Artist and activist Common delivers keynote remarks at the Inclusive Academy Symposium.
Photo: Sameer A. Khan h’21

The Graduate School’s second annual Inclusive Academy Symposium and Best of Access, Diversity, and Inclusion (BADI) Awards, which are designed to support underrepresented graduate students and postdocs, featured informational sessions and inspirational speakers, including a keynote conversation and bonus rap with artist, actor, author, and activist Common.

The May 18 event at the Lewis Center for the Arts kicked off with panels on the importance of community, being yourself in the academy, and how to cultivate desired careers, as well as a writing workshop. In a conversation with Nova Smith, Princeton’s assistant director of diversity initiatives, Pulitzer Prize-winner and Rutgers University creative writing and African American studies professor Salamishah Tillet told the audience about her journey and work.

Attendees took a break to network at a bumping reception in the Lewis Center’s Forum, complete with a DJ, before the keynote with Common, who touched upon a wide range of topics, including challenges throughout his career, how he finds inspiration, the importance of self-care and community, and his nonprofit Imagine Justice, which connects art and activism.

“I had to learn how to expand and pursue my dreams and my visions and go gather the things that I needed on my plate, and then bring that food back to others,” Common said. “I keep my feet going forward, but then I always am able to go back home and just create access.”

At the end of his remarks, as moderator Joseph L. Lewis, the Graduate School’s associate dean of access, diversity, and inclusion, attempted to close the event, Common delighted everyone with an impromptu two-minute freestyle rap.

“It was great to see faculty and students just having great and enriching conversations about navigating grad school, and our keynote speakers were perfect,” Lewis said. “Everything, I think, just hit a perfect note on so many levels.”

The night capped off with the BADI Awards, which honored 18 students, staff, faculty, student groups, and Princeton programs for their work. “It’s highly important for us to stop and pause and recognize the accomplishments of [those] who are practicing diversity and inclusive excellence in all that they do,” Lewis told PAW.

BADI winner Rodrigo Córdova Rosado, a third-year astrophysical sciences graduate student, said, “I just hope that awards and events like this one continue to push the institution and the people in the institution more broadly, and give students permission to engage in this kind of work without feeling like it’s a drag on their academics.”