Public Voices Fellowship

Columbia Public Voices Fellows Answer the Question: Why Do You Do What You Do?


So What’s it like to be a Public Voices Fellow, Lynn?

Lynn 2I have to say, this experience has far exceeded my expectations in a number of different ways.

First, it has provided me with some general “life skills” that I was not expecting. Skills around how to present myself publicly, how to wear my credentials and my expertise proudly, and skills around thinking about the bigger message and what is important to get out there. Second, these meetings have truly been convenings. Webster’s dictionary defines ‘convene’ (and this was always my favorite way to start my college application essays!) as ‘to come together in a body’ and that is truly what these meetings have felt like. They feel like they have brought together an extraordinarily talented diverse group of women as a single cohesive body. And I honestly am not sure we would have met had it not been for this program. That is sad to say given that we all likely work within a one mile radius of each other (except for Diana but what a wonderful excuse to be able to see her lovely face every few months!).


This has been such an added benefit of this experience. I have had the opportunity to meet women who work in the Departments of Linguistics and Pathology, from the Law School and Academic Affairs. I have re-connected with friends and colleagues from the Med School that I don’t see often enough and I have (re-) connected with someone who I actually graduated with from high school in Los Angeles (unbeknownst to us–we figured this out at our last convening as we sat next to each other chatting!).

I have had the pleasure to learn from all of you—from sitting in these meetings with you and from reading your words and “hearing” your voices. The leadership from our conveners has been amazing—inspiring, driving, but with humor and kindness. Both the “fellowship” and the learning have been wonderful.

Lynn Fiellin is Associate Professor of Medicine at Yale University School of Medicine and a practicing HIV physician and Addiction Medicine Provider. Lynn is pictured above. 

So what’s it like to be a Public Voices Fellow, Shana?

ShanaBernsteinI left the second convening of Northwestern University’s Public Voices Fellowship feeling much as I had after the first: exhilarated, inspired, excited, and honored. I have been waiting for an opportunity like this for a long time. Though I love academia and find it an honour to teach smart students to think more critically and to engage with scholars in my field by reading their work and writing my own, I’ve been seeking a way to bring the things I know as a historian into a broader sphere.

I’ve wanted to engage policy makers, lawmakers, and American voters and ask them to consider more deeply the history of twentieth-century social justice movements as they make decisions about our present and future. I want them to know the things I know about our country’s history of racial and ethnic communities’ struggles to find equality and fight discrimination. I want them to understand the multiracial nature of our country’s past. I hope to illuminate the long-term nature of reformers’ struggles to bring more transparency and justice to Americans of all stripes in the realm of health, including food, toxins, and the environment more generally.


The Public Voices Fellowship has provided me with that opportunity. Having the chance to think through my ideas and practice presenting them to astoundingly smart and widely trained (not to mention empathetic and supportive) colleagues, with the expert guidance of Michele Weldon and Holly Kearl, has been one of the most stimulating experiences I’ve had in my academic career. I’m grateful for the opportunity, and excited about what I hope to achieve with it, beginning with seeing my first fellowship op-ed published in The Pacific Standard.

Shana Bernstein is a Clinical Associate Professor at the Center for Legal Studies, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Northwestern University.

Welome, Cornell Public Voices Fellows!

FullSizeRender (17)Welcome to our 20 new Public Voices fellows at Cornell University – we are glad to have you in the brain trust!

In the words of OpEd Project fellowship Tom Zoellner, who is co-leading this year: “Here’s to wishing you encouragement as we move forward. I’m now reading the news with special X-Ray vision for events dealing with childhood nutrition, self-cleaning surfaces, Cuba, genetics, hydropower, Native art, quadratic equations (that one’s not making any A-1 headlines as yet but I keep hoping), Malawi and a list of more cool topics taught by some of the sharpest minds in the country.”

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Yale Public Voices Fellows – Year Four

YMS2413_0727_M_Juthani-MehtaOn Friday we launched the fourth year of our Public Voices Fellowship at Yale, a university which holds a special place in our hearts and history. Thanks to the brilliant and visionary Yale professors Meg Urry and Laura Wexler, who took a leap of faith with us, Yale was the first university to pilot our Public Voices initiative 3 years ago. The Public Voices Fellowship is now a multi-year national initiative in partnership with top universities and institutions across the country, with some of the most brilliant thinkers on the planet.

