Five Emory professors elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Emory Report | April 22, 2021

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Emory faculty members elected this year to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences include (clockwise from top left) Carol Anderson, Sanjay Gupta, Rafi Ahmed, Jericho Brown and Vanessa Siddle Walker.

Five Emory University faculty members have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honorary societies and a leading center for independent policy research. 

Elected this year are:

  • Rafi Ahmed, director, Emory Vaccine Center, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Vaccine Research, and Charles Howard Candler Professor, Emory School of Medicine
  • Carol Anderson, Charles Howard Candler Professor and Chair, Department of African American Studies
  • Jericho Brown, Winship Distinguished Research Professor in Creative Writing and Director, Creative Writing Program
  • Sanjay Gupta, associate professor, Department of Neurosurgery, Emory School of Medicine, and associate chief of neurosurgery, Grady Memorial Hospital
  • Vanessa Siddle Walker, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of African American and Educational Studies

“Emory is honored to have five of our outstanding faculty members elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the most the university has ever had in a single year,” says President Gregory L. Fenves. “From the humanities to the sciences, these five extraordinary scholars highlight the depth and breadth of Emory’s strengths as a leading research university grounded in the liberal arts.” 

The Emory professors are among 252 newly-elected members of the American Academy, which was founded in 1780 by John Adams, John Hancock and others who believed the new republic should honor exceptionally accomplished individuals and engage them in advancing the public good. The academy’s dual mission remains essentially the same 239 years later with honorees from increasingly diverse fields and with work focused on the arts, democracy, education, global affairs and science. 

“We are honoring the excellence of these individuals, celebrating what they have achieved so far, and imagining what they will continue to accomplish,” says David Oxtoby, president of the American Academy. “The past year has been replete with evidence of how things can get worse; this is an opportunity to illuminate the importance of art, ideas, knowledge, and leadership that can make a better world.” 

Rafi Ahmad 

Ahmed, a world-renowned virologist and immunologist, has been highly influential in shaping current understanding of immune memory, with the long-term goal of developing new vaccines and other strategies for prevention and treatment of disease. His research has led to a total of 143 issued patents worldwide and 81 patent applications pending.

His work in antigen-specific immunity, including the mechanisms underlying T cell exhaustion in chronic viral infections, has been game changing in advancing research and clinical care. His pivotal 2006 paper in Nature, cited nearly 4,000 times in the medical literature, described the identification of the inhibitory receptor PD-1 as the key regulator of T cell exhaustion, a kind of brake on the immune system, launching a revolution in treating chronic viral infections and cancer. 

Ahmed, who is a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar, was instrumental in establishing the Emory Vaccine Center in 1995 and securing funding for its development and continued success. Under his leadership the Emory Vaccine Center is the largest academic vaccine research center in the world and includes more than 40 faculty members and 300 staff, and has secured nearly $1 billion in research funding since its founding. Originally best known for its extraordinary contributions related to the development of vaccines for HIV/AIDS, the Emory Vaccine Center is now recognized for additional strengths in vaccines against hepatitis, malaria, tuberculosis and influenza.

Ahmed is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Medicine, National Academy of Inventors, American Academy of Microbiology, and Foreign Member, Indian National Academy of Sciences. 

Carol Anderson

Anderson is a nationally recognized historian, educator and author whose research and teaching focus on the ways that policy is made and unmade, how racial inequality and racism affect that process and outcome, and how those who have taken the brunt of those laws, executive orders and directives have worked to shape, counter, undermine, reframe, and, when necessary, dismantle the legal and political edifice used to limit their rights and humanity.

Anderson is the author of “One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy,” which was long-listed for the National Book Award and a finalist for the PEN/Galbraith Award in nonfiction. Her other books include “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Nation’s Divide,” a New York Times bestseller, Washington Post Notable Book of 2016 and a National Book Critics Circle Award winner; “Eyes Off the Prize: The United Nations and the African American Struggle for Human Rights, 1944-1955,” and “Bourgeois Radicals: The NAACP and the Struggle for Colonial Liberation, 1941-1960.”

Anderson is the recipient of grants and fellowships sponsored by the American Council of Learned Societies, the Ford Foundation, the National Humanities Center, Harvard University’s Charles Warren Center, and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. She was awarded a 2018 fellowship in Constitutional Studies by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Her work as a public scholar includes serving on working groups dealing with race, minority rights and criminal justice at Stanford’s Center for Applied Science and Behavioral Studies, the Aspen Institute, the United Nations, and as a member of the U.S. State Department’s Historical Advisory Committee. She also is on the advisory board of Partners for Dignity and Human Rights.

Jericho Brown

Brown is the author of “The Tradition,” for which he won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. The book was also a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Brown’s work invokes several traditions of poetic expression, from African-American lyric to the confessional stance of Sylvia Plath and Robert Lowell, from the formal elegance of the metaphysical poets to the free verse of Walt Whitman. His work is rich with urgent themes of violence, sexuality, illness and social precarity. Brown has invented a new poetic form, the duplex, which mixes elements of the sonnet, the ghazal and the blues lyric. 

Brown is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, the Krakow Poetry Seminar in Poland, and USA Artists. He also is the winner of the Whiting Writer’s Award. His first book, “Please,” won the American Book Award, and his second, “The New Testament,” won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. He was recently named to the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame.

Brown’s poems have appeared in The Bennington Review, Buzzfeed, Fence, jubilat, The New Republic, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, TIME magazine, and several volumes of “The Best American Poetry.” 

Sanjay Gupta

Gupta, a practicing neurosurgeon, is chief medical correspondent at CNN, where he covers important health stories in the U.S. and around the world and has won multiple Emmy Awards. 

Gupta, associate professor of neurosurgery at Emory University School of Medicine and associate chief of neurosurgery at Grady Memorial Hospital, is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons. He is an honorary member of the American Academy of Neurological Surgery and a diplomate of the American Board of Neurosurgery.

Gupta has published on topics that include spinal surgery, craniofacial disorders, neurosurgical trauma, transplant immunology and battlefield injuries.

Gupta is the author of four best-selling books: “Chasing Life,” “Cheating Death,”  “Monday Mornings,” and “Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age.” He is also a contributor to CBS News 60 Mimnutes and the HBO documentary unit. 

Vanessa Siddle Walker

Walker is one of the nation’s foremost experts on segregation in American public schools, equity and the pursuit of justice for African American schoolchildren. She has explored the climate that permeated the schools, the network of professional collaborations, and the hidden systems of advocacy that sought equality and justice.

Her latest book, “The Lost Education of Horace Tate: Uncovering the Hidden Heroes Who Fought for Justice in Schools,” won the 2019 Lillian Smith Book Award and was cited as one of the Best Nonfiction Books of 2018 by Publisher’s Weekly.

Her other books include “Their Highest Potential: An African American School Community in the Segregated South,” “Facing Racism in Education,” “Race-ing Moral Formation,” “Hello Professor: A Black Principal and Professional Leadership in a Segregated Community,” and “Living the Legacy: The Historical African American Professional Network as a Model for University and School Collaborations.”

For her body of work, Walker received the Grawmeyer Award for Education and four awards from the American Educational Research Association (AERA): The AERA Early Career Award, the Best New Female Scholar Award, Best New Book, and the Outstanding Book Award. Walker is a former National Academy of Education Fellow, a Fellow of AERA, and served as  president of AERA for 2019-2020. 

Walker’s work has appeared in the four-part PBS documentary “SCHOOL” and she is a frequent consultant on issues concerning Brown v. Board of Education and its implementation.