2021 Changemakers of the Year

Vision. Perseverance. Belief.

These are the qualities that unite this class of NYU Alumni Changemakers—a selected group of NYU alumni whose accomplishments help build a better world.

Chosen by the NYU Alumni Association Board from crowdsourced nominations, these alumni are the best of the best: entrepreneurs and visionaries who save lives, reduce suffering, and bring hope to the marginalized.

Ambition for private gain is one thing. But ambition with the public good in mind?

That’s how you make change.

Meet the Honorees

Meet Alexandra

Alexandra Clare (she/her)

(SPS ’15)

CEO and Co-founder, Re:Coded

Created the largest digital upskilling initiative for underserved youth in the Middle East.

“We wanted to break the cycle of dependency that’s prevalent in humanitarian development sectors.”
Meet Alexandra
Meet Ali

Ali Knight (he/him)

(WAG ’07)

President and CEO, Fresh Lifelines for Youth (FLY)

Focuses on preventing juvenile crime and incarceration though leadership training, legal education and mentoring

“What makes FLY unique is our youth service, systems change, and community capacity-building work.”
Meet Ali
Meet Claudia

Claudia Espinosa (she/her)


Founder and Executive Director, Latinas on the Verge of Excellence (L.O.V.E.)

Developed a mentoring program that supports hundreds of young Latinas across New York City

“That’s the real impact for me—to see our girls succeed today, whatever that may mean for each of them.”
Meet Claudia
Meet Diana

Diana Mao (she/her)

(WAG ’08)

President and Co-founder, Nomi Network

Provides women and girls with pathways to safe employment and escape from sexual exploitation.

“With the right economic circumstances, these women will rise up as leaders and cast a ripple effect on their communities.”
Meet Diana
Meet Edward

Edward Lee (he/him)

(CAS ’95)

Chef, Restaurateur, Author, and Co-founder of The Let’s Empower Employment (LEE) Initiative

Creates programs that elevate diverse talent and support equality in the restaurant industry.

“When people change something they do based on what you do, that’s a big responsibility. That’s bigger than the fame and recognition.”
Meet Edward
Meet Ellen

Ellen Kurz (she/her)

(GAL ’80)

President and Founder, iVote

Works to increase participation in U.S. elections and stop voter suppression nationwide.

“If everyone voted, there would be lawmakers who are more representative of the will of all people, not just the will of the rich and powerful.”
Meet Ellen
Meet Dr. Frank

Dr. Frank Leon Roberts (he/him)

(GAL ’04, TSOA ’04, TSOA/GSAS ’20, GAL Faculty)

Educator, Political Organizer, and Speaker

Developed a Black Lives Matter course that is widely recognized as the first college class of its kind.

“My hope is that five years from now, we’ll see those voices that have been historically silenced amplified even more.”
Meet Frank
Meet Dr. Ilene

Dr. Ilene Wilkins (she/her)

(WSUC ’82)

President and CEO, UCP of Central Florida

Launched eight charter school campuses for children with and without disabilities.

“Applying a holistic approach that combines support education and therapy, while working closely together with families and as a team, has been incredibly impactful.”
Meet Ilene
Meet Madeleine

Madeleine Baran (she/her)

(GSAS ’04)

Investigative Reporter, APM Reports, and Host and Lead Reporter of In the Dark

Leads reporting that exposes serious cases of corruption and helps bring justice for victims.

“I'm most proud of shining the light in some very dark places and doing work that wouldn’t have been done without our team.”
Meet Madeleine
Meet Nina

Nina Morrison (she/her)

(LAW ’98)

Senior Litigation Counsel, Innocence Project

Helped exonerate 30 innocent people from prison and death row.

“You can’t have accountability when innocent people are imprisoned and the guilty evade justice.”
Meet Nina
Meet Peter

Peter Neufeld (he/him)

(LAW ’75)

Partner, Neufeld Scheck & Brustin, and Co-founder, Innocence Project

Launched an international human rights movement that has freed nearly 400 wrongly convicted persons through DNA.

“If hope and compassion dominate in the future, we’re going to have a better system.”
Meet Peter
Meet Isabel

Isabel Ebel (she/her)

(TANDON ’34)

Aeronautical Engineer

Became the first woman aeronautical engineer in the United States.

