Alumna and tribal law scholar among latest MacArthur “genius grant” winners

Posted on Sep 17, 2014 in Alumni News and News

Sarah Deer, KU alumna and MacArthur Foundation fellow
Sarah Deer, an alumna of KU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and School of Law and now professor of law at William Mitchell College of Law in Saint Paul, Minnesota, is among this year’s 21 winners of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, popularly known as the “genius grant.”

In its Wednesday announcement, the MacArthur Foundation cited each of its honorees as “exceptional individuals doing transformative, creative work with a track record of achievement in their field and the potential for even more significant contributions in the future.” Fellows each receive no-strings-attached grants of $625,000.

The foundation praised Deer, c’96, l’99, as “a legal scholar, strategist and advocate developing policies and legislation designed to help Native American tribal courts function better—especially in the realm of violence against women. Deer’s efforts were instrumental in the passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 as well as the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013—both of which give more authority to tribal courts.”

Previous KU alumni to win MacArthur Fellowships include Marla Spivak, PhD’89, a bee researcher and distinguished professor at the University of Minnesota; David Hillis, g’83, g’86, PhD’86, director of the Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics at the University of Texas; environmental scientist Paul Ehrlich, g’55, PhD’57, author of The Population Bomb; sculptor and installation artist Ann Hamilton, f’79; Land Institute founder Wes Jackson, g’60; and Kent Whealy, j’68, founder of Seed Savers Exchange. Terry Plank, a KU faculty member from 1995 to ’99 and now a geochemist and volcano researcher at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, was honored in 2012.

Watch for more coverage of Deer’s honor in the November issue of Kansas Alumni magazine. More information about Deer and the other honorees can also be found at

—Chris Lazzarino

Watch the video below to learn more about legal scholar and advocate Sarah Deer. Photo above and video provided by the MacArthur Foundation.

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