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2015 MLK Commemoration Speakers/Presenters/Artists

Honorable Andrew Young
2015 MLK Keynote Speaker

View 2015 Keynote Address 

Andrew Young Jr. is a Diplomat, Educator, Civil Rights Activist, Mayor, Pastor, U.S. Representative (1932–)

On March 12, 1932, Andrew Jackson Young Jr., known as Andrew Young Jr., was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. The product of a middle-class family—his father was a dentist, his mother a teacher—he had to travel from his neighborhood to attend segregated schools. After graduating from Howard University, Young chose to study at Connecticut’s Hartford Theological Seminary. In 1955, he became an ordained minister.

Working as a pastor in Georgia, Young first became part of the Civil Rights Movement when he

The Honorable Andrew Young Jr.

organized voter registration drives. He moved to New York City to work with the National Council of Churches in 1957, then returned to Georgia in 1961 to help lead the “citizenship schools” that tutored African Americans in literacy, organizing and leadership skills. Though the schools were a success, Young sometimes had trouble connecting with the rural students in the program.

As the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was running the citizenship school program, Young became a member of the organization and began working closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Within the SCLC, Young coordinated desegregation efforts throughout the South, including the May 3, 1963 march against segregation during which participants were attacked by police dogs. King valued Young’s work, trusting Young to oversee the SCLC when protests meant that King had to spend time behind bars.

In 1964, Young became the SCLC’s executive director. While in this position, he helped draw up the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He was with King in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968, the day of King’s assassination. Following King’s death, Young became executive vice president of the SCLC.

In 1970, Young left the SCLC to make a run for Congress, but was defeated at the polls. Two years later, he ran again, and this time was elected to the House of Representatives. Young was the first African American to represent Georgia in Congress since Reconstruction. In his time as a legislator, he supported programs for the poor, educational initiatives and human rights.

During Jimmy Carter’s run for the presidency, Young offered key political support; when Carter was in office, he chose Young to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Young left his seat in Congress to take the position. While ambassador, he advocated for human rights on a global scale, such as sanctions to oppose rule by apartheid in South Africa.

In 1979, Young had to resign his ambassadorship, as he had met in secret with Zehdi Labib Terzi, the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s U.N. observer. The resignation did not keep Young from being elected as Atlanta’s mayor in 1981. After two terms as mayor, he failed in his attempt to secure the Democratic nomination to run for governor of Georgia. However, Young was successful in his campaign for Atlanta to host the Olympic Games in 1996.

Young wrote about his role in the fight for civil rights in two books: A Way Out of No Way (1994) and An Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of America (1996). He has also written Walk in My Shoes: Conversations Between a Civil Rights Legend and His Godson on the Journey Ahead (2010). He continues to fight for equality and economic justice with a consulting firm, Good Works International, that supports development initiatives, particularly in Africa and the Caribbean.

As an esteemed civil rights activist, Young has received accolades that include the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Springarn Medal. Morehouse College named the Andrew Young Center for Global Leadership in his honor, and Young has taught at Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies.

Harry Belafonte
2015 Chancellor’s Lecture Series

The oldest son of Caribbean immigrants, Harry Belafonte Jr. spent his early years in New York City. His mother worked as a dressmaker and a house cleaner, and his father served as a cook in the British Royal Navy. As a young child, Belafonte’s parents divorced. The boy was sent to Jamaica, his mother’s native country, to live with relatives. There, he saw firsthand the oppression of blacks by the English authorities, which left a lasting impression on him.

Belafonte returned to New York City’s Harlem neighborhood in 1939 to live with his mother.

Harry Belafonte

They struggled in poverty, and Belafonte was often cared for by others while his mother worked. “The most difficult time in my life was when I was a kid,” he later told People magazine. “My mother gave me affection, but, because I was left on my own, also a lot of anguish.”

Dropping out of high school, Belafonte enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1944. He served in the Pacific during the end of World War II. After being discharged from the service, Belafonte returned to New York City. He seemed directionless for a time, working a series of odd jobs. But Belafonte soon found his career inspiration after attending a performance of the American Negro Theater.

