Introducing the 2018 MIT Media Lab Director's Fellows

Diana Levine 

New cohort brings social, scientific, and creative experience to extend the Lab’s reach beyond academia

Entering its sixth year, the Media Lab Director’s Fellows program continues to invite a diverse array of professionals to learn from each other and from the Media Lab community. This year’s cohort includes doers and catalysts working on issues ranging from social justice and equity to education, environmental protection, human rights, creativity, and scientific discovery.

The program aims to expand the Lab’s network of collaborators and help the Lab broaden efforts to address some of the world’s most pressing issues. This cohort brings a well-founded perspective and knowledge in the space of open access: from information, to education, to resources. Each new fellow brings a great appreciation for collaboration, as well as an understanding that to achieve the greatest impact in their work, there needs to be an open conversation between a variety of fields—a hallmark of the Media Lab approach.

The new fellows have already begun working with both current and former Director’s Fellows and the Media Lab community. Upcoming events include a design and access workshop in Berlin; a fashion and sustainability mini-conference in Los Angeles and Boston; collaborative work with Media Lab students; and the design and deployment of an educational and training curriculum for new prosecutors in Philadelphia (in collaboration with a Media Lab member company).

Media Lab Director Joi Ito says, “Each cohort of Director’s Fellows is an opportunity to imbue diversity and unexpected points of view into the Media Lab, as many of the fellows approach issues from an orthogonal direction compared to students and faculty. I can’t wait to see what happens as this year’s cohort connects with the Media Lab.”

The 2018 Fellows are:

Jamira Burley, a youth and social justice advocate who has made it her mission to employ her personal experiences as the driving force to improve the lives of others. Currently, she serves as the Head of Youth Engagement and Skills for the Global Business Coalition for Education.

Ben Draper, the executive director of the Macomber Center in Framingham, Massachusetts, a self-directed learning community for children ages 5 to 18. The Macomber Center has no curriculum, requirements, or evaluations; its students are free to play and explore independently and collaboratively, with support from knowledgeable, helpful adults.

Ifeoma Fafunwa, the founder and creative director of iOpenEye Ltd, a Nigerian production company driving social change through performance art. She co-wrote and directed the popular stage play HEAR WORD! Naija Women Talk True—a collection of monologues based on true-life stories of Nigerian women.

Liz George, an “ancient photon wrangler” who has spent her entire adult life building instruments to study the universe. Since 2017, she has worked as a detector engineer at the European Southern Observatory near Munich, Germany, developing optical and infrared detector systems for the Extremely Large Telescope.

Allegra Libonati, a freelance theater and opera director who has spent the past nine years as resident director of the American Repertory Theater. Her new immersive Peter Pan retelling, which is set to tour China later this year, combines acrobatics, circus, puppetry, dance, martial arts and physical theatre.

Giorgia Lupi, the co-founder and creative director of Accurat, a data-driven design firm with offices in Milan and New York. In her practice, she challenges the impersonality that data communicates, designing engaging visual narratives that re-connect numbers to what they stand for: stories, people, ideas.

Margarita Mora, who runs the Conservation Stewards Program at Conservation International, which pioneered the conservation agreements model.Margarita has dedicated the past 15 years to making conservation a viable alternative for communities, working with 19 countries around the globe.

Amanda Nguyen, the CEO and founder of Rise. After surviving a sexual assault, she helped write the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act, which passed unanimously in the House and Senate, and was signed into law in 2016. She has also served at NASA, and was President Obama’s Deputy White House Liaison to the US Department of State.

Julia Reda, a politician and an advocate for access to knowledge and culture through copyright reform. In 2014, she was elected to the European Parliament for the German Pirate Party, representing a young worldwide movement of people who believe in using technology for the empowerment of all.

Harper Reed, a hacker/engineer who builds paradigm-shifting tech and leads others to do the same. Harper loves using the vastness of the Internet to bring people together, whether as chief technology officer of Obama for America and, or as CEO of his company Modest, Inc. 

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