Previous Keynote Speakers

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2021 Symposium - Finding Joy in the Struggle (Virtual)

Featured Storytellers


Shar-Ron Buie, Community Liaison, Educational Preparedness Program, Marquette University

Facilitator - Dr. Robert Smith, Harry G. John Professor, History Department; Director, Center for Urban Research, Teaching & Outreach

Shar-Ron was born in Madison in 1967. He graduated from East High School and went on to serve with honor and distinction in the Marine Corps. He holds a paralegal degree, associates degree in Electronics, a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with Honors from UW Platteville. In 1992, he had a conflict with a former friend that resulted in his death. In 1994, after pleading no contest to his death, he was given a life sentence in the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. While in prison he founded the first American Legion Post in prison and served as its first elected Commander. He served as a Veterans Service Representative at four institutions, and founded a Veterans Outreach Program that provides representative service to incarcerated veterans. He wrote two educational programs for the DOC that has assisted almost 300 men in obtaining their HSED’s since 2000. He received several Letters of Appreciation from corrections officials including former and he earned 63 certifications and diplomas. On June 30, 2020, he was paroled from prison after serving 25 years.

Since my release from prison, he achieved his Certification as a Peer Support Specialist. He also began completion of his Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice from UW Platteville. He will graduate in 2022 with that degree. He currently works for Porchlight Inc. as a Peer Support Specialist working with and for Veterans. He also works for JustDane as the Health Navigator who specializes in promoting the Covid Vaccines. Finally, he is the Community Liaison for the Education Preparedness Program at Marquette University. In this capacity he hopes to effectuate a systemic change in the criminal justice system.


 Ron Smith

Mr. Ron Smith, Instructor of Practice, Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Diedrich College of Communication; and Editor/Program Director, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Facilitator - Dr. Sarah Feldner, Dean, Diedrich College of Communication

Ron Smith is an instructor of practice in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at Marquette University’s Diederich College of Communication and the editor/program director for the award-winning Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service.  The nonprofit service provides evidenced-based journalism coverage of Milwaukee’s communities of color and is staffed by professionals, student-journalists and community residents. Before his current role, Ron served as the managing editor for news at USA TODAY.  In addition, he was the deputy managing editor for daily news and production at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, where he oversaw the breaking news hub, production desks and was the key point person for print story selections and workflow. 

Ron has been blessed to work in newsrooms across the country, including The Oregonian, the Los Angeles Times and Newsday. He began his professional career as a reporter and editor for two weekly newspapers in the Los Angeles area before becoming a political reporter for a daily legal publication in downtown Los Angeles.  He’s also worked as an advertising sales director and as the interim student adviser for New Expression, a citywide teen publication written by and for Chicago youths that had a monthly circulation of 70,000.  He has edited several Pulitzer Prize-winning reports and is known for championing great journalism and the great journalists who produce great works. 

In addition, Ron has been active in the National Association of Black Journalists, the American Copy Editors Society and the Online News Association. A sought-after speaker, Ron has led sessions for Poynter, American Society of News Editors, National Association of Black Journalists and the Asian American Journalists Association. He served as the co-leadership chairman for the American Society of News Editors and worked as an instructor for the organization’s Emerging Leaders Institute, which trains diverse mid-career professionals to be newsroom leaders. Ron serves on the board of directors of the Institute for Nonprofit News and sits on the mentorship and networking committee for the News Leaders Association.

He holds a master's degree in Leadership Studies, with a specialization in Public Service from Marquette University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in communication studies. He "proceeds until apprehended” and is not afraid to roll up his sleeves to help others -- all while having fun and bringing a little “Ronshine” along the way.