“She had the help of other strong women to help her achieve what she wanted to achieve.”
Meet Isabel

Be The Light

With more than half-a-million NYU alumni around the globe, we need you to help us shine a light on NYU Alumni Changemakers and their impressive work.

It begins when you take a few moments to fill out a nomination form. Then, the NYU Alumni Association Board of Directors, along with a special committee made up of key members of the NYU community, will review all potential candidates based on the magnitude of the challenge, originality and innovation of the solution, and the results and impact achieved.

Their work sparked significant change. Your nomination illuminates their efforts and extends their impact.

Who inspires you today?

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600,000+NYU Alumni in 183 Countries

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28% of AlumniWork in Education, Entrepreneurship, or Community and Social Services

Past Honorees

Meet our extraordinary honorees from last year whose work is focused on making a better world.


To reset filters, scroll back to the default title (i.e., if using the Industry filter, navigate back to the word Industry Name at the top of the filter.)

  • Meet Miriam

    2020 changemaker

    Miriam Altman

    (WAG ’13)

  • Meet Judy

    2020 changemaker

    Judy Blume

    (STEINHARDT ’61)

  • Meet Liz

    2020 changemaker

    Liz Fanning

    (WAG ’97)

  • Meet Dr. Briar Flicker-Grossman

    2020 changemaker

    Dr. Briar Flicker-Grossman

    (SSSW ’86)

  • Meet Dr. Jay Grossman

    2020 changemaker

    Dr. Jay Grossman

    (DEN ’88)

  • Meet Judith

    2020 changemaker

    Judith Haber

    (MEYERS ’67, ’84)

  • Meet Jasper

    2020 changemaker

    Jasper H. Kane

    (TANDON ’28, ’95)

  • Meet Robert

    2020 changemaker

    Robert Lee

    (STERN ’13)

  • Meet Alexandra

    2020 changemaker

    Alexandra Meis

    (WAG ’13)

  • Meet Lili

    2020 changemaker

    Lili Nikolova

    (SPS ’13)

  • Meet Israel

    2020 changemaker

    Israel Rocha

    (WAG ’18)

  • Meet Maria

    2020 changemaker

    Maria Toler Velissaris

    (STERN ’09)

  • Meet Brenda

    2019 changemaker

    Brenda Berkman

    (LAW ’78)

  • Meet Taina

    2019 changemaker

    Taina Bien-Aimé

    (LAW ’91)

  • Meet Kristin

    2019 changemaker

    Kristin Van Busum

    (WAG ’10)

  • Meet Matthew

    2019 changemaker

    Matthew Campisi

    (TANDON ’96, ’20)

  • Meet Adrian

    2019 changemaker

    Adrian Kantrowitz

    (ARTS ’40)

  • Meet Marcia

    2019 changemaker

    Marcia Robinson Lowry

    (LAW ’69)

  • Meet Janet

    2019 changemaker

    Janet Mock

    (GSAS ’06)

  • Meet Jacqueline

    2019 changemaker

    Jacqueline Murekatete

    (CAS ’07)

  • Meet Erin

    2019 changemaker

    Erin Vilardi

    (CAS ’03)

  • Meet Lori

    2019 changemaker

    Lori Wiener

    (SSSW ’79, ’88)

  • Meet Eleanor

    2018 changemaker

    Eleanor Baum

    (TANDON ’61, ’64)

  • Meet Danielle

    2018 changemaker

    Danielle Butin

    (STEINHARDT ’85)

  • Meet Hannah

    2018 changemaker

    Hannah Dehradunwala

    (GAL ’16)

  • Meet Jacqueline

    2018 changemaker

    Jacqueline Fawcett

    (MEYERS ’70, ’76)

  • Meet Hernando

    2018 changemaker

    Hernando Garzon

    (GSM ’88)

  • Meet Scott

    2018 changemaker

    Scott Harrison

    (CAS ’98)

  • Meet Martin

    2018 changemaker

    Martin Hellman

    (TANDON ’66)

  • Meet Jean Paul

    2018 changemaker

    Jean Paul Laurent

    (DEN ’13)

  • Meet Hope

    2018 changemaker

    Hope Lewis

    (LAW ’09)

  • Meet Eduardo

    2018 changemaker

    Eduardo Rodriguez

    (DEN ’92)

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