HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST
UT Martin, ’90
Part of the Tennessee Alumnus’ 100 Distinguished Alumni feature.
Van Jones took the UT Martin campus by storm. As arguably the most controversial editor of the student newspaper, The Pacer, to date, Jones published flaming headlines each week and forced students and administrators to face the day’s most pressing issues. He left campus with a bachelor’s degree in both communications and political science and has been changing the world ever since.
Jones is a frequent CNN contributor, an internationally recognized human rights activist, the author of two New York Times bestsellers and founder of multiple organizations for social and environmental justice. A graduate of Yale Law School, Jones has used his knowledge of the media and legal system to shed light on police corruption and provide support for disadvantaged youth.
“Since Van’s goal was to change the world, I can’t be surprised he has gone out and actually done that,” says Jerald Ogg, UT Martin provost and one of Jones’ former professors.
Jones is the recipient of numerous national and international awards for his work in human rights, including the Reebok International Human Rights Award in 1998, which, for human rights activists in their 20s, has been compared to a Nobel Prize. In addition to his work in this field, Jones was also the main advocate for the Green Jobs Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007, and served as Green Jobs adviser to the President Barack Obama administration.