So moved by the performance, Belafonte decided that he wanted to become an actor. He studied drama at the Dramatic Workshop run by Erwin Piscator. His classmates included Marlon Brando, Walter Matthau and Rod Steiger. Belafonte appeared in numerous American Negro Theater productions, but he caught his first big break, singing for a class project. He impressed Monte Kay, who offered Belafonte the opportunity to perform at a jazz club called the Royal Roost. Backed by such talented musicians as Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, Belafonte became a popular act at the club. In 1949, he landed his first recording deal.

By 1950, Belafonte had switched his musical style, dropping popular music from his repertoire in favor of folk. He became an avid student of traditional folk songs from around the world, and started appearing in such New York City folk clubs as the Village Vanguard.

Debuting on Broadway in 1953, Belafonte won a Tony Award for his performance in John Murray Anderson’s Almanac, in which he performed several of his own songs. He also appeared in another well-received musical revue, 3 for Tonight, in 1955.

Around this time, Belafonte launched his film career. He played a school principal opposite Dorothy Dandridge in his first movie, Bright Road (1953). The pair reunited the following year for Otto Preminger’s Carmen Jones, a film adaptation of the Broadway musical. Oscar Hammerstein II had written the musical as a contemporary, African-American version of the opera Carmen, by Georges Bizet. Belafonte received an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Joe, a soldier who falls for the title character, played by Dandridge.

The success of Carmen Jones made Belafonte a star, and soon he became a music sensation. After signing with RCA Victor Records, he released Calypso (1956), an album featuring his take on traditional Caribbean folk music. “The Banana Boat Song (Day-O)” proved to be proved a huge hit. More than just a popular tune, it also had a special meaning for Belafonte. “That song is a way of life,” Belafonte later told The New York Times. “It’s a song about my father, my mother, my uncles, the men and women who toil in the banana fields, the cane fields of Jamaica.”

Calypso introduced America to a new genre of music, and became the first album to sell more than one million copies. Belafonte also worked with other folk artists, including Bob Dylan and the legendary Odetta. The pair sang their version of the traditional children’s song “There’s a Hole in My Bucket.” In 1961, Belafonte had another big hit with “Jump in the Line.”

Belafonte proved to be a ground-breaker in another realm as well: He became the first African-American television producer, working on numerous musical shows. In the early 1970s, Belafonte teamed up with singer Lena Horne for a one-hour special.

Sheryll Cashin
2015 MLK Lunchtime Symposium Keynote Speaker

Sheryll Cashin

Sheryll Cashin, Professor of Law at Georgetown University, teaches Administrative Law, Constitutional Law, and Race and American Law among other subjects. She writes about race relations, government and inequality in America. Her new book, Place Not Race: A New Vision of Opportunity in America (forthcoming Beacon Press, 2014), argues that affirmative action as currently practiced does little to help disadvantaged people and offers a new framework for true inclusion. Her book, The Failures of Integration (PublicAffairs, 2004) was an Editors’ Choice in the New York Times Book Review. Cashin is also a two-time nominee for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for non-fiction (2005 and 2009). She has published widely in academic journals and written commentaries for several periodicals, including the L.A. Times, Washington Post, and Education Week.

Cashin is an active member of the Poverty and Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) and Building ONE America, an emerging national network of state and regional coalitions promoting sustainable growth and social inclusion. She has published widely in academic journals and print media, including in the L.A.Times, Washington Post, and Education Week. She has appeared on NPR All Things Considered, NPR Talk of the Nation, The Diane Rehm Show, The Tavis Smiley Show, The Newshour With Jim Leher, CNN, BET, ABC News, and numerous local programs.

Professor Cashin worked in the Clinton White House as an advisor on urban and economic policy, particularly concerning community development in inner-city neighborhoods. She was law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and Judge Abner Mikva of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She graduated summa cum laude from Vanderbilt University with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. As a Marshall Scholar, she went on to receive a masters in English Law, with honors, from Oxford University and a J.D., with honors, from Harvard Law School, where she was a member of the Harvard Law Review.

Cashin was born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama, where her parents were political activists. She is married to Marque Chambliss and the mother of twin boys, Logan and Langston.

Dr. James Forman Jr.

