Featured Speakers and Guests

Sunday - Opening Plenary Speaker

Soledad O’Brien was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of fame in May 2023. She is an award-winning documentarian, journalist, speaker, author, and philanthropist, and founder of Soledad O’Brien Productions, a media production company dedicated to telling empowering and authentic stories on a range of social issues. She anchors and produces Matter of Fact with Soledad O'Brien, a Hearst political magazine program seen in 95% of the country. She is a correspondent for HBO Real Sports.

With Congress deadlocked, the Department of Education has utilized the regulatory process to advance the Administration’s higher education goals with various Negotiated Rulemaking committees. Join government relation representatives from NACUBO, CUPA-HR, NASFAA and AACRAO as they share their insights into the negotiated rule making process and how these regulations could impact all institutions of higher education.

headshot of Philip Hunt

Moderator: Philip Hunt, Special Assistant to the President & University Registrar, North Dakota State University and AACRAO Vice President for Leadership and Management Development

Serves as Special Assistant to the President & University Registrar at North Dakota State University where he is responsible for the supervision and operation of the Registration and Records Office. He also coordinates strategic planning for retention and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

Photograph of Bill Gil

Panelist: William Gil, Senior Director of Government Affairs, AACRAO

As AACRAO's Senior Director of Government Affairs, Mr. Gil implements the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers' (AACRAO’s) public policy agenda. He also oversees federal government relations, legislative, policy, and regulatory matters that could impact the AACRAO membership, which comprises 11,000 individual members at over 2,600 higher education institutions.

Photograph of Rob Shomaker

Panelist: Rob Shomaker, Senior Vice President, CUPA-HR

Rob Shomaker is the senior vice president of The College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR). He is also involved with multiple national board committees and is regularly engaged in the financial, budgetary, and strategic direction of the association. Rob serves as an External Board Member on the AACRAO Board of Directors.

Panelist: Ashley Jackson, Director of Government Relations, NACUBO

Ashley N. Jackson is a seasoned professional in government affairs and policy, holding a Master’s in Business Administration and Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies from the University of Maryland Global Campus. As the Director of Government Affairs at the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), she leads advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill, focused on shaping policies affecting business officers including higher education reauthorization and tax policy. 

Panelist:  Rachel Rotunda, Director of Government Affairs, NASFAA

Rachel contributes to NASFAA's policy and advocacy efforts, representing the association before congressional members and staff and working to enhance the advocacy capacity of its members. Prior to joining NASFAA, Rachel worked in higher education policy analysis and research in Washington, D.C., and began her career in higher education as a high school college advisor assisting low-income and first-generation students through the college application and financial aid process.

Tuesday - Plenary Speaker (A.M.)

Brandon Busteed is the CEO of BrandEd, a family-owned education company that delivers relevant, experiential courses taught by industry experts from the world’s best brands including Sotheby’s, Conde Nast, The New York Times, and City Football.

The challenges of growing up black and female in apartheid South Africa have been the foundation of the Rev. Nontombi Naomi Tutu’s life as a motivational speaker and activist for human rights. Those experiences taught her that our whole human family loses when we accept situations of oppression, and how the teaching and preaching of hate and division injure us all.

Growing up the “daughter of Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu” has offered Naomi many opportunities and challenges in her life. Perhaps one of the greatest struggles was the call to ministry. She knew early in life that the one thing she would never be was a priest. She always said, “I have my father’s nose, I do not want his job.” It refused to be silenced, even as she carried her passion for justice into other fields. The call to preach and serve as an ordained clergyperson continued to tug at her. Finally, in her 50s, she responded and went to seminary. She is an Episcopal priest who most recently served as Associate Rector at All Saints, Beverly Hills. She currently resides in Atlanta where she is a priest associate at All Saints’ Episcopal.

Wednesday - Closing Plenary Speaker

Dr. Sorrell has spearheaded one of the great turnaround stories of our time — leading Paul Quinn’s evolution from a failing institution to a higher education powerhouse. As the longest-tenured president in the college’s history, Dr. Sorrell has led the implementation of purpose-driven programs and initiatives that have improved graduation rates exponentially, reduced average student loan debt dramatically, and instilled a “WE Over Me” mentality in students, faculty, and the community at large.

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