Robin Wall Kimmerer selected as 2024 Richman Fellow

Robin Wall Kimmerer stands in the woods
Robin Wall Kimmerer

Photo Credit: Matt Roth, courtesy of Authors Unbound

By Jarret Bencks
December 12, 2023

Celebrated ecologist, educator and author Robin Wall Kimmerer, whose work unifies science with traditional knowledge in pursuit of a deeper understanding of the natural world, has been selected as the 2024 Richman Distinguished Fellow in Public Life by Brandeis University.

“Robin Wall Kimmerer’s work illuminates the intersections of ecology and indigenous wisdom, inspiring us to reimagine our relationship with the natural world,” said Brandeis President Ron Liebowitz. “I look forward to welcoming her to campus as the Richman Fellow this spring.”

Kimmerer is a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology, and the founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment. She is the author of the critically acclaimed “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants,” and “Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses,” which was awarded the John Burroughs Medal for outstanding nature writing in 2005.

In 2015, Kimmerer addressed the general assembly of the United Nations on the topic of “Healing Our Relationship with Nature.” In 2022, she was named a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow.

Kimmerer was nominated for the Richman Fellowship by Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Colleen Hitchcock. In her nomination, Hitchcock said that Kimmerer's selection would be a fitting following act to Brandeis’ Year of Climate Action. Her nomination received broad faculty support across disciplines in the sciences and humanities.

“As we continue to face a world of dramatic biodiversity loss punctuated by the climate catastrophe, the message that Dr. Kimmerer delivers to us - the wisdom of reciprocity and restoration of the Earth, can't help but inspire action and reflection,” Hitchcock said.

The Richman Fellowship recognizes individuals active in public life whose contributions have had a significant impact on improving American society, strengthening democratic institutions, advancing social justice or increasing opportunities for all citizens. The annual award includes a $25,000 prize. Kimmerer will visit campus for a residency that will include an award ceremony and public presentation, and a series of events that will engage the university community, including visits to classes and special small group sessions with students.

The fellowship was created by Dr. Carol Richman Saivetz ’69, along with her children, Michael Saivetz ’97 and Aliza Saivetz Glasser ’01, in honor of her parents, Fred and Rita Richman. Recent winners include newspaper editor Martin Baron; climate scientist Peter C. Frumhoff; disability rights activist Rebecca Cokley; playwright, actor, and educator Anna Deavere Smith; and human rights attorney Vanita Gupta.

Kimmerer will be in residence at Brandeis on February 28-29 2024. An award ceremony followed by a keynote lecture will be held Wednesday, February 28 at 4:30 p.m.

The Richman Fellowship is hosted by The Vic ’63 and Bobbi Samuels ’63 Center for Community Partnerships and Civic Transformation (COMPACT) on behalf of the Office of the President and Office of the Provost.