James Forman Jr. is a Clinical Professor of Law and Supervising Attorney at Yale Law School. He is a graduate of Atlanta’s Roosevelt High School, Brown University and Yale Law School, and was a law clerk for Judge William Norris of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the United States Supreme Court.

Dr. James Forman, Jr.

After clerking, he joined the Public Defender Service in Washington, D.C., where for six years he represented both juveniles and adults charged with crimes. During his time as a public defender, James became frustrated with the lack of education and job training opportunities for his clients. So in 1997, along with David Domenici, he started the Maya Angelou Public Charter School, an alternative school for school dropouts and youth who had previously been arrested. A decade later, in 2007, Maya Angelou School expanded and agreed to run the school inside D.C.’s juvenile prison. That school, which had long been an abysmal failure, has been transformed under the leadership of the Maya Angelou staff; the court monitor overseeing D.C.’s juvenile system called the turnaround “extraordinary.”

James became a full time professor in 2003, when he joined the faculty at Georgetown Law, where he taught until 2011. In 2011, he took a position as a Clinical Professor of Law at Yale.  At Yale, he teaches Constitutional Law, a seminar on Race and the Criminal Justice System, and a clinic called the Educational Opportunity and Juvenile Justice Clinic. In the clinic, James and his students represent young people facing expulsion from school for discipline violations, and they fight to keep their clients in school and on track towards graduation.

James teaches and writes in the areas of criminal procedure and criminal law policy, constitutional law, juvenile justice, and education law and policy. His particular interests are schools, prisons, and police, and those institutions’ race and class dimensions. With the support of the Open Society Foundations, James is currently writing a book about African-American attitudes towards crime and punishment in the age of mass incarceration.

James lives in New Haven with his wife Ify, who is studying to be a nurse practitioner at the Yale School of Nursing, and his son Emeka, who is in kindergarten in the New Haven Public Schools and says he wants to be a policeman when he grows up.

Dr. Dylan Penningroth



Dr. Dylan Penningroth

Dylan Penningroth (Ph.D, Johns Hopkins 2000) specializes in African American history and in U.S. socio-legal history. He is a Professor of History at Northwestern and a Research Professor at the American Bar Foundation. His first book, The Claims of Kinfolk: African American Property and Community in the Nineteenth-Century South (2003), won the Avery Craven Prize from the Organization of American Historians.

His articles have appeared in the Journal of American History, the American Historical Review, and the Journal of Family History. Penningroth’s awards have included an NEH, an NSF, the Huggins-Quarles, a Weinberg College Teaching Award, a McCormick Professorship of Teaching Excellence, and a MacArthur Foundation fellowship.

He received a B.A. (1993) from Yale University and an M.A. (1996) and a Ph.D. (2000) from Johns Hopkins University. From 1999 to 2002 he was Assistant Professor of History at the University of Virginia. Penningroth is currently working on a study of African Americans’ encounter with law from the Civil War to World War II.

Combining legal and social history, the study explores the practical meaning of legal rights for black life. His next project is a study of the legacy of slavery in colonial Ghana. Professor Penningroth welcomes inquiries from prospective graduate students.

Dr. Frank Dobson

Dr. Frank Dobson’s latest book Rendered Invisible, is based in his hometown of Buffalo, NY and other locales.  It examines racial and social relationships, including a little-known but racially-motivated killing spree. As a writer, his work centers on issues of spirituality, race, gender and class. He has previously published a novel, The Race Is Not Given (SterlingHouse, 1999) and several pieces of short fiction, all of which confront masculinity from the perspective of black working-class males, families and communities.

Dr. Frank E. Dobson, Jr.

“Black Messiahs Die” (The Vanderbilt Review, 2005) is a work of historical fiction which uses the shooting of a black male by the police in Cincinnati (and other cities) as the backdrop for an examination of the wrongful death of a young black male athlete. “Homeless M.F.” (Warpland, 1995) examines class and gender through the mindset of a young, black, ex-con.  His one-act play, “Fridays Without Pay” was presented at the 2005 National Black Theatre Festival. It examines black male-female relationships from a historical context. And his full-length play, “Black Messiahs Fly” was presented at the 2007 National Black Theatre Festival.

