Max Kenner (2016)

Read the New Frontier Award® announcement


As the founder and executive director of the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI), Max Kenner has devoted his career to providing access to higher education and effective solutions to the criminal justice system. The leading program of its kind in the country, BPI enrolls more than 300 students across six prisons in New York State and has awarded nearly 400 Bard College degrees. The outcomes are impressive, with less than 2.5 percent of graduates returning to prison; 83 percent of alumni employed in a variety of positions in the public and private sector; and many others continuing their studies and completing graduate degrees at universities including Yale, NYU, Columbia, and across the CUNY system.

Through its Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison, BPI also engages colleges and universities across the United States to create programs based on its model. Currently, BPI is active in fifteen states, with partnerships that include the University of Notre Dame and Washington University. Building on BPI’s record of innovation and creative college opportunity, Kenner launched the Bard Microcollege, which brings ambitious, tuition-free college to the most isolated urban communities. The pilot Microcollege launched this year in Holyoke, MA, and will expand to New York City next year.

Kenner serves as Vice President for Institutional Initiatives and an Advisor to the President on Public Policy & College Affairs at Bard College. In 2014, he was appointed to serve on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s New York State Council on Community Re-entry and Reintegration. He is the recipient of numerous awards and speaks frequently on the topics of higher education and criminal justice issues.

Acceptance Speech