Two New Jerseyans were selected by the MacArthur Foundation to receive “Genius Grants” for their outstanding creative and professional achievements. Betsy Levy Paluck, of Princeton, and Damon Rich, of Newark, were named among the 2017 MacArthur Fellows, and will receive a one-time grant of $625,000.
The MacArthur Foundation awards annual, no-strings-attached fellowships to “extraordinarily talented and creative individuals as an investment in their potential.”
Paluck, 39, has been a professor of psychology and public policy at Princeton University since 2009. Her research centers on social norms and networks, and their connection to discrimination, bullying and conflict. One of Paluck’s studies investigated anti-bullying and anti-prejudice campaigns in New Jersey middle schools. Paluck and her collaborators met with 25,000 students across 56 schools to measure how peer-to-peer networks diffuse tolerant behaviors throughout a community and counteract harassment.
Rich, 42, is a designer and urban planner whose design studio—Hector—collaborates with communities and local governments to determine the best use for urban spaces. The former chief urban designer and director of planning for the City of Newark, Rich played a key role in the Newark Riverfront Revival project. In addition to redesigning land along the Passaic River into publicly accessible parks, the project worked with local advocates, such as the Ironbound Community Corporation, to connect the community with the environmental and civic recovery of the riverfront.
Paluck and Rich join 42 other New Jerseyans who have been named MacArthur Foundation Fellows since the program was created in 1981.