When President Andrew Hamilton was inaugurated in 2016 as NYU’s 16th President, he instituted the first-ever Making a Difference Awards to recognize members of our NYU community – a student, a faculty member, a young alum, and an employee – who have made a profound and lasting impact for the better on the city, region, nation, or globe.

The awards seek to highlight ideas, discoveries, or new and innovative approaches that solve a critical problem, aid underserved populations, or break down barriers of misunderstanding and intolerance. By honoring such individuals on a regular basis, the University signals a recommitment to its motto: a private university in the public service.

For this 2020 round of Making a Difference awardees, we specifically seek nominees whose scholarship and/or advocacy focuses on racial injustice, economic disparity, or the intersection of these interlocking forms of structural inequality. Nominees’ work may be across areas as varied as health, education, criminal justice, housing, or food security (as just a few examples). Nominees’ work may take the form of scholarship, social innovation, public service, community engagement, or advocacy in either US or global contexts. Successful candidates for the Making a Difference Award will have a demonstrated track record of having an impact on our institutions through strategies, policies, or actions that move us powerfully forward in creating greater racial equity and economic opportunity.

The awards are presented biennially. President Andrew Hamilton bestowed the first-ever Making a Difference Awards at his Inauguration Ceremony on September 25, 2016. The 2018 awards were presented on September 27, 2018.

We are now accepting nominations for the 2020-21 academic year for awards that will be presented in September 2020. The deadline for nominations has been extended to Friday, July 17, 2020.

2018 Making a Difference Award Recipients

Isabela "Isay" Acenas, College of Arts and Science, Class of 2021; Founder, IE, for her projects advancing entrepreneurship and agricultural methods in the Philippines

H.E. Shamma Suhail Faris Al Mazrui (NYUAD '14), Minister of State for Youth Affairs, United Arab Emirates, for advocating for youth interests in the UAE

Alina Das (WAG '05, LAW '05), Professor of Clinical Law and Co-Director of the NYU School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic, for defending the rights of immigrants through scholarship and litigation

NYU Veterans Working Group, consisting of administrators from across NYU's schools and divisions, for supporting student veterans on campus

2016 Making A Difference Award Recipients

Olugbenga G. Ogedegbe, a physician, professor in NYU’s School of Medicine, and Vice Dean of NYU’s College of Global Public Health, for his health research and outreach in the U.S. and Africa

Diane Geng, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at NYU Shanghai, and Wei Ji Ma, professor of neural science and psychology in NYU’s Faculty of Arts and Science, for their work in establishing the Rural China Education Foundation

Alumnus Scott Harrison for founding the nonprofit “charity: water,” which has provided over 6 million with clean water

The Mercy Project, a sentencing relief initiative founded by the NYU School of Law’s Center on the Administration of Criminal Law and conducted by NYU Law students