Indy Gupta
Published 11/18/2021
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Episode 13Imagine a mythical land where 80% of people are black, where everyone empowers people of color, where everyone values education, and where the biggest event of the year is not the Super Bowl but the Quiz Bowl. Indeed, this land does exist! Here, in the US!

“It’s not just that it’s 80% Black… everyone empowers Black.”
“Hurricane Marilyn (Category 5 Hurricane) messed up our house.”
“I’d never heard of MIT… I only applied to MIT.”
– Jelani Nelson, Professor EECS at UC Berkeley

In Today’s Episode:

  • We visit an immigrant land right inside the US, a land that is quite different from the mainland US!
  • We talk to acclaimed theoretician Jelani Nelson, who grew up in the US Virgin Islands and then went to MIT. And who created perhaps the most successful CS program for school kids in Africa, AddisCoder.
  • Given the discussion around systemic racism in the US, one might be surprised to learn that systemic racism is far less common, and “Everyone empowers Black” on the US Virgin Islands. Hear about the land where everyone values education, and the biggest event of the year is not the Super Bowl but the Quiz Bowl!
  • Hear Jelani’s experience of living through Category 5 Hurricane Marilyn as a child in 1995.
  • Hear Jelani’s experience of starting AddisCoder the US CS schoolkids program in Ethiopia, and the legwork he did to get the program started. (Also USVICoder in US Virgin Islands).
  • Hear how Jelani and his school friends had never heard of MIT… and yet, Jelani only applied to MIT, and he received both his BS (dual degree) and his Ph.D. from MIT.
  • What would you conclude — can the mainland US emulate the US Virgin Islands and its education culture?

Hear about all these, and Jelani Nelson’s amazing genius and grit on this unusual Episode 13.

The guide for this episode and more information is available at the podcast website:


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