Presidential Visiting Fellows for 2020-21


Yale welcomes these distinguished scholars and practitioners to campus in 2020-21 as Presidential Visiting Fellows

Presidential Visiting Fellows are appointed as part of the Faculty Excellence and Diversity Initiative.  Scholars and practitioners who contribute to inclusive excellence will be appointed for a semester or a year during  each year during the initiative.
Lileana Blain-Cruz, Presidential Visiting Fellow 2020-21

Lileana Blain-Cruz
Lecturer, School of Drama

Blain-Cruz is a director from New York City and Miami. She is a recent recipient of a New York Theatre Workshop 2050 Fellowship and a 2017 Obie Award for directing The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World at Signature Theatre. Recent projects include Dominique Morriseau’s Pipeline, Christina Anderson’s Hollow Roots which premiered in the Under the Radar Festival at the Public Theater and A Guide to Kinship and Maybe Magic, a collaboration with choreographer Isabel Lewis and playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins at Dance New Amsterdam. She is the co-founder and director of the ensemble company Overhead Projector, which devises new work. She received her M.F.A. in directing from Yale School of Drama, where she directed Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights, The Taming of the Shrew, Tall Skinny Cruel Cruel Boys, Buffalo Maine, Cavity and Fox Play as part of the Carlotta Festival of New Plays. She was one of the co-artistic directors of the 2011-2012 Yale Cabaret, where she directed Funnyhouse of a Negro, Vaska Vaska Glöm, and SALOME. She received both the Julian Milton Kaufman Memorial Prize and the Pierre-Andre Salim Prize for her leadership and directing. She was an Artistic Associate of The Exchange and The Orchard Project, a member of the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab, and an Allen Lee Hughes Directing Fellow at Arena Stage. She is a graduate of Princeton University. Lileana recently directed a new translation of The Bakkhai at the Fisher Center of Performing Arts at Bard College and is currently working on an adaptation of the Alejandro Jodorowsky film, EL TOPO.

Alan C. Edwards
Lecturer, School of Drama

Since receiving his M.F.A. from Yale School of Drama in 2011, Alan has had great opportunities to design for a diverse selection of theater companies including The Classical Theatre of Harlem, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Dallas Theatre Center, where in 2015, he designed lighting for the world premiere musical Stagger Lee, written by Will Power & Justin Ellington. The story followed five characters through the African-American experience of the 20th century. For Classical Theatre of Harlem, Alan has become a regular, designing their uptown Shakespeare in the Park (The Tempest and Macbeth)and their world premiere Harlem-based Christmas musical The First Noel, in association with The Apollo Theatre. At the National Black Theatre, Alan has had the pleasure of designing premieres of Nikkole Salters’ Carnaval, and Chisa Hutchinson’s Dead & Breathing, among other projects. A special collaboration between CTH and NBT bred a production of Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman which led to Alan’s nomination for the Audelco Award for Lighting Design in 2014. In dance, he has collaborated with choreographers Jessica Chen and Jeremy McQueen on numerous occasions. Select theater, dance & opera credits include: The Mountaintop (Cleveland Playhouse, Dallas Theatre Center), Constellations, Deathtrap (Berkshire Theatre Group), The Black Iris, Madiba (Jeremy McQueen), Carmen (Tri-Cities Opera), Suor Angelica (Simpson Opera), Acis & Galatea (Madison Opera), A Delicate Balance and The Piano Lesson (Yale Rep). Alan began teaching at Yale School of Drama in 2016, and is also on the faculty for the Yale College undergraduate program.

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
Theater and Performance Studies

Jacobs-Jenkins is one of the most distinguished contemporary playwrights–part of an extraordinary renaissance of formally and politically bold writing for the American (and especially African American) theater.  Still at a relatively early stage in his career, he has been much lauded. He is the winner of a 2016 MacArthur “Genius” grant, a 2016 Windham Campbell literature award, the 2015 Steinberg Playwrights Award, the 2014 Obie Award for Best American Play (for two plays, in fact: Appropriate and An Octoroon), and several other honors. In addition, he has twice been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama (for Everybody, in 2018, and Gloria, in 2016).

