The Rutgers University Board of Governors confirmed today that interdisciplinary scholar, public intellectual, and social justice advocate Dorothy Roberts will deliver the keynote address at the Rutgers University − Newark Commencement Ceremony on May 22, 2019 at the Prudential Center. Selected for this honor by a committee of students, faculty, and staff, Roberts also will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

In advancing the committee’s recommendation of Roberts to the Board for this honor, Rutgers-Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor stated, “Dorothy Roberts is one of the nation’s leading voices striving to expunge deeply embedded discriminatory ideas and practices from the American social fabric, embodying principles that Rutgers University – Newark holds most dear as an institution that is not just diverse, but committed to leveraging our diversity as a partner in lifting up our community, our nation, and our world, especially by lifting up its people.”

A Voice for Justice

As a scholar, teacher, and activist whose work appears in both scholarly and popular venues—including myriad television and radio shows and a wildly popular TED Talk viewed by more than a million people to date—Roberts has aimed in her work to sharpen perception of discriminatory assumptions and practices woven into our everyday lives. She advocates for realizing a vision of the world in which human beings of all backgrounds, genders, religions, and abilities actually are valued as equal.

Following undergraduate study at Yale and law school at Harvard, Roberts clerked in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York, later joining Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison LLP, before launching on an academic career that started notably at Rutgers Law School, Newark, where she served on the faculty for a decade starting in 1988. During her time at Rutgers-Newark, she achieved national renown, publishing a landmark article on black women's reproductive rights in the Harvard Law Review in 1991, then under the editorial leadership of future President Barack Obama. She also completed her first book, Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty, widely acclaimed as one of the most enduringly important books on the topic. She went on to successive faculty appointments at Northwestern University and the University of Pennsylvania, where she remains and is the founding director of the Penn Program on Race, Science & Society.

Roberts expressed excitement and eagerness at the opportunity to return to Rutgers-Newark to address graduating students who share in many dimensions her commitment to activism. “I am extremely grateful to Rutgers University for selecting me to serve as its 2019 commencement speaker and to receive an honorary degree,” she said. “I began my academic career at Rutgers Law School in Newark in 1988, and I will always be indebted to this institution for providing such an inspiring and supportive environment to launch my teaching, research, and advocacy for social justice. It is a unique honor to be recognized by this great university I once called home.”