brown university

Today, Emma Watson graduated from one of the most prestigious Ivy League colleges, Brown University, with a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature. She may be best known for her role as Hermione Granger in the movie adaptions of the Harry Potter series, but this young woman was determined to acquire an education—while simultaneously starring in 4 films (two of which were the last installments of the Harry Potter franchise). I just wanted to take a moment and praise Ms. Watson for her accomplishments. You don’t see her in the headlines for drug involvement or rehab or what have you. No. Some associations tied to her name include modeling, designing eco-friendly clothing, education, promoting positive body image, and supporting schools in Africa. To me, this is the epitome of a great role model not only for young girls but for anyone. To borrow a clichéd saying, she’s got a good head on her shoulders. Besides, English literature is pretty darn cool anyhow.

Oakland teen’s 5.0 GPA, 2100 SAT score lands him acceptance from multiple Ivy Leagues

When most people see 17-year-old Akintunde Ahmad, they find it hard to believe he has earned a 5.0 GPA, a 2100 SAT score and acceptance into almost every Ivy League school in the nation.

This is because Ahmad, who describes himself as a “street dude,” admits that he is often judged by his 6-foot-1 frame and waist-long dreads. In fact, the Oakland teen has been underestimated by his peers to the point where only cellphone images of his grades and test scores provide the most viable proof.

According to ABC, Ahmad — who attends Oakland Tech High in northern California — has been accepted into a number of prestigious schools including Yale, Brown, Columbia, Northwestern, the University of Southern California, UCLA and Howard, among others.

Aside from his exceptional academic record, Ahmad also plays three instruments and is a star athlete on his school’s baseball team. So much so, that he has even been approached by Yale about joining the university’s team…

Read more… (The Grio)


Daveed Diggs was a track star at Brown University. Now he’s a rap star in Hamilton on Broadway. (

But for all his achievements, Diggs said his time at Brown wasn’t always easy—he said cold New England winters were a shock to his California system, as was the school’s culture.

“I think I had, maybe, a more liberal upbringing than most people at that time, at least,” Diggs said. “So I think even Brown, which everyone told me was this crazy liberal school, felt very conservative to me.”

When he got to college in 2000, he said he was surprised by the amount of wealth some other students had.

“There was a lot of money, and it was hard for me to relate to that in a lot of ways,” he said.

Diggs said he does partly draw on his experience around wealthy students at Brown to portray the very rich Jefferson. But everyone has varying amounts of privilege, he added, and he said he’s hyper-aware of his: While his family didn’t have the kind of old, New England wealth he first encountered at Brown, they had something else.

“My parents are not together, but they were both always around,” Diggs said. “I felt so loved and taken care of, and that’s a huge part of the reason I’m able to do what I do. I’m aware that not everybody gets that feeling of ease walking through the world that I have. It’s not due to money, but it’s something I think I use a lot for Jefferson.”

That ease Diggs carries with him comes through in the gravelly edges of his voice when he, as Jefferson, nails a verse while threatening to expose Hamilton’s affair. You see it when you watch him dance backward, his feet touching the ground only to push him back up into the air.
Help The Lost Scrolls of the White Lotus reach its funding goal today!

Brown University sits atop College Hill in Providence, directly across the street from RISD, where I was a student and I am currently teaching. Brown and RISD have a long-standing policy where students from the two schools can cross-register for classes. It was not uncommon in my day to have at least one Brown student in almost every class I took. It would have been (and still would be) quite a stretch for me to be accepted into Brown, so it was cool –– in theory –– that I could be allowed to take an Ivy League class. The problem was, I could never get into any of the classes I tried to get into!

Fast-forward over 16 years, and now there is a group of Brown students doing a group independent study course about Avatar. (There was a somewhat similar student-run course being offered at University of California, Berkeley some years ago.) Tomás, from this group, contacted Nickelodeon to run the syllabus by us. Mike and I were very impressed. It is incredibly exhaustive and ambitious. I’m not sure I could pass this class!

A few of the students are hoping to follow up the spring class with an even more ambitious immersive study trip this summer to various locations that provided inspiration for the series. Depending on the funds they can raise, they also hope to bring additional artists along, chosen by the fan community. To cap it off, they plan to pour all of their experiences and what they learn into a book. It is, again, AMBITIOUS.

Avatar means a lot of different things to people all over the world, of all ages. But I can tell you, as I teach a group of RISD students just down the hill, I am reminded that it seems to mean something a little extra special to some members of this current generation of college-age kids. They grew up watching the first series. My friends and I grew up mostly on glorified animated toy commercials, at least as far as our kids TV offerings went. We certainly feel a strong sense of nostalgia for that stuff, but it doesn’t seem to resonate quite the same way as Avatar does with the young people who connected with it. Mike and I, and everyone else on the crew, were so immersed in the task of just making the show, with our noses very close to the grindstone. It is humbling and bemusing to look around all these years later and see the shock waves of its effects on people’s lives.

You can check out the link above or below to learn more about this trip/project, how you might become a part of it, how you might help, or how to follow their adventures. I wish them luck and a safe, rewarding trip! Here is a word from Tomás below:

“We are a group of 5 friends who want to keep the Avatar spirit alive by actually traveling the world to learn all four elements. We want to then place everything we learn into your hands through a book titled, "The Lost Scrolls of the White Lotus.” Check out our crowdfunding campaign page and join our community of fans as we explore the elements ourselves. Together, we can become the Order of the White Lotus.“


Minnesota high school senior accepted to all 8 Ivy League schools

A Somali Minnesota high school student has achieved the rare honor of being accepted by all 8 Ivy League schools, plus more highly accredited colleges.

“I was very surprised,” Munira Khalif, senior at Mounds Park Academy, said. “The best part for me was being able to call family members on the phone and to hear their excitement. This was truly a blessing from God.”

The 8 Ivy League schools are Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and Yale University. In addition, Khalif was accepted to Stanford, Georgetown, and the University of Minnesota.


“Being Asian has a big impact on who you are as a person, and it will continue to have a big impact on you in the future. So whether you identify as an Asian-American, an American-Asian, just Asian, just American, or Australian, it’s something that’s going to keep affecting your life. But I think this is because it’s one of the first things people notice when they see you.” 

Natalie Tran talks at Brown University about Asians In Media. Watch the video here.