Documentarian Betsy West Announced as 2019 Bedford Hills Commencement Speaker

The video journalist, producer, and filmmaker, who most recently co-directed the Oscar-nominated documentary RBG, will give the 2019 keynote address at the Bedford Hills College Program’s Commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 23.

About the Speaker
A professor of Professional Practice in Media and Society at Columbia Journalism School, Betsy West is a filmmaker and video journalist with three decades of experience in news and documentaries. Most recently, she co-directed the theatrical documentary, RBG (CNNFilms, Magnolia, Participant), alongside Julie Cohen. The film premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and went on to earn numerous awards and over 40 nominations, including an Academy Award for Best Documentary.

During her work as a producer and executive at ABC News, West received 21 Emmy Awards and two duPont-Columbia Awards for her work on Nightline, PrimeTimeLive, and on the documentary program Turning Point, where she served as executive producer from 1994–1998. From 1998 until 2005, she served as Senior Vice President at CBS News, overseeing 60 Minutes and 48 Hours, and was executive in charge of the CBS documentary 9/11, which won a Primetime Emmy Award in 2002. 

About the BHCP
Through the Marymount Manhattan College Bedford Hills College Program (BHCP), women who are incarcerated at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Bedford Hills, New York, enroll in college-preparatory courses as well as courses leading to Associate of Arts degrees in Social Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees in Sociology and Politics and Human Rights. Marymount Manhattan College is the sole degree-granting institution of the BHCP and, since its inception in 1997, more than 200 degrees have been granted to incarcerated women who have completed their academic requirements.

To celebrate their accomplishments, the program hosts a commencement ceremony each year, during which family, friends, and supporters can visit the graduates and witness them walk proudly across the stage to accept their diplomas. At this year’s ceremony, six women will be granted Bachelor of Arts degrees and 14 will receive Associate of Arts degrees.

The Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women is New York State’s only maximum-security prison for women. As with all education programs for people within the prison system, the BHCP remains the single most effective tool for decreasing the likelihood of a return to prison. The recidivism rate among released BHCP graduates is virtually zero, as compared with the national average of 43.9 percent for women.