Institutional News

Ear Hustle Podcast Co-Host Nigel Poor to Give Commencement Address

Multimedia artist Nigel Poor ’86, co-creator, co-producer, and co-host of the award-winning podcast Ear Hustle, will address the class of 2020 at Bennington College’s 85th commencement dinner on Friday, May 29, at 7:00 pm on Commons Lawn. The event will be livestreamed.

Photo of Nigel Poor

“Nigel's extraordinary work embodies what we strive to do here at Bennington: to tackle the most consequential challenges of our time with creativity, compassion, and courage,” said Bennington College Interim President Isabel Roche. “It is an honor to welcome her back to campus and to discover how a Bennington education set her on this rewarding professional path.”

“Bennington is the right place for those who want to take chances and find their own way in the world. It’s a place of collaboration where you can explore your own associations and are taught to believe in the necessity of asking questions, while still leaving room for the ever-important experience of not knowing—of not being sure, but wanting to dig in and figure it out,” said Nigel Poor. “I’m looking forward to coming back to Bennington to engage in conversation with graduating students about the importance of digging in, asking questions, and engaging in the humble-but-powerful act of compassionate listening.”

Poor’s visual artwork explores the various ways people make a mark and leave behind evidence of their existence. Her work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally and can be found in various museum collections including the SFMOMA, the M.H. deYoung Museum, The San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. She is also a professor of photography at California State University, Sacramento. 

In 2011, Poor got involved with San Quentin State Prison as a volunteer teacher for the Prison University Project. In 2013, she started working with a group of incarcerated men producing a radio project. 

Currently, Poor is the co-creator, co-producer, and co-host of the award-winning podcast Ear Hustle, which shares everyday stories of life inside prison told from the perspective of those who live it. Ear Hustle, now on the cusp of its fifth season, is produced by Poor and Earlonne Woods, who was formerly incarcerated at San Quentin. The podcast is a collaboration between people inside and outside the prison system, working together as colleagues. Although the show concentrates on life inside San Quentin, it ultimately addresses larger questions about humanity.

Since its inception, Ear Hustle episodes have been downloaded over 38 million times, and today, prisons around the world are sharing Ear Hustle stories internally. It has received critical acclaim from the New York Times Magazine, WIRED, PBS Newshour, CBS Sunday Morning, NPR's All Things Considered, Rolling Stone, The Economist, The Marshall Project, and The Guardian. Ear Hustle has also received 2 Peabody nominations.

Deja’ Haley '20 will be the senior class speaker. Haley is a student of Black Studies, Literature and Psychology. Her academic path at Bennington has been driven by a desire to understand how we create belonging and community through our differences. Formative to Haley’s time at Bennington was an Usdan curation course about the African American students and faculty who helped shape the College’s past, which inspired in her a commitment to continue that legacy for future generations. Haley is admired among her peers for her unwavering efforts to create a more just and kind world. 

Literature faculty member Phillip B. Williams will be the faculty speaker. He will address Bennington’s class of 2020 during the Conferring of Degrees on Saturday, May 30 at 10:00 am. Williams is the author of Thief in the Interior, winner of the 2017 Kate Tufts Discovery Award and a 2017 Lambda Literary award. He received a 2017 Whiting Award and 2013 Ruth Lilly Fellowship.