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Ishmael Beah

Ishmael Beah, author of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, was born in Sierra Leone in 1980. He moved to the United States in 1998 and finished his last two years of high school at the United Nations International School in New York. In 2004 he graduated from Oberlin College with a B.A. in political science. He is a member of the Human Rights Watch Children’s Rights Division Advisory Committee and has spoken before the United Nations, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities (CETO) at the Marine Corps War Fighting Laboratory, and many other NGO panels on children affected by the war. He lives in New York City.


Ping Chong

Internationally acclaimed theatre director, playwright, video and installation artist, Ping Chong has created over 50 multidisciplinary works for the stage, which have been presented at major festivals and theatres around the world. His world premiere of Tales from the Salt City, which will be presented by Syracuse Stage (October 14 – November 2), is a powerful exploration of the changing face of Syracuse through an interview-based theatre work. As the latest work in Chong’s world-renowned Undesirable Elements series, the production weaves together the compelling and inspiring narratives of citizens of Syracuse—both recent arrivals and long-standing residents—who are in some way living between cultures. Among his numerous awards Chong has received two Bessie awards, and two Obie awards including one for
Sustained Achievement (2000) and the USA Artist Fellowship (2006). For further information on the Undesirable Elements series please visit


Samuel Clemence

Samuel Clemence is a fellow in the American Society of Civil Engineers, a member of Chi Epsilon and Sigma Xi, and was elected to Tau Beta Pi as an Eminent Engineer in 1977. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including Outstanding Teacher Awards at the University of Missouri-Rolla (1975, 1977) and at Syracuse University (1989), the 1990 Scholar/Teacher of the Year at Syracuse University, and the 1998 "Outstanding Educator Award" from the St. Lawrence Section of the American Society for Engineering Education. Clemence served as senior associate dean of the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science from 1991-1996 and is the editor of three books and author or co-author of over sixty technical publications.


Margarita Drago

Originally from Argentina, Margarita Drago has been living in the United States since 1980. As an ex-political prisoner she has represented Argentina in congresses in the United States, Mexico, Peru, and France. She has published articles in newspapers and in literary, educational, and human rights magazines; has taught at the preschool, elementary, secondary, and adult levels; and is currently a professor of Spanish Language and Literature and of Bilingual Education at York College, City University of New York, where she has worked since 1995. Drago is vice president of the Latino Artists Round Table (LART), a nonprofit cultural organization that was founded in 1999; has been an active participant in organizing congresses, conferences, and LART literary evenings, and has represented LART by holding lectures, presentations, and conferences at universities and cultural centers. Her book, Memory Tracks: Fragments from Prison (1975-1980), was published in 2007 by Editorial Campana, a bilingual press in New York.


Anita Johnson

Award-winning soprano, Anita Johnson has been blessed with a voice of unfailingly lyrical grace, impeccable musicianship, and an onstage persona which has been described as “pure, charming, and near magical.”  Engagements include a return to the Metropolitan Opera to appear in War and Peace, an appearance with Stevie Wonder at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, and the New York Premiere of A White House Cantata with New York’s Collegiate Chorale. Operatic roles include Clara in Porgy and Bess with Opera Pacific, the New York City, Atlanta, Virginia, and New Orleans operas, and the Colorado Symphony; Giannetta in L’Elisis d’Amore, Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro, and Javotte in Manon with the Metropolitan Opera. She has performed in Spoleto, Italy, and was the resident lyric coloratura soprano in Germany’s National Theater, Mannheim. Her awards include the Arnold Petersen Prize in Mannheim, National Winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Audition, the Opera Index Judges’ Award, the MacAllister Awards, and the Liederkranz Competition. 


Paula Luttringer

Born in La Plata, Argentina in 1955, her studies were cut short when, in 1977, Paula Luttringer went into exile after having been kidnapped and held for five months in a Secret Detention Center. Upon returning to Argentina in 1995, she turned to photography as a means of expressing the meeting point between her country’s recent history and her personal story.  Her award-winning projects include El Matadero (The Slaughterhouse) and  El Lamento de los Muros (The Wailing of the Walls). A recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (2001), Luttringer’s works are part of the permanent collections of the National Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Modern Art in Buenos Aires, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the George Eastman House Photography Collection in Rochester, the Portland Art Museum in Portland, the BnF in Paris, and the Portuguese Photography Centre in Porto, Portugal, as well as various private holdings.


Lynn Margulis

Lynn Margulis, Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1983 and to the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences in 1997. Her publications, spanning a wide range of scientific topics, include original contributions to cell biology and microbial evolution. Margulis is most widely known for emphasis on the importance of symbiogenesis, in the generation of evolutionary novelty. She challenges a central tenet of neo-Darwinism when she claims “random mutation” is not enough to produce new species. She is acknowledged for her contribution to James E. Lovelock’s Gaia concept, which posits that surface interactions among the Earth’s living beings and its sediment, air, and water have created a vast self-regulating system. Her many honors and awards include the National Medal of Science, the William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement, and an honorary doctor of science degree from Syracuse University.

Recent publications include Symbiotic Planet: A New Look at Evolution (1998), Acquiring Genomes: A Theory of the Origins of Species (2002), Dazzle Gradually: Reflections on Nature in Nature (2007) both co-written with Dorion Sagan and Luminous Fish: Tales of Science and Love (2006) is her first fiction.


