he is creating effective and affordable solutions to everyday problems blind people face, particularly in regards to digital information.

“Currently, Miele is an accessibility researcher at Amazon, where he has contributed to projects such as Braille compatibility with Fire tablets and a “Show and Tell” feature on camera-enabled Echo devices that can identify pantry and food items. Miele’s expertise in information accessibility and commitment to making solutions available for mass use will be increasingly important as we move into an ever more digitized world.” — MacArthur Foundation


Hanif Abdurraqib: Music Critic, Essayist, and Poet 

Photo courtesy of John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Hanif Abdurraqib is a music critic, essayist, and poet. Abdurraqib’s essay collections and books (They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us, Go Ahead In the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest, A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance) aims to uplift Black voices and bodies through the lens of music. 

“In addition to his writing on music, Abdurraqib is a noted poet. Pop culture and music feature heavily in his poetry, which ranges across subjects both personal and public and addresses themes of race, class, and the politics of our present moment. Omnivorous in his influences and prolific in his output, Abdurraqib is forging a new form of cultural criticism, one that is informed by lived experience and offers incisive social and artistic critiques.” — MacArthur Foundation


Lisa Schulte Moore: Landscape Ecologist

Photo courtesy of John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Lisa Schulte Moore is a landscape ecologist working with local farmers to build more sustainable and resilient agricultural systems. Her work ties together the environmental, economical, and policy aspects of large-scale agriculture and promises greener practices in food production. 

“Schulte Moore does intensive outreach to encourage uptake of the prairie strips program. Prairie strips are now being used in 14 states on over 115,000 acres of cropland, and that is sure to increase: the Conservation Reserve Program in the 2018 Farm Bill includes prairie strips as a conservation practice eligible for financial support. By approaching the serious challenges of food security, climate change, and conservation of our environment as networked pieces of a larger system, Schulte Moore opens new possibilities for a transformation in sustainable agriculture.” — MacArthur Foundation


You can find the full list of fellows (including Ibram X. Kendi, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, and more) for the 2021 MacArthur Grant here. Congratulations to all recipients and thank you for all of the important work you do. 

Article Details

September 28, 2021 11:45 AM
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