A revision of that play, “Young Messiahs Fly,” was presented at the Frank Silvera’s Writers Workshop in Harlem, NYC, in April of 2008 and also in Nashville, TN and Toledo, Ohio, in 2010.  Dobson’s scholarly examinations of race, gender and class include a biographical essay, “Reflections of a Black Working Class Academic” which was published in Public Voices (Vol. V, No. 3) and other works. Dobson has produced numerous other scholarly works in print and/or presented at professional conferences. These include the following: the introduction to the Barnes & Noble edition of Folks from Dixie, by the famed poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and a recent article, “Beyond Black Men as Breeders: White Men and the Commodity of Blackness,” which appears in the Vanderbilt University journal, Ameriquests (Vol 6, no 1).

Additionally, Dobson has studied and written on various writers including James Baldwin, Al Young, John McCluskey, John Edgar Wideman, and Carlene Hatcher Polite.  Dr. Dobson has served as Director of the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center at Vanderbilt University since 2004 and Faculty Head of Gillette House in the Martha Ingram Commons since 2008. Educationally, he received his B.A. at the University of Buffalo (SUNY), an M.A. in English from UNLV and the Ph.D. from Bowling Green State University (Ohio).

He received a Ford Foundation fellowship to study at the University of Pennsylvania in 1992, in 1996, received the Hurston-Head Fiction Writer’s Award from Chicago State University, and in 1999, received a CultureWorks Creative Writing Award. Dobson is a native of Buffalo, NY and is married to Dioncia, with three children.

Michael Beschloss

Michael Beschloss is an award-winning historian of the Presidency and the author of eight books, including the bestseller Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America, 1789-1989. His most recent book is Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy, a #1 New York Times bestseller. Beschloss writes a sports history column that appears in The New York Times both in print and online every Satruday, called HistorySource.

Called “the nation’s leading Presidential historian” by Newsweek, Beschloss has made history

Michael Beschloss

himself, serving as the first presidential historian for NBC News—the first time any major network has created such a position. Beschloss has worked as a political analyst for the Cable News Network (CNN) and has appeared as a commentator on a number of television programs, appearing regularly on Nightline, Meet the Press, The Today Show, The Daily Show, and all NBC network programs, he provides expert analysis of the executive branch and is often featured on PBS’s The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. In 2005, he won an Emmy for his role in creating and hosting the Discovery Channel series Decisions That Shook the World.

His New York Times bestseller The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman, and the Destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1941-1945 was lauded as “vigorously written” about “history as it was spoken at the time, and there is not a dull page,” in a front-page review in The New York Times Book Review. Amazon.com also praised it as one of its best-selling history books of the year.

In his keynotes, Michael Beschloss imparts his unique wisdom on the Presidency, sharing the leadership skills that led to various presidents’ successes with corporate as well as general audiences.

Beschloss’ debut, Taking Charge—a highly praised trilogy of best-selling books on the first year of Lyndon Johnson’s presidency and the newly released secret tapes—was called “sheer marvelous history” by The Wall Street Journal and “an important event” by The New York Times. The second volume, Reaching for Glory, was called “an incomparable portrait of a President at work” by The New York Times Book Review.

Beschloss’ first book, Kennedy and Roosevelt: The Uneasy Alliance, started as his senior honors thesis at Williams College. His book, Mayday: Eisenhower, Khrushchev, and the U-2 Affair, was called “a grand narrative… crowded with well-drawn portraits” by The New Yorker. The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khrushchev, 1960-1963, which won the Ambassador Book Prize, was heralded by The New Yorker as the “definitive” book on John F. Kennedy and the Cold War.

Beschloss co-wrote At the Highest Levels: The Inside Story of the End of the Cold War with Strobe Talbott. As literary executor for the late Newsweek columnist Meg Greenfield, he edited her posthumously published book Washington, which was a New York Times bestseller.

An alumnus of Williams College and Harvard University, Beschloss has been a historian on the staff of the Smithsonian Institution, a senior associate member at Oxford University in England, and a senior fellow of the Annenberg Foundation in Washington, DC. He has received the Williams College Bicentennial Medal, the State of Illinois’s Order of Lincoln, the Harry S. Truman Public Service Award from Independence, Missouri, the Ambassador Book Prize, the New York State Archives History Award and was named to Time Magazine’s list of “Best Twitter Feeds of 2013.” He is a trustee of the White House Historical Association, the National Archives Foundation and the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs. He has received honorary doctorates from Lafayette College, Williams College, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Saint Peter’s College, and Governors State University. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and their two sons.

