Presidential Scholars 2021–2022

New School Alumni
4 min readJul 28, 2022

In 2021, The New School launched the Presidential Visiting Scholars program to enhance intellectual discourse by bringing some of the most inspiring, provocative, and groundbreaking thinkers in the world to campus.

This new program reflects a long-standing New School tradition of hosting leading edge academics, artists, and activists to engage with faculty and students and continually invigorate our scholarship. Philosophers Judith Butler and Cornel West, performing artist Bill T. Jones, and scholar and playwright Lisa B. Thompson are the first four Scholars invited to the program, temporarily joining our faculty to lead seminars, lectures, and discussions with our students, and the public.

Meet the first two cohorts of The New School’s Presidential Scholars

Judith Butler

Butler is the author of a number of well-known works, including Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth-Century France, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex,” Antigone’s Claim: Kinship Between Life and Death, and, most recently, The Force of Non-Violence: An Ethico-Political Bind.

Well-known for their theories of the performative nature of gender and sex, Butler’s work has been highly influential in the areas of critical theory, gender and sexuality studies, social and political thought, and literature. As a Presidential Scholar, Butler led an intensive graduate seminar, Contemporary Feminist Philosophy, during the fall 2021 semester at The New School for Social Research.

President McBride interviews Judith Butler for The New Conversation

Cornel West

Cornel West has written 20 books and edited 13, and is best known for the classics Race Matters and Democracy Matters, and his memoir, Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud. West works to keep alive the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. — a legacy of telling the truth and bearing witness to the importance of love and justice — through his passion and willingness to communicate with a vast variety of audiences.

As a Presidential Scholar, West delivered two lectures solely for New School students, faculty, and staff — “Philosophy as Vocation” and “Philosophy as Invocation” — and held an open discussion with MA and PhD Philosophy students. In one of the first in-person events at The New School since COVID, West also delivered a public lecture titled “Philosophy in Our TIme of Imperial Decay,” available to view on YouTube. (​​

President McBride interviews Cornel West for The New Conversation

Bill T. Jones

Bill T. Jones, artistic director of New York Live Arts and artistic director/co-founder of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, is a multi-talented artist, choreographer, dancer, theater director and writer. He has received major honors ranging from a 1994 MacArthur “Genius” Award to 2010 Kennedy Center Honors. Other awards include a 2014 Doris Duke Award, recognition as Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 2010, induction into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2009, and being named “An Irreplaceable Dance Treasure” by the Dance Heritage Coalition in 2000. Jones is a two-time recipient of the Tony Award for Best Choreography for his work on FELA! and Spring Awakening.

Early in his career, Jones made his mark as a dancer and choreographer blending a powerful artistic vision with deep personal meaning, often giving voice to major issues facing society. Today, he is a seminal figure in the history of performing arts worldwide. As a Presidential Scholar Jones’s work will encompass multiple areas of scholarly and artistic practice, including equity, inclusion, and social justice, a sustainable environment, performance, public convening, and a partnership with New York Live Arts, for which Jones serves as founding artistic director.

Lisa B. Thompson

Lisa B. Thompson is an award-winning theater artist, teacher and scholar currently serving as the Bobby and Sherri Patton Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies, and College of Liberal Arts’ Advisor to the Dean for Faculty Mentoring and Support at the University of Texas at Austin. Thompson is the author of four books: Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class (University of Illinois Press, 2009), Single Black Female (Samuel French, 2012), Underground, Monroe, and The Mamalogues: Three Plays (Northwestern University Press, 2020), and The Mamalogues (Samuel French, 2021). Thompson’s plays have been produced off-Broadway, throughout the US and internationally. Her work has received support from institutions such as the American Council of Learned Societies, Hedgebrook, MacDowell, Millay Arts, the National Performance Network, the University of Texas’ Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, and Harvard University’s W. E. B. DuBois Research Institute at the Hutchins Center.

A dynamic voice in American theater, Thompson’s art and scholarship examine stereotypes about Black life in the U.S., particularly the experiences of the Black middle class. Her plays embody character and story to thoughtfully explore the Black family, motherhood, migration, racial violence, and sexuality. As a Presidential Scholar Thompson will deliver a public lecture and engage in creative practice with students, faculty, and other artists which will include a public reading of one of her plays.



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