As an environmental activist and founder of the Sundance independent film festival, Robert Redford has long worked to call attention to issues he is passionate about.

“There is no greater change agent or role model than Robert Redford,” said fashion designer and philanthropist Kenneth Cole ’76C, introducing the Academy-Award-winning actor and director as keynote speaker of the 2003 Kenneth Cole Leadership Forum. The two-day event, held at Emory in January, focused on how businesses can regain the public trust and partner with communities to create social change.

Redford said he traveled across the country from his home in Utah to show support for the Cole Fellowship in Community Building and Social Change, established last year with a $600,000 grant from Cole and organized through Emory’s Office of University-Community Partnerships. This year, Cole announced that in Redford’s honor he is adding environmental and documentary components to the program.

“I think there’s some synchronicity here with what we’ve done at Sundance, empowering people in new ways and giving voice to a community,” Redford said.

Cole fellowships are designed to assist and inspire “the next generation of change agents” to find ways to strengthen inner-city neighborhoods. Through classwork, field experiences, and site visits, the seventeen inaugural fellows took on issues like affordable housing, women and HIV/AIDS, gentrification, and traffic congestion and pollution. The fellows presented their projects during the conference, highlighting solutions they had devised–from creating an affordable housing database to encouraging a neighborhood to form a walking group and publish a newsletter.

A new group of seventeen Emory sophomores and juniors have been selected for the 2003 fellowship class. As the 2002 fellows thanked Cole, who was watching their presentations from the front row, they cautioned their successors that “once you’re a Kenneth Cole fellow, you’re a Kenneth Cole fellow for life.”–M.J.L.

Read a profile of Emory senior and Kenneth Cole Fellow Christopher M. Richardson.

For additional information about the Kenneth Cole Fellowship Program in Community Building and Social Change, go to:



© 2003 Emory University