Max Kenner Biography

Max Kenner is founder, executive director, and holds the Tow Chair for Democracy and Education, at the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) which enrolls incarcerated women and men in academic programs that culminate in degrees from Bard College.

A leading advocate for the restoration of college-in-prison, Kenner frequently speaks publicly on issues of education and criminal justice. He is co-founder of the Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison, which supports colleges and universities in establishing college-in-prison projects nationwide, the Bard Microcollege, which establishes rigorous, tuition-free college opportunity in partnership with community-based institutions, and the Bard Baccalaureate, a full-scholarship program that seeks out adult learners whose educations have been interrupted or deterred.

At Bard College, Kenner serves as Vice President for Institutional Initiatives and Advisor to the President on Public Policy & College Affairs. He has been a fellow-in-residence at the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University, has served on the New York State Council on Community Re-Entry and Reintegration from 2014, and currently sits on the New York State Council on Community Justice. He is the recipient of many awards, including the Wilmers Integrity Prize, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library’s New Frontier Award, and the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award in Education. Under his stewardship, BPI has figured prominently in the media, including but not limited to features on 60 Minutes, PBS News Hour, the New York Times Magazine, and the Washington Post. Most recently, BPI and its students were subjects of the acclaimed documentary film College Behind Bars, directed by Lynn Novick, produced by Sarah Botstein and executive produced by Ken Burns. College Behind Bars aired nationally on PBS in November 2019.


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