Academy Award-nominated actress Maggie Gyllenhaal has starred in a wide range of films, from Hollywood blockbusters to quirky, off-beat indies, such as the cult classic "Donnie Darko." Born in 1977, her parents are both filmmakers and her brother is the famous actor Jake Gyllenhaal. Like her brother, she started acting in her teens, but it was with her role in the 2002 black comedy "Secretary" that Gyllenhaal started to garner recognition in the industry. In a few short years, Gyllenhaal had built a reputation as a brilliant, sophisticated actress with a flair for idiosyncratic characters who make their own paths in life. For Gyllenhaal, her own path only kept getting brighter as she landed bigger roles, such as a co-starring spot in the 2008 blockbuster "The Dark Knight," followed by her supporting part in 2009's "Crazy Hearts," which earned  Gyllenhaal her first Academy Award nomination. Gyllenhaal is also a supporter of Witness, a non-profit that exposes human rights violations. In addition, for the past nine years, she's been supporting Hear the World Foundation as an ambassador.

More than a talented actress, Gyllenhaal is also the recipient of an Ivy League education. In 1995 she graduated from the prestigious L.A.-based prep school Harvard–Westlake and moved to New York to attend Columbia University. After at one point studying under fellow actress Uma Thurman's father, the Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at the time, Gyllenhaal graduated from Columbia in 1999 with a degree in English literature and Eastern religions.

Ten years after her graduation, Gyllenhaal returned to her alma mater to receive one of Columbia's highest alumni awards: the John Jay Award for "distinguished professional achievement." During the ceremony, Columbia pride flowed freely as awardees were introduced by John Jay scholars before they received their plaques. Taking the podium, Gyllenhaal reflected on her experience at Columbia. "I've been trying to think about what it really means to learn something," she remarked. "I was raised to feel like I had to be amazing all the time... It's not the way to learn anything." Then she said she realized that learning requires a "living, breathing experience," as exemplified by her Columbia education, which taught her to "acknowledge that I really know nothing."