Featured Speakers

Dr. Michael J. Sorrell

Sunday, October 20 | 5:00-6:15 p.m. 

Dr. Michael J. Sorrell is the longest-serving president in the 146-year history of Paul Quinn College. During his 11 years of leadership, Paul Quinn College has become a small, private, minority-serving institution that, by focusing on the most persistent, prevalent and pressing problems of our society, is remaking higher education and becoming a movement.

During President Sorrell’s tenure, Paul Quinn College has won the HBCU of the Year, the HBCU Student Government Association of the Year and the HBCU Business Program of the Year. Additional achievements include the college being recognized as a member of the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the creation of the New Urban College Model, achievement of full-accreditation from the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, the first faculty-led study abroad program, and much more.

Sorrell was recently named to Fortune Magazine’s list of the World’s 50 Greatest leaders. Washington Monthly Magazine identified him as one of America’s 10 Most Innovative College Presidents. Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr. and PUSH/Excel honored him with its Education Leadership Award, and Sorrell is also the recipient of the Dallas Bar Association’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Justice Award. Additionally, the Dallas Business Journal named him one of Dallas’ Forty Under 40 in 2011, the same periodical that awarded him a Minority Business Leaders Award.

Sorrell serves as a trustee or director for the Center for Minority Serving Institutions at the University of Pennsylvania, Amegy Bank, Dallas Advisory Board of Teach for America, the Dallas Foundation, the Holdsworth Center for Educational Leadership, and Earth Day Texas. Sorrell received his J.D. and master’s in public policy from Duke University and his Ed.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.
While in law school, he was one of the founding members of the Journal of Gender Law & Policy and served as the vice president of the Duke Bar Association.

Sponsored by 


Whitney Johnson

Monday, October 21 | 8:30-10:15 a.m. 

Whitney Johnson, CEO of WLJ Advisors, is an innovation and disruption theorist, best-selling author, sought-after executive and performance coach, and management consultant. She is recognized as one of the world’s most influential management thinkers by Thinkers50 and Fortune. Johnson specializes in helping leaders grow their awareness, building the skills needed to achieve maximum success in their organizations. Senior executives seek out Johnson’s coaching and consulting expertise because she understands that productive workplace cultures begin with the leader. She excels at helping leaders break through to new levels of personal and organizational effectiveness. Johnson’s services utilize her exclusive proprietary tools, such as her S-Curve coaching framework and team disruption diagnostics, which were first developed after co-founding the Disruptive Innovation Fund with Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen. At WLJ Advisors, she has mastered her formula for helping executives and organizations harness the unpredictability of change so they can thrive in today’s volatile business environment.

Johnson’s best-selling book, Build An A-Team: Play to Their Strengths and Lead Them Up the Learning Curve, is being used by leaders globally to build the culture and attract the talent they need to reach their big goals. This follow-up to her critically acclaimed Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work (2015), outlines the key strategy to having an engaged, productive and innovative workforce, which is having a plan for developing all employees — no matter where they are on their personal learning curves. Using her book’s frameworks, Johnson works with leaders to shape how their organizations embrace and manage disruption by leading individuals and teams up the S-curve of change.

Prior to WLJ Advisors, Johnson was an award-winning Wall Street analyst. She is one of Marshall Goldsmith’s original cohort of 25 for the #100 Coaches Project, is a coach for the Harvard Business School’s Executive Education program, frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, a LinkedIn influencer and hosts the Disrupt Yourself Podcast.


Presidents Panel

Tuesday, October 22 | 8:00-10:15 a.m.

The Challenges of Our Presidents Are the Challenges of Higher Education HR Leaders

  • Our student population is changing.
  • We struggle to attract and retain diverse faculty and staff.
  • Public confidence in higher education is declining.
  • The cost to provide a meaningful high-quality education is increasing, yet we are being challenged to cut costs.
  • Seeking funding from donors and other external sources is a high priority.
  • Pressure is increasing to prepare students for jobs, when our role is to also prepare students for lives of leadership and service.

These are some of the top-of-mind challenges for our presidents and chancellors, so they must also be top-of-mind challenges for higher education HR leaders. During this interactive session, leaders of three very different higher education institutions will share the key challenges they face and help us clearly identify ways that we, as higher education HR leaders, can help lead efforts to address them.