Dr. Sheila Peters

Dr. Sheila Peters

Dr. Peters received a B.A. in Psychology at The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, a M.S. and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at Vanderbilt University, and her Postdoctoral Training in Developmental Psychopathology at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Peters is a licensed clinical psychologist with expertise in working with diverse populations including vulnerable children and youth and their families. Within the Fisk community, she has served as Associate Provost, Chair of Psychology and Faculty Assembly Chair.  She served as Interim Director of the Fisk Race Relations Institute and continues to provide training for cultural competence in communities, institutions and systems of care.  She has co-lectured with former Vice President Al Gore in the multidisciplinary course on Family-centered Community Building.  Dr. Peters serves as the QEP (Quality Enhancement Plan) Director and provides leadership to the infusion of critical thinking across the curriculum with a focus on the entire university community.  In this capacity, she develops staff and faculty training focused on innovative practices in the application of the Paul/Elder framework of critical thinking.  Dr. Peters values service learning and serves as a faculty sponsor to the Fisk C.A.R.E.S. (Compassionate Activism through Responsible Engagement in Service) program.  She has serced as an advisor to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), The Collegiate One Hundred , the N.A.A.C.P. College Chapter, WHO(Women’s Health Organization and the Alpha Beta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Dr. Peters is a national expert on youth development in the juvenile justice arena and provides training and technical assistance on gender-specific programming for females as well as males at risk for entering the juvenile justice. She has worked with youth for over twenty years including serving as a Board member to Realsports Leadership Academy, a mentoring programming focusing on positive life skills for student-athletes.  As she continues to serve as a volunteer for the I Have a Future program, she is the former Coordinator of Community Services for this adolescent health promotion initiative founded at Meharry Medical College and recognized as the 404th Point of Light.   Her work in the area of sports psychology has afforded her the opportunity to serve as the clinician for the Tennessee Titans organization.

Her civic obligations have included serving as past President of the Nashville Branch of the N.A.A.C.P., former commissioner and chair of the Metro Human Relations Commission,   former commissioner of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth., the Oasis Center and NashvilleRead.  She serves as an Board member to Tennessee Voices for Children.  She is a former member of Societas Docta, Inc. and  the Coalition of 100 Black Women.  Currently, she is a member of the Parthenon Chapter of the Links, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta, Inc.  Nashville Alumnae Chapter, and the Nashville Women’s Breakfast Club.

Dr. Stella Flores

Stella Flores holds an Ed.D. in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy with a concentration in Higher Education from Harvard University, an Ed.M. from Harvard University, an M.P.Aff. from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. from Rice University. Prior to joining Vanderbilt, she served as a program evaluator for the U.S. General Accountability Office and as a program specialist for the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Professor Flores has also served as a policy researcher for the Texas State Legislature and various city governments in Texas.

Prof. Stella Flores

Professor Flores’ work employs large-scale databases and quantitative methods to investigate the impact of state and federal policies on college access and completion for low-income and underrepresented populations. She has written on the role of alternative admissions plans and financial aid programs in college admissions, demographic changes in higher education, the role of the Hispanic Serving Institution in U.S. higher education policy, and Latino students and community colleges. Her work has been cited in the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court Gratz v. Bollinger decision (dissenting opinion) and in various amicus briefs in the Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger Supreme Court cases on affirmative action in higher education admissions. Her publications also include two edited volumes, Legacies of Brown: Multiracial Equity in American Education published by the Harvard Educational Review (with Dorinda J. Carter and Richard J. Reddick) and Latino Educational Opportunity published by Jossey-Bass as part of the New Directions for Community College series (with Catherine L. Horn and Gary Orfield).

Professor Flores currently teaches courses in college access policy and general education policy. Her recent work includes an examination of the effect of in-state resident tuition policies on the college enrollment and persistence of undocumented students across the United States, an analysis of institutional response to federal and state changes in race-conscious admissions policies and programs, and an investigation of the interaction of state and institutional financial aid policies targeted at low-income students also across the United States.

