Opening Plenary Speaker

Byron Pitts
Co-Anchor, ABC's Nightline  

Known for his thought-provoking coverage and commitment to exceptional storytelling, Byron Pitts is a multiple Emmy award-winning journalist and co-anchor of ABC’s Nightline. In 2013, Pitts became an anchor and the Chief National Correspondent at ABC. Prior to working for ABC, Pitts was the Chief National Correspondent for CBS Evening News With Katie Couric. He was also CBS’s lead correspondent at Ground Zero immediately following the September 11th attacks and won an Emmy for his coverage.

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George Takei

Closing Plenary Speaker

George Takei
Actor, Social Justice Activist, Social Media Mega-Power  

With a career spanning five decades, George Takei is known around the world for his founding role in the acclaimed television series Star Trek. But George Takei's story goes where few stories have gone before. From a childhood spent with his family wrongfully imprisoned in a Japanese American Internment Camp during WWII, to becoming one of the country's leading figures in the fight for social justice, LGBTQ rights, and marriage equality—George Takei remains a powerful voice on issues ranging from politics to pop culture.

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Diane Jones 250x250

Federal Relations General Session Speaker

Diane Auer Jones
Principal Deputy Under Secretary
U.S. Department of Education

Diane Auer Jones serves as principal deputy under secretary at the U.S. Department of Education. In this role, she is delegated to perform the duties of under secretary and assistant secretary for postsecondary education.

Jones also brings to the Department extensive experience in public policy, having served as a program director at the National Science Foundation, as a professional staff member and acting staff director for the Research Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, and as the deputy to the associate director for science at the White House Office on Science and Technology Policy. In 2006, Jones was nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate to serve as assistant secretary for postsecondary education at the U.S. Department of Education.
Menah Pratt-Clarke 250x250

Diversity General Session Speaker

Menah Pratt-Clarke
VP, Strategic Affairs & Vice Provost for Inclusion and Diversity
Virginia Tech

Menah Pratt-Clarke is the Vice President for Strategic Affairs and Vice Provost for Inclusion and Diversity at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). She is also Professor of Education in the School of Education in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, with affiliations in Africana Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, and the Department of Sociology.

She has more than 20 years of administrative, academic, and legal experience in higher education, with a focus on executing and coordinating large-scale strategic initiatives that promote institutional transformation. Prior to joining Virginia Tech, she had senior administrative positions and faculty positions at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Vanderbilt University.  As a scholar-administrator, she believes in the importance of praxis and using scholarship to inform and lead change in higher education.

Keith David Watenpaugh

International Luncheon Speaker

Keith David Watenpaugh
Professor and Director of Human Rights Studies
University of California, Davis

Keith David Watenpaugh is Professor and Director of Human Rights Studies at the University of California, Davis, and teaches courses in Human Rights, Genocide, and Humanitarianism. Since 2013, Watenpaugh has directed an international multi-disciplinary research project to assist refugee university students and scholars fleeing the war in Syria. This project has garnered support from the Carnegie Corp. of New York, the Open Society Foundations and the Ford Foundation.

His team developed and deployed in the Middle East, the Article 26 Backpack™ -- The Universal Human Rights Tool for Academic Mobility. At its core, it provides refugee young people with a way to safely store and share with universities, scholarship agencies, credential evaluation services, and even employers their educational background, employment history, professional achievements and goals. The Backpack builds connection and inclusion. Watenpaugh is an expert on human rights and refugees in the Middle East. He has lived and worked in Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Armenia, Iraq and Egypt.
Dennis Livesay

Graduate & Professional Schools Luncheon Speaker

Dennis Livesay
Dean and Professor, College of Engineering, Wichita State University

Dr. Dennis R. Livesay is an expert in graduate enrollment management and the evolving credentialing landscape. His career prominently features a number of successful new program development activities, including broad adoption of stackable certificates and other types of alternate credentials. He is currently the dean of the College of Engineering at Wichita State University, and has served in many different academic roles, including Associate Vice President of Research and Technology Transfer, Dean of the Graduate School (both also at Wichita State), Provost Faculty Fellow, Interim Dean of the College of Computing and Informatics, Founding Director of the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology PhD program, and Founding Director of the Charlotte Research Scholars (the last four all being at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte).

Dr. Livesay received his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2000 and started his academic career immediately thereafter at California State Polytechnic University at Pomona.