Parvez Sharma

Parvez Sharma is a Muslim gay filmmaker born and raised in India. Sharma earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Presidency College, University of Calcutta (India) and three masters degrees: mass Communication (film and television) from India’s premier MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia University; broadcast journalism (masters diploma) from the University of Wales College of Cardiff, UK; and film and video from American University’s School of Communication. Parvez has taught Indian film and other media courses in American University’s department of anthropology and its School of Communication in Washington, DC. He has worked as both a broadcast journalist for Asia's premiere and most watched 24-hour news network, the Star News Channel/NDTV, and as a print journalist for several of India’s most prominent newspapers. As an activist, he was instrumental in setting up the first organized LGBT effort in the eastern state of West Bengal, setting benchmarks for many other LGBT organizing efforts around the sub-continent. Sharma has spoken internationally on distinguished film/media panels and panels on issues crucial to LGBT communities in a South Asian and Muslim context.

Eileen Strempel

Presidential Scholar in the Arts and renowned soprano Eileen Strempel has won numerous competitions, including both prestigious Sullivan Awards and the Enrico Caruso Vocal Competition. This latest victory led to an acclaimed recital at Casa Giuseppe Verdi in Milan, Italy, as well as a concert in the historical opera house of Imola, Italy. Strempel is an alumna of the Jerome Hine's Opera Music Theater International as well as the Eastman School of Music and holds a Doctor of Music degree from Indiana University. She has performed with the Indianapolis Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Syracuse Opera, the Berkeley Early Music Festival, the Chautauqua and Skaneateles Music Festivals, the Bolshoi Orchestra Sextet, The West Point Concert Series and with the Liederkranz Symphony Orchestra at Alice Tully Hall, among others. A noted scholar of song literature, especially those by women composers, Strempel’s articles and reviews can regularly be found in such publications as The Classical Singer; Reader's Guide to Music: History, Criticism, and Theory; The Chronicle of Higher Education; and in American Music Teacher. Strempel is an associate dean at Syracuse University and was recently awarded an Enitiative eProfessorship by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.


Marcelo Suárez-Orozco

An esteemed lecturer and author, Marcelo Suárez-Orozco has made an incalculable contribution to the worldwide discussion on the far-reaching implications of immigration and globalization. A member of the National Academy of Education, he is currently the Courtney Sale Ross University Professor of Globalization and Education at New York University. His most recent book, Learning in a New Land: Immigrant Students in American Society, co-authored with Carola Suárez-Orozco and Irina Todorova, is based on an extraordinary study that followed 400 newly arrived children from the Caribbean, China, Central American, and Mexico for five years. The book received the 2007 Virginia and Warren Stone Prize, awarded annually by Harvard University Press for an outstanding book on education and society. Suarez-Orozco has addressed the U.N. Secretary General’s First Annual Global Colloquium of University Presidents, and has been a visiting professor at the University of Barcelona, at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, and a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences at Stanford.


Gary Radke

An internationally renowned expert in Italian medieval and Renaissance art and architecture, Gary Radke recently served as curator of "The Gates of Paradise: Lorenzo Ghiberti's Renaissance Masterpiece," an exhibition that toured Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and Seattle in 2007-08. The New York Times selected the exhibition catalogue for "The Gates of Paradise," which Radke edited, as one of the top art books of 2007. He previously organized traveling exhibitions of Verrocchio's "'David' Restored" (2005) and "Michelangelo: Drawings and Other Treasures from the Casa Buonarroti, Florence" (2001).  A fellow of the American Academy in Rome, Radke is a prolific writer whose publications include "Viterbo: Profile of a 13th-Century Papal Palace" (Cambridge, 1997) and, with John T. Paoletti, "Art in Renaissance Italy" (London and New York, 2005).


Adrian Tomine

While still in high school, Adrian Tomain started writing and drawing a combination of fictional and autobiographical stories, self-publishing them in his mini-comic Optic Nerve.  In 1994, at age 20, he began producing Optic Nerve as a regular comic book series for Drawn & Quarterly. He won a Harvey Award for “Best New Talent” the following year. In 1995, his early mini-comics were collected in book form in 32 Stories, and in 1997 Drawn & Quarterly published Sleepwalk and Other Stories, comprised of the first four D&Q issues of Optic Nerve.  His most recent graphic novel, Shortcomings, published in October 2007, was serialized in Optic Nerve (issues #9-11) and was excerpted in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern #13. Tomine’s illustration and design work has also graced numerous CD and album covers and has appeared in numerous magazines including The New Yorker, Esquire, Rolling Stone, and Time, to name a few. 


Spencer Wells

Spencer Wells, scientist, author, and documentary filmmaker, has dedicated much of his career to studying humankind’s family tree and closing the gaps in our knowledge of human migration. Wells was recently named project director of the groundbreaking multiyear Genographic Project, which uses DNA samples to trace human migration out of Africa over 60,000 years ago. Since the project began, his work has taken him to over a dozen countries, including Chad, Tajikistan, Morocco, and French Polynesia. Wells earned an undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Texas and a Ph.D. from Harvard University. National Geographic’s Explorer-in-Residence, Wells is the recipient of numerous scientific awards, grants, and fellowships, including the 2007 Kistler Prize for accomplishment in the field of genetics.  He recently published his second book, Deep Ancestry: Inside the Genographic Project.


Chris Scholz

Chris Scholz is a professor of Earth Science in Syracuse University's College of Arts and Science. His current research, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, involves reconstructing the past climates of tropical Africa from sediments found in the lakes of East Africa's Great Rift Valley. In 2005, he led an international team of researchers on a scientific drilling expedition to Lake Malawi, one of the world's largest, deepest, and oldest lakes. The first results of the Lake Malawi Drilling Project were recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.