April 11, 2018

Keynote speaker: Greg Asbed '90, human rights activist and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient, Coalition of Immokalee Workers

On April 11, Johns Hopkins SAIS welcomed nearly 300 newly admitted students for its annual Open House at the Washington, DC campus.

Dean Vali Nasr began the day by sharing opening remarks on the value a Johns Hopkins SAIS education will have on the prospective students’ future careers, followed by a Q&A discussion with alumnus Greg Asbed '90, a human rights strategist and co-founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Asbed is a recipient of a 2017 MacArthur Genius Grant, given annually by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to individuals who have "shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction."

Asbed spoke about the abuses that agricultural workers in Florida have faced, from withheld pay to deplorable conditions and even forced labor. Addressing these issues with the growers directly had been unproductive because of the economic incentives that the marketplace created and the shortfalls of corporate social responsibility, Asbed said. His coalition was able to make a breakthrough by engaging with the growers' customers: the large buyers of tomatoes including grocers and major fast food chains. The coalition created the Fair Food Program to certify that the human rights of workers were respected on the job. Asbed also shared his experience as a Johns Hopkins SAIS student and offered advice to the next generation of aspiring global leaders as they prepared for their own life-changing and career-launching moments at the school. 

Later in the day, the prospective students had the opportunity to receive first-hand insights on the academic life at the school from several members of the faculty during a panel discussion and learned about the value of the alumni network – over 19,000 strong – from returning graduates. Other activities included program lunches, where the prospective students had the opportunity to learn more about their intended program of study from faculty and current students and a student club fair with student representatives on-hand to share their experiences on how they have enhanced their graduate school experience outside the classroom.

The day wrapped up with an evening reception at the Brookings Institution, located across the street from the school. The reception was a perfect way for the prospective students to take in everything they learned throughout the day and become better acquainted with their future classmates, faculty and staff in an informal setting.

Photo album

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