Thanks to Yale and all who have made this possible.

We’re thrilled with our newest cohort of 20 fellows who have expertise in the abstract rules of grammar, social norms on college campuses, video games and social media, and more.

2014-15 Public Voices Fellow and Associate Professor at the Yale School of Medicine in the Section of Infectious Diseases Dr. Manisha Juthani-Mehta shares her thoughts on the first convening, and the spectrum of voice and influence:

“Academia is full of many expert and knowledgeable women, and yet, most of us choose to share our expertise with our colleagues alone. This fellowship program has made me realize that we can each choose to pigeonhole ourselves into our own spheres of influence. The alternative is to become champions for the broad range of topics we know best in the national dialogue.”


Launching the Public Voices Fellowship at the University of Texas at Austin

Sonia and Jennifer supporting each other's evidence (front), while Reina and Deborah look on

Sonia and Jennifer support each other’s evidence (front), while Reina and Deborah look on

We are proud to launch our newest Public Voices Fellowship at the University of Texas at Austin. This co-hort of 20 Fellows bring expertise in a wide range of topics, including making theater and media with young people, flexible workplaces and work-life balance, slavery and genealogy, psychology of African-American academic achievement, literature by and for lesbians, Medieval Islamic art and architecture, Mexican American folklore and popular culture, and Native American and indigenous women’s rights.

We were joined by special guests, Janet Dukerich, Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, and Randy Diehl, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, who are sponsors and advocates for the Fellowship.

Domino & Eric

Domino & Eric polish their arguments

UT Austin group photo

Our newest crop of Fellows get “jazzy”

THE FINAL MISSIVE: Northwestern’s Fourth Convening

June McKoyGuest post by Northwestern Public Voices Fellow June M. McKoy, MD, MPH, JD, and MBA. June is Associate Professor of Medicine and Program Director, Geriatric Medicine Fellowship, Director of Geriatric Oncology and Member, IPHAM at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

I will never look at a movie the same way again. I will never hear of melting ice in the arctic and simply walk away, nor look at prisons as just walls that shelter criminals, nor question why corruption in Morocco matters. I have had the honor of listening to new voices that are fresh, powerful, informed, and unaffected by convention.   I am a Public Voices Thought Leadership Fellow.

photo 3Why do we do what we do?  We want to take ownership of our voices. To speak out responsibly, to change minds, to galvanize a community to action, and to re-engineer public policy. The OpEd project has shared the tools of powerful argument with us and has cultivated within us a shared sense of social responsibility. We are the children of academic incubators and we hold great ideas that have been fertilized, but not disseminated. Now we have learned how to extricate the jargon from our ideas, re-package our expertise and share it with the world.

What will be our legacy?  We look through telescopic lenses and it informs our notion of the world around us. We speak of pathologizing crimes of the rich and warn that actions have consequences that reverberate throughout society. We call for values driven leadership and organizational authenticity, and we write that women make great leaders because they are more collaborative and inclusive than men. We have called attention to elder abuse and other aging issues, spoken out against racism in medicine and have taken big pharma to task about the rising cost of cancer drugs in America.

photo 2Over the past six months, we have convened, reviewed, reflected, brainstormed and constructively pitched a range of ideas to media gate-keepers. So what? Why us? Why now?

Our words matter.

My mother used to tell me that “children should be seen, but not heard.” This was her way of instilling in me the manners passed down to her from her mother. But I’m not a child anymore. I am no longer invisible. I have important things to say. Lopsided gendered voices must give way to the progressive voices of women.

Our ideas are not niched. Neither are they hardwired into gender specific notions of the world and its problems.  We have brought our collective, eclectic, and broad intellectual perspectives to bear on every discourse in the public arena.   We have bravely spoken for Mrs. Triggs in response to the maxim “That’s an excellent suggestion Miss Triggs.  Perhaps one of the men here would like to make it.”

We speak now because it is imperative that we do. We speak now to democratize the conversation and transform the world. To be sure, the women who  tell the stories own history.

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