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  • NYS Writers Institute

Dr. Elizabeth Alexander – poet, educator, memoirist, scholar, and cultural advocate

Dr. Elizabeth Alexander – poet, educator, memoirist, scholar, and cultural advocate – is president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the nation’s largest funder in arts and culture, and humanities in higher education.

With more than two decades of experience leading innovative programs in education, philanthropy, and beyond, Dr. Alexander builds partnerships at Mellon to support the arts and humanities while strengthening educational institutions and cultural organizations across the world. She has held distinguished professorships at Smith College, Columbia University, and Yale University, where she taught for 15 years and chaired the African American Studies Department. She is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, serves on the Pulitzer Prize Board, and co-designed the Art for Justice Fund.

She is author or co-author of 14 books, and notably, Alexander composed and delivered “Praise Song for the Day” for the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2009. We featured her inauguration day poetry reading in a Poetry Friday post in January:

Her book of poems, American Sublime, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 2006, and her memoir, The Light of the World, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Biography in 2015.

Elizabeth Alexander is interviewed by poet Sarah Giragosian, and joined by UAlbany students from English 350: Contemporary Writers at Work taught by Ed Schwarzschild, and an Honors Writing and Critical Inquiry class taught by Sarah Giragosian.

Sarah Giragosian is an instructor in the Writing and Critical Inquiry program and Department of English at the University at Albany. Sarah is the author of two poetry collections, Queer Fish, winner of the American Poetry Journal Book Prize, and The Death Spiral.

This conversation is cosponsored by UAlbany's Department of English and The Program in Writing and Critical Inquiry.

You can order these books from the local independent Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza:

More about Elizabeth Alexander:

For more information on the Rebuilding the Republic series, visit:


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