Catherine Deane

Catherine Deane

Catherine Deane is an immigrant from Trinidad and Tobago and has personal experience navigating the complexity of everyday racism, sexism and classism in the South as a cultural outsider. With an A.B. in Cultural Anthropology from Princeton University, an M.A. in Anthropology and a J.D. from the University of Tulsa, her experiences are filtered through the lens of her scholarly knowledge of the legal and cultural implications of race and racism in the United States.

Ms. Deane also has a Master’s degree in Library Science from San Jose State University. She teaches Transnational Legal Research at Vanderbilt Law School, where she is the Foreign & International Law Librarian/Lecturer-in-Law. At Vanderbilt, she curated the First Amendment section of the Fight for Freedom Exhibit currently on display on the 4th floor of the Central Library building.

At the 2014 American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Annual Meeting & Conference she was a panelist at the Diversity Symposium on The Faces of Immigration where she shared her personal experiences of nigrescence in contemporary America. She blogs for her professional organization, AALL, and has broached the difficult topics of diversity and culture in law librarianship.

Ms. Deane is a feminist, artivist, agnostic with Buddhist tendencies. After coming to the U.S. for college in 1994, she lived in Tulsa, OK, Los Angeles, CA, San Francisco/Oakland, CA & San Diego, CA, performing in amateur venues as a singer, aerial artist, spoken word artist and fire dancer. She has been living with her partner and 2 dogs in Nashville since she moved here from San Diego, CA in 2013.

Rev. Henry Blaze

Re. Henry Blaze

Reverend Henry Blaze is the pastor of Progressive Baptist Church, a Nashville congregation with a distinguished history of community service and justice ministries. Rev. Blaze has been one of the faith leaders at the fore of advocacy for social and economic justice in Tennessee. He served as Co-Chair of the TennCare Statewide Coalition, a group dedicated to fighting the disenrollment of beneficiaries from the TennCare program. Rev. Blaze is also the chair of our Public Relations Committee.

Rev. Blaze has served at American Baptist College as the Director of Continuing Education. While at the College, he spent five years as Coordinator for the Garnett-Nabrit Lecture Series, targeted at increasing the awareness of clergy and lay leaders on issues affecting African-American religious communities. He has also taught courses at the College in Ethics, the Bible, and Black Church History. Rev. Blaze is the author of “An Analysis of Capitalism, Surplus Value and African Americans: A Proposal for Ministry to Move Toward Economic Justice.”

Rev. Blaze graduated from Texas Southern University in 1990 with a B.A. in Sociology and Psychology. He received his Master of Divinity degree from Vanderbilt University in 1993. He received his Clergy License from McGee Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Houston in 1982 and was ordained in Progressive Baptist Church. Married to Cynthia Ann Wilson for twenty-eight years, he and his wife are the proud parents of four children: Yolanda, Jennifer, Henry IV, and LaShun P.

Dr. Andrew Imparato

Andrew Imparato has served as executive director of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) since September, 2013.  As a disability rights lawyer and policy professional with more than two decades of experience in government and advocacy roles, Imparato has worked with bipartisan policymakers to advance disability policy at the national level in the areas of civil rights, workforce development, and disability benefits.  Prior to coming to AUCD, he was senior counsel and disability policy director for Senator Tom Harkin on the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.  Before that, he spent 11 years as President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities, a national membership organization working to grow the political and economic power of the disability community.  Imparato’s perspective is informed by his personal experience with bipolar disorder.

Andrew Imparato

Since joining AUCD, a national network of over 100 university-based programs that conduct research, training and advocacy to improve the quality of life of children and adults with disabilities, Imparato has helped the organization broaden the scope of its advocacy and expand its leadership capacity.  Imparato is currently serving on two bipartisan panels developing recommendations for reform of the Social Security Disability Insurance program and has spearheaded a national “Six by ‘15” campaign designed to leverage next year’s milestone anniversaries of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to focus public attention on the areas where the disability community wants to see more progress.  This campaign has been endorsed by over 140 disability organizations.