He is also highly regarded for his work in adaptation, as his version of The Octoroon suggests. His encounters with Greek tragedy (Girls, derived from The Bacchae), medieval drama (Everybody, from Everyman), and modern European drama (a version of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, commissioned by Ivo Van Hove) demonstrate additional ways his work speaks to and tranforms the disciplines of writing, theater, literature, and performance. He has led the playwriting program at Hunter College, taught at NYU, and recently joined the MFA faculty at the University of Texas, Austin.

Camara Phyllis Jones
School of Medicine: General Medicine

Dr. Jones is a family physician, epidemiologist, and Past President of the American Public Health Association whose work focuses on naming, measuring, and addressing the impacts of racism on the health and well-being of our nation and the world.

Dr. Jones is currently a Presidential Visiting Fellow at the Yale School of Medicine in the Office of Health Equity Research; will serve as the 2021-2022 UCSF Presidential Chair at the University of California San Francisco; and was the 2019-2020 Evelyn Green Davis Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.

She taught six years as an Assistant Professor at the Harvard School of Public Health (1994 to 2000), served fourteen years as a Medical Officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2000 to 2014), and is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Morehouse School of Medicine and an Adjunct Professor at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.

Dr. Jones’ allegories on “race” and racism illuminate topics that are otherwise difficult for many Americans to understand or discuss.  Recognizing that racism saps the strength of the whole society through the waste of human resources, she aims to mobilize and engage all Americans in a National Campaign Against Racism.

Mickalene Thomas
Lecturer, School of Art

Ms. Thomas received her B.F.A. from Pratt Institute in 2000 and her M.F.A. in painting from Yale University in 2002. In 2002-2003, she participated in the Artist-in-Residence program at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Recent awards include the Rema Hort Mann Grant in 2007 and the Pratt Institute Alumni Achievement Award in 2009. Residencies include the Versailles Foundation Munn Artists Program at Giverny, France through the Art Production Fund in 2010. She is represented by Lehmann Maupin in New York, Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago and Susanne Vielmetter Projects in Los Angeles. She was commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art to create a new work for the façade of The Modern on 53rd Street for 2010. Her work is in many public collections including the Guggenheim Museum; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Brooklyn Museum; the Studio Museum in Harlem; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.; and the Art Institute of Chicago. Ms. Thomas is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Pratt Institute and was appointed critic in painting/printmaking at Yale in 2009.

Howard Watkins
Lecturer, School of Music

Howard Watkins is an assistant conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. He is a pianist who has given recitals and concerts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Spivey Hall, Kennedy Center, the Pierpont Morgan Library, the United States Supreme Court, Alice Tully Hall with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the three stages of Carnegie Hall, and the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, Russia. In addition, he has performed with the MET Chamber Ensemble in Weill and Zankel Halls under the baton of James Levine. As an accompanist he has performed in concert and on television with Joyce DiDonato, Kathleen Battle, Grace Bumbry, Mariusz Kwiecien, Matthew Polenzani, Michelle De Young, Marcello Giordani, Diana Damrau, Ben Heppner, Anna Netrebko, Rolando Villazón, Alexandra Deshorties, Lawrence Brownlee, Anthony Dean Griffey, and violinists Xiang Gao and Sarah Chang. A number of his performances have been broadcast on WQXR in New York as part of George Jellinek’s “The Vocal Scene” and the “Young Artist Showcase”, and he has recorded for the Centaur and Prestant labels.

Currently on the faculty of The Juilliard School, he was formerly a faculty member of the Mannes College of Music and the North Carolina School of the Arts in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute. He has worked on the music staffs of the Los Angeles Opera, the Washington National Opera, and Palm Beach Opera. His undergraduate degree is from the University of Dayton, and he completed his Doctor of Musical Arts at the University of Michigan.