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The Supreme Court’s ruling on the end of race-conscious admissions programs has left colleges and universities scrambling for other methods to achieve racial diversity on campus. We face the likelihood of reduced enrollment of students of color at some of the nation’s selective institutions, narrowing these students’ higher education options.

Join The Century Foundation and NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service on Tuesday, November 14, from 1:00 to 2:00 PM ET, for a conversation focused on the ramifications of the Supreme Court’s affirmative action decision and how policymakers and colleges can improve equitable access to higher education.  


  • Sherry Glied, dean, NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service
  • Mark Zuckerman, president, The Century Foundation


  • Moderator: Denise A. Smith, deputy director and senior fellow, The Century Foundation
  • Tressie McMillan Cottom, professor, UNC Chapel Hill; columnist, New York Times; 2020 MacArthur Fellow 
  • Zakiya Smith Ellis, principal, Education Counsel
  • Damon Hewitt, president and executive director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • John B. King, Jr., chancellor, State University of New York (SUNY)

Live captions and ASL interpretation will be provided.

Co-sponsored by NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and The Century Foundation. 

Speaker Bios

Denise A. Smith is the deputy director of higher education policy and senior fellow at The Century Foundation. Her work studies educational equity, promoting diversity in a post-affirmative action society,  the financing of HBCUs, and the role of government funding in empowering these institutions and their students’ success. Prior to joining TCF, Smith was the director of student engagement and college activism at Truth Initiative where she oversaw the College Teams student engagement and campaign programming.

Smith is currently completing her PhD in higher education leadership and policy studies at Howard University. She received her master of public health degree from Morehouse School of Medicine and her bachelor of science from South Carolina State University and is recognized as a member of their inaugural 40 under 40 class. Smith, also serves on the Advisory Council for Howard University’s Center for HBCU Leadership, Research, and Policy and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. 

Tressie McMillan Cottom is a trenchant cultural critic, celebrated sociologist, and award-winning writer, known for rearranging your brain in the span of a carefully turned phrase. Her breadth is phenomenal—it moves from the racial hierarchy of beauty standards and the class codes of dressing for work to the predation of for-profit colleges and the stain of racial capitalism on our plural democracy—all while reimagining the essay form for the twenty-first century as she goes.

 Tressie McMillan Cottom is a professor with the Center for Information, Technology and Public Life at UNC–Chapel Hill, a New York Times columnist, and a 2020 MacArthur Fellow.

Dr. Zakiya Smith Ellis is a principal at Education Counsel, where she helps clients navigate the current education policy climate to develop solutions that improve equity and outcomes for students. Before joining Education Counsel, Zakiya held the role of chief policy advisor to Governor Phil Murphy (D-NJ) and previously served as New Jersey’s secretary of igher education. Twice named one of Forbes’ top 30 under 30 in education earlier in her career, Dr. Ellis is a respected public policy leader with deep expertise in federal and state higher education policy. Dr. Ellis has demonstrated success in leading diverse teams to achieve dynamic results leading to tangible improvements in college affordability, enhanced institutional capacity, and more equitable student outcomes. She has led policy development and program implementation at the White House, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Lumina Foundation, in addition to her most recent work developing and implementing state policy. Earlier in her career, Zakiya worked directly with students in various capacities across the K–12 system, and her goal is to always bring those insights to her current work.

Damon Hewitt, a long-time civil rights lawyer, social justice strategist, philanthropist, manager and coalition-builder, currently serves as the President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. 

Prior to joining the Lawyers’ Committee, Hewitt served as inaugural executive director of the Executives’ Alliance for Boys and Men of Color. He previously served as Senior Advisor at the Open Society Foundations where he coordinated funding efforts responding to the uprising in Ferguson, Missouri. Before entering philanthropy, Hewitt worked for over a decade as an attorney at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund where he was lead counsel on litigation and policy matters and supervised teams of lawyers and non-lawyers. He led pioneering efforts addressing the School to Prison Pipeline and coordinated litigation and advocacy efforts following Hurricane Katrina. Hewitt also served as Executive Director of the New York State Task Force on Police-on-Police Shootings, an entity analyzing police practices following the deaths of off-duty African American and Latino police officers who were shot by fellow officers after being mistaken for “criminal” suspects.

Hewitt is co‐author of a book, The School‐to‐Prison Pipeline: Structuring Legal Reform, and has published numerous articles on racial justice, school discipline policy and progressive education reform. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from Louisiana State University and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

John B. King, Jr. is the fifteenth chancellor of the State University of New York (SUNY), the largest comprehensive system of public higher education in the United States.  

Prior to his appointment as chancellor, King served as president of The Education Trust, a national civil rights nonprofit which seeks to identify and close opportunity and achievement gaps for students from preschool through college.  

Chancellor King served in President Barack Obama’s cabinet as the tenth U.S. secretary of education. Upon tapping him to lead the U.S. Department of Education, President Obama called King “an exceptionally talented educator,” citing his commitment to “preparing every child for success,” and his lifelong dedication to public education as a teacher, principal, and leader of schools and school systems.

Before his appointment as secretary of education, Chancellor King fulfilled the duties of deputy secretary of education, overseeing all policies and programs related to P–12 education, English learners, special education, and innovation.

His service in Washington, D.C. followed King’s tenure as New York State’s first African-American and first Puerto-Rican education commissioner, a role in which he oversaw all elementary and secondary schools, as well as public, independent, and proprietary colleges and universities, professional licensure, libraries, museums, and numerous other educational institutions. 

Chancellor King holds a bachelor of arts in government from Harvard University and a JD from Yale Law School, as well as both a master of arts in the teaching of social studies and a doctorate in education from Teachers College at Columbia University.

You can follow Chancellor King on Twitter at @JohnBKing.