Vivian D. Nixon

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The Reverend Vivian D. Nixon is Executive Director of College & Community Fellowship. As a formerly incarcerated woman and CCF program graduate, Rev. Nixon is uniquely positioned to lead the movement to ensure that justice-involved women and their families have a better future. While incarcerated, Rev. Nixon spent time as a peer educator for the adult basic education program at Albion State Correctional Facility in New York.

During 3 ½ years in prison, Vivian gained clarity about the correlation between access to education and incarceration. She describes her most formative experience as tutoring fellow incarcerated women. In prison, Vivian began to formulate her own ideas about the ways that the criminal justice system disproportionately burdens women. Upon release in 2001, Vivian finished her college degree as a client of CCF, and began applying her perspective to the emerging discourse about criminal justice reform. 

Vivian earned her B.S. with CCF’s help and was appointed its Executive Director in 2006. She is a Columbia University Community Scholar and a recipient of the John Jay Medal for Justice, the Ascend Fellowship at the Aspen Institute, the Soros Justice Fellowship, and the Petra Foundation Fellowship, is a 2017 honoree of the New York Women’s Foundation & Tribeca Disruptive Innovator Awards, and appeared on New York Nonprofit Media’s 2018 50 Over 50 list. She is the Board Chair of JustLeadershipUSA, a nonprofit that empowers those most affected by incarceration to drive policy reform. Currently, Rev. Nixon serves on the Close Rikers design team.

Vivian’s work has changed the conversation around higher education in criminal justice reform. Never content to accept that subsistence living equals reentry success, Vivian has dedicated her personal time and resources to ensuring that major players in the movement – from activists and service providers to philanthropists and policymakers – understand that people with justice histories are still people: they have dreams, skills, and strengths, and are capable of more than minimum-wage jobs.

Rev. Nixon holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the State University of New York Empire State College, and is currently an MFA candidate in creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She will also be a Columbia Teaching Fellow in the MFA program for the school year 2019-20.