Musician, Actor, Activist, and Politician Rubén Blades will serve as the 2018-2019 Scholar-in-Residence at NYU Steinhardt

Musician, Actor, Activist, and Politician Rubén Blades
Musician, Actor, Activist, and Politician Rubén Blades

The NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development today announced that Rubén Blades—17-time Grammy Award-winning musician, three-time Emmy-nominated actor, activist, lawyer, and politician from Panama—will serve as the NYU Steinhardt Dean’s Inaugural Scholar-in-Residence, kicking-off with a lively and in-depth career retrospective discussion with Professor Carlos Chirinos on Oct. 29 at NYU Skirball.

Blades will discuss his stunning legacy of advocating for social change throughout his musical, artistic, and political career—which includes a five-year term as Panama’s Minister for Tourism and a run for the presidency of the Republic of Panama—and the future of Latin music. This conversation builds upon the momentum of the documentary Yo No Me Llamo Rubén Blades (Rubén Blades is Not My Name)—to be released on HBOwhich explores Blades’ life and career and opened last month in theaters across Latin America.

During the yearlong visiting appointment, Blades will meet with students and faculty to explore collaborations for promoting and fostering diversity and advancing ideas of social change through music (via academic programs, events, interventions, and research initiatives). Blades’ initial engagements will include connecting with scholars in NYU Steinhardt’s Faculty First-Look program—a mechanism to train, prepare, and recruit more faculty of color into higher education—to discuss strategies for using research and artistic practice to advance social change; sharing his experiences with students in the classroom; and connecting students with artists that reflect the future of Latin music.

Blades’ appointment will help further elevate the voice of the Latinx community and student population, which has seen a 14 percent increase in NYU Steinhardt’s incoming 2018 freshman class.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to advance scholarship on music, social activism, and Latin American culture with the NYU Steinhardt community. To have information and not to share it is to waste knowledge. It will be a privilege to connect with students who have such passion for the causes they believe in. I hope my experiences can help students and other NYU community members consider the broader implications of inequality in Latin America—and the wider world—to harness energy and ideas for the social good,” said Blades.

Blades is a cultural icon who is credited with one of the top-selling salsa records of all time, “Siembra” (with Willie Colon), and has been an advocate for equality and human rights throughout his career. His songs chronicle the Latin American community’s experiences living through unjust social and economic conditions; Blades has also actively sought to reduce poverty through strategies including entrepreneurship and community development.

The move to bring Blades to Steinhardt was spearheaded by Carlos Chirinos, Director of NYU Steinhardt’s Music and Social Change Lab—a multi-disciplinary social enterprise incubator designed to drive social innovation through music—and Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Diversity, Stella M. Flores.

“We’re thrilled that Rubén is joining NYU Steinhardt,” said Dominic J. Brewer, the Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of NYU Steinhardt. “He’s a true icon who skillfully brings social and political realities to the forefront through music to connect with and influence younger and older audiences alike. Rubén is a champion for harnessing your passion and serving your community to create real political change, which is a message that resonates strongly with the NYU Steinhardt community.”

“Rubén has committed his entire songbook to addressing social issues in Latin America. His experience and artistic output will help our students understand how music can help create awareness and mobilize the public to take action for social change,” said Chirinos, a clinical music and global health associate professor in music business at NYU Steinhardt.

About Rubén Blades
Blades is a composer and vocalist, and one of the most successful artists in the history of Latin music. His landmark albums in classic Afro-Cuban salsa, as well as Afro-Cuban music touched with rock, jazz, pan-Latin, and other influences from around the world have won 17 Grammy & Latin Grammy Awards, including one in the World Music category. His 2017 album Salsa Big Band was named the Latin Grammy Album of the Year. Beyond Blades' artistic success, he has degrees in political science and law from the University of Panama, and an LLM from Harvard Graduate Law School.  In 1994 he formed a political party, Movimiento Papa Egoro ("Mother Earth" in the indigenous Embera language), and ran for President of the Republic of Panama, coming in third place with 18% of the vote. In 2000, Blades was named UN World Ambassador Against Racism. He currently stars in the AMC television series Fear the Walking Dead, and was recently seen in Hands Of Stone opposite Robert De Niro, Edgar Ramirez and John Turturro, and in Ridley Scott's The Counselor, opposite Michael Fassbender. Read more about Rubén Blades here.

About the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
Located in the heart of New York City’s Greenwich Village, New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development prepares students for careers in the arts, education, health, media and psychology. Since its founding in 1890, the Steinhardt School's mission has been to expand human capacity through public service, global collaboration, research, scholarship, and practice. To learn more about NYU Steinhardt, visit

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