Keith Stanley

Mr. Keith Stanley, Executive Director, Near West Side Partners

Faciltiator - Ms. Rana Altenburg, Office of Public Affairs

Keith Stanley is the Executive Director of Near West Side Partners, Inc., where he’s charged with spearheading revitalization, community cohesion, and neighborhood sustainability efforts to strengthen Milwaukee’s Near West Side. Since the organization’s launch in 2015, Stanley has played a critical role in the success of numerous achievements for the Near West Side, including:

  • Launching PARC, a 3-year, $5+ million, anchor-funded initiative designed to support the NWSP mission by promoting assets to transform the perception of the neighborhood and address neighborhood crime-related challenges.
  • Expanding BID #10, which included the entire Near West Side neighborhood and allowed for a 300% increase in funds and resources to the community.
  • Securing $800,000 in matching funds from Milwaukee County, bringing $1.6 million in new investment as part of the NWS Economic Development Fund.
  • Assisting in securing the 2018 HUD Award, a $1.3 million Choice Neighborhood Planning Grant.
  • Securing a $350,000 grant from the City of Milwaukee for branding and streetscaping of the Near West Side.

Stanley is also the Executive Director of the Avenues West Association and the newly expanded New West Side BID #10. Previously, Stanley served as the Program Manager of the SOHI Main Street Program, and he was Chief of Staff to then Common Council President Willie Hines, Jr.

Stanley was named as Milwaukee Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 winner in 2016. He was awarded BizTimes Nonprofit Executive of the Year in 2017. He received the Young Alumni Award from the Milwaukee Public Schools Foundation in 2017. In 2018, he was selected for the 2018 Class of the Young American Leaders program of Harvard University. He received the 2018 Diversity in Business Award from the Milwaukee Business Journal. Most recently, he was selected for the United Way’s Philanthropic 5 in 2019.

Stanley serves on the boards for City on the Hill Milwaukee, Wisconsin Humane Society, Messmer Catholic Schools, and Wisconsin Community Services. In addition, he serves on the Aurora Sinai Community Steering Council and Marquette University Police Department Advisory Board.

Stanley is an alumnus of Alabama State University.


Francesca Mayca Wegner, Executive Director, Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee

Facilitator - Ms. Jacki Black, Director for Hispanic Initiatives and Diversity & Inclusion Educational Programming, Marquette University

Francesca Mayca Wegner (she/her/ella) is HPGM’s newest Executive Director. She joined HPGM in April 2021 after serving as Senior Director of Development and Communications for Sojourner Family Peace Center. Prior to Sojourner, Francesca served in various roles in Marquette University’s advancement department after starting her career in sales with the Milwaukee Bucks.

She brings extensive experience building and sustaining strategic relationships with various stakeholders on behalf of nonprofit, higher education, and corporate organizations. Throughout her career, she has championed the intentional creation of spaces where others can bring their whole selves to their work and feel valued.

As an extension of her work at HPGM as an advocate and connector, Francesca serves on the MATC President's Task Force on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, as well as the Marquette University Hispanic-Serving Institution Advisory Committee.

Francesca is passionate about investing in the Greater Milwaukee community with organizations focused on mentoring, equitable access to education, and animal welfare. She serves on the Board of Directors for both the Washington County Humane Society and the Hispanic Collaborative, the HERA (Higher Education Regional Alliance) Steering Committee, and as a mentor in the Nativity Jesuit Academy mentoring program.

A proud two-time Golden Eagle, Francesca earned both her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Master of Business Administration degrees from Marquette University.
In her free time, you can find Francesca cozied up with a good book and a local cup of coffee or spending time with her husband, Ted, and two dogs, Michael Jordan and Scottie.


Dr. O'Rell Williams, Regional Medical Director, Ascension Wisconsin

Facilitator - Dr. Dan Bergen, Executive Director of Community Engagement, Marquette University

Dr. O’Rell Williams, is the Regional Medical Director for Ascension Wisconsin. He received his undergraduate training at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus with a bachelor’s degree in biology and completed medical school training at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Dr. Williams completed his residency in internal medicine at Aurora Sinai Medical Center in Milwaukee. He is an Associate Clinical Professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin and previously served as a hospitalist and the Chief of Staff at Ascension St. Joseph.