Imparato’s work has been recognized by the Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Transportation, the US Junior Chamber of Commerce, the National Council on Independent Living, the National Association of the Deaf, and the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation.    He has testified nine times before Committees of the US Senate and House of Representatives and has been interviewed on a wide range of disability issues by national television, radio and print media.  He cultivates grassroots activism on social media and is known for seeking out and mentoring emerging leaders with disabilities.  He co-authored articles that have been published in the Stanford Law and Policy Review and the Milbank Quarterly, and wrote a chapter on the Supreme Court’s disability rulings in The Rehnquist Court:  Judicial Activism on the Right (Hill & Wang 2003).  Imparato graduated summa cum laude from Yale College and with distinction from Stanford Law School.  He lives in Baltimore with his wife Betsy Nix and their 15 year-old son Nicholas.

Student Artist/Presenters

Justin Hua

Justin Hua is a first-year master’s student at Peabody College at Vanderbilt University pursuing an M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration with concentrations in Student Affairs and Higher Education Policy. Justin is also a Graduate Assistant in the Office of Intercultural Affairs and an Admissions Evaluator for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. A native South Floridian, Justin Hua comes to Vanderbilt University after three years in the Office of Admission and Financial Aid at his alma mater, Davidson College where he served as Assistant Dean of Admission. In 2011, Justin earned a B.S. in Psychology and a concentration in Neuroscience while balancing involvement with residence life, student career development office, multicultural student organizations, and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

Katherine Nash

Katherine Nash is a sophomore undergraduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences double majoring in Neuroscience and Race and Poverty in the United States and minoring in Chemistry. Katherine is involved on campus as a Resident Advisor on the Commons, a senator in Vanderbilt Student Government, a committee chair in Hidden Dores, a volunteer at the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital and a member of Kappa Delta Sorority.

Devin White

Devin Thomas White was born and raised in Oakland, California. He moved across the country to attend Cornell University where he majored in English and Philosophy. He entered with intentions of being a lawyer, but after a very stressful law internship the summer after his freshman year he reevaluated his plans. Like most people in Student Affairs he fell into it and fell in love with it. He will be studying Student Affairs and Policy in Peabody’s Higher Education Administration program and hopes to take his knowledge and experiences to a Ph.D program directly afterward. His hopes are to focus his research on diversity and social justice so he can improve the student life of minority and low income students.

Katy Lucci

Katy Lucci is a first-year master’s student at Peabody College at Vanderbilt University pursuing a M. Ed. in Higher Education Administration with a concentration in Student Affairs. Katy is a Graduate Assistant in the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life. In 2013, Katy graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.S. in Political Science and Public Policy with a concentration in Education Policy. During her time at UNC, Katy was heavily involved in Student Government, Carolina Leadership Development, and the Presbyterian Campus Ministry. Katy comes to Vanderbilt after serving as a Presidential Intern for the University of North Carolina General Administration. Katy’s hometown is Columbus, Ohio.


Alexis Jackson

Alexis Jackson is a senior at Vanderbilt University studying Creative Writing and Studio Art. She originates from Memphis, TN and has been inspired by the city’s deep civil rights history.  She intends for her work to explore the histories and complexities of systemic racism in America. Through photography, she hopes to create a dialogue examining how far this country has come since the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. She is involved with multiple student organizations including The Vanderbilt Chapter of the NAACP and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Matt Sinclair

Matthew Sinclair currently serves as the Area Coordinator for Warren|Moore College Halls at Vanderbilt University. Matthew’s career began when he was making his college choice. Deciding between two institutions in North Carolina, he arrived at Guilford College—a small, private Liberal Arts College. The institution’s Core Values prompted Matthew to begin thinking about matters of social justice and ways in which he could become involved in the surrounding community—wherever that might become. After serving as Resident Advisor for three years, Matthew enrolled in the Master of Education in Higher Education Administration program at Peabody College in an effort to continue his work with college students. With a focus on Enrollment Management, he completed his Masters in 2013 and immediately transitioned into the Department of Residential Education here at Vanderbilt. Matthew plans to continue his work in Residential Education and eventually pursue Doctoral study in educational leadership and/or higher education policy.