Panelists: Elizabeth Davis, President, Furman University; Steve Wrigley, Chancellor, University System of Georgia; Yves Salomon-Fernández, President, Greenfield Community College

Moderator: Marie Williams, Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources, North Carolina State University

Sponsored by  


Michele Norris

Tuesday, October 22 | 8:00-10:15 a.m.

Michele Norris is a Peabody Award-winning journalist, founder of The Race Card Project and executive director of The Bridge, The Aspen Institute’s new program on race, identity, connectivity and inclusion.

For more than a decade Norris served as a host of NPR’s All Things Considered where she interviewed world leaders, American presidents, Nobel laureates, leading thinkers and groundbreaking artists. She has also produced in-depth profiles, interviews and series for NPR News programs as well as special reports for National GeographicTime Magazine, ABC News and Lifetime Television. Norris created The Race Card Project, an initiative to foster a wider conversation about race in America, after the publication of her family memoir, The Grace of Silence.

Before joining NPR in 2002, Norris spent almost 10 years as a reporter for ABC News in the Washington Bureau. She has also worked as a staff writer for The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times. In 2014, Norris earned a Peabody award and the Distinguished Dialogue Award for her work on the Race Card Project.

In 2009, she was named “Journalist of the Year” by the National Association of Black Journalists. The NABJ recognized Norris for her coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign — when she co-hosted NPR’s Democratic presidential candidates’ debate, covered both conventions, anchored multi-hour election and inauguration live broadcasts and moderated a series of candid conversations with voters on the intersection of race and politics. That series earned Norris and Morning Edition Host Steve Inskeep an Alfred I. DuPont -Columbia University Award for excellence in broadcasting.

Norris was honored with NABJ’s Salute to Excellence Award, for her coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the 1990 Livingston Award for a series about a six-year-old who lived in a crack house. That series was reprinted in the book, Ourselves Among Others, along with essays by Vaclav Havel, Nelson Mandela, Annie Dillard and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

In 2010, Norris’ book, The Grace of Silence: A Memoir was published. In the book she turns her formidable interviewing and investigative skills on her own background to unearth long hidden family secrets that raise questions about her racial legacy and shed new light on America’s complicated racial history. The Grace of Silence has been selected for community reads in Minneapolis, Seattle, St. Cloud, Rochester, and several college and high school campuses including Michigan State, Sacramento State, Coe College, Monmouth and USC.

She graduated from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where she studied journalism. She also attended the University of Wisconsin where she studied electrical engineering. Norris is also a former Shorenstein Fellow at The Harvard Kennedy School. She serves as a judge for the John Chancellor Awards at Columbia University and she was on the 2015 judging panel for the US Documentary Competition at the Sundance Film Festival. Norris, who created and hosted NPR’s Backseat Book Club, also received a Children’s Choice Book Award for being an “outspoken and enthusiastic advocate for reading.”

She and her husband, Broderick Johnson, have three children and live in Washington D.C.

Sponsored by  


Fiona McEvoy

Tuesday, October 22 | 11:00 a.m.-Noon

Fiona J. McEvoy is a writer, researcher and founder of YouTheData.com, a platform for the discussion of technology, AI and the use of data in our society.

Fiona holds a graduate degree in philosophy, with a special focus on ethics and technology and her thesis paper, “Decisions, decisions: Big Data and the Future of Autonomy” has been published by the Annals of the University of Bucharest as part of their series on emerging technology. Since graduating and founding YouTheData.com, Fiona has also written thought pieces for a number of popular technology publications, including Slate, VentureBeat, All Turtles, Chatbots Life and Becoming Human.

She has presented her ideas to Stanford University, the 2018 RE•WORK Summit in San Francisco, and the world’s largest AI for business conference. Fiona was recently named one of the 30 Women Influencing AI in San Francisco by RE•WORK.

Before studying, Fiona spent nearly 10 years working as a campaigner, PR and public affairs specialist in the UK, dealing with a range of agencies, think tanks, charities and trade associations. She also holds two bachelor’s degrees in English literature & drama and classical studies.