Renford Reese received his Ph.D. in public policy from the University of Southern California's School of Policy, Planning, and Development. He conducted his dissertation research on ethnic conflict and intergroup relations at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) in Geneva, Switzerland. He received his Master's degree in public policy from the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies and his Bachelor's degree in political science from Vanderbilt University. His mother was his high school principal and his father is the late pioneer journalist, Earnest Reese. Dr. Reese is a professor in the political science department at Cal Poly Pomona. He has traveled to over 100 countries and has been the faculty coordinator of 18 Study Abroad programs in 11 countries at Cal Poly Pomona. He is a former guest columnist for the Los Angeles Daily News and the author of 11 books. He is also the author of the Starbucks "The Way I See It" Quote #294. In 2009, Reese was awarded the prestigious Fulbright Scholars Award and lectured in the American Studies program at the University of Hong Kong. He is the founder of the Prison Education Project, the Reintegration Academy, and the Colorful Flags program. Reese produced a short film with Emmy-Award winner Saul Landau and he has produced 8 documentaries that have won various film festival awards. He is one of the co-founding executive directors of the CSU Project Rebound Consortium for formerly incarcerated students. He has developed prison education initiatives in Uganda and Scotland. He was the recipient of the George P. Hart "Faculty of the Year" award at Cal Poly Pomona and the Haynes Foundation Faculty Fellowship. Reese was featured on ESPN's "Realizing the Dream" series and appears as a commentator on the Biography Channel's mini-bios on Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson. He mentored Rodney King in the late 1990s. The South African concept of "Ubuntu" (humanity) is integrated throughout Reese's work: "I am because we are." A fun fact about Dr. Reese is that he is one of the only professors in the nation who has participated in the NFL Combine. He was a standout defensive back at Vanderbilt.
Professor Reese meets with South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Tutu's office in 1998 at Emory University while he was a Visiting Scholar. Reese met with Bishop Tutu to discuss the Colorful Flags program and the South African concept of Ubuntu. Reese traveled to South African in 2000 and learned more about Ubuntu and came back to the U.S. and popularized this concept through his work. Reese pronounces the word as he first heard it: "Unbutu."
Professor Reese shares a moment with the legendary television producer Norman Lear at his home.
Lear passed at the age of 101 on December 5, 2023. Reese's Los Angeles Daily News OpEd on Norman Lear, December 6, 2023.
Panel hosts a special show for 500,000 prisoners throughout the U.S. who were coping with COVID-19: Christmas 2021
Dr. Reese shares lessons learned with actor Larenz Tate. Reese brought Tate to the CRC-Norco prison to dialogue with inmates on November 9, 2012.
Children listen while Dr. Renford Reese speaks about the importance of education at the Los Angeles Clippers' Ryan Hollins' Youth Basketball Camp at John Muir High School (Pasadena Star News, August 1, 2012: SGVN/ Photo By Sarah Reingewirtz).