He is an experienced and dedicated healthcare leader who has a clear and strategic vision for compassionate, personalized clinical care. Dr. Williams has been involved in education and research activities and is a committed and active community member serving on many community coalitions in the Ascension St. Joseph neighborhood. He’s also a Vincent High School graduate and a former Milwaukee firefighter.

2020 Symposium - Community Engagement Conversations (Virtual)

PART 1: Community Engagement Conversations: Pursuing Racial Justice and Equity through Community Engagement

Visit here to watch the recording


Presenters Meralis Hood, Comm ’01, Market President, City Year; Antonina Olszewski, Director of Spiritual Care Services, Ascension Wisconsin; Dr. William Welburn, Vice President for Inclusive Excellence, Marquette University. Moderated by Sheena Carey, Jour ’81, Grad ’83, College of Communication, Marquette University

We are excited to announce a series of Community Engagement Conversations focusing on issues of racial equity, the social determinants of health, and COVID-19. These critical issues panels will include leaders from various sectors among our community and will take place in the fall and spring semesters. Join panelists as they consider the various settings within which they work and the approaches they have taken to advance racial justice and equity through their efforts in community engagement. Whether identifying and changing institutional, or industry policies and procedures, or leveraging more intentional and strategic initiatives to elevate opportunities through partnership, participants will discuss the critical role that racial justice and equity must play in current and future efforts in community engagement.

PART 2: Community Engagement Conversations Part 2: Pursuing Justice in Public Health and Equity through Community Engagement

Visit here to watch the recording


Presented by Agnes Berzsenyi, President and CEO, Women's Health & X-Ray, GE Healthcare; Daniel Guzman King, Council Member for the Oneida Nation; Mary Jessen, Director of Community Benefit, Ascension Wisconsin;
Moderated by Dr. Dora Clayton-Jones, Ph.D., R.N., C.P.N.P.-P.C., Grad ’99, Grad ’14, Assistant Professor, College of Nursing, Marquette University

Join us for the second of two Community Engagement Conversations hosted by the Office of Economic Engagement focusing on issues of racial equity, the social determinants of health, and COVID-19.

Prior to the panel discussion, the program will begin with opening remarks by Reggie Newson, Vice President and Chief Advocacy Officer, Ascension Wisconsin, and Peggy Troy, Nurs ’74, President and Chief Executive Officer, Children’s Wisconsin, member of the Marquette University Board of Trustees. Dr. Kimo Ah Yun, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs will present the Community Engaged Award winners and Rev. James Voiss, S.J., Vice President, Mission and Ministry will provide an Ignatian Examen.

Our panelists will consider the broad and significant impacts the pandemic has created and exposed across various sectors. Learn about the approaches their organizations are taking to respond to the public health crisis while advancing equity and justice through their community engagement efforts. Whether addressing public health policies and procedures or leveraging more intentional and strategic programs to elevate opportunities through partnership, panelists will discuss the critical role that community engagement must play in current and future efforts to advance justice in public health and equity.

2019 Symposium


Grady L. Crosby

Grady L. Crosby

Vice President Public Affairs, Chief Diversity Officer and President, Johnson Controls Foundation

Grady L. Crosby is a Corporate Officer of Johnson Controls and is responsible for leading Johnson Controls’ global diversity and inclusion strategy, sustainability thought leadership, LATAM government relations strategies, and its philanthropic endeavors, in order to enhance enterprise business objectives and maintain the company’s commitment to social responsibility, community involvement and the environment. In this role, Crosby continues to drive Johnson Controls’ commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive workforce as well as partnering with a diverse vendor/supplier base aligned with company values. In addition, Crosby also leads the Johnson Controls enterprise sponsorship capability.

Crosby joined Johnson Controls in 2011 as vice president and global general counsel for the Power Solutions business. In that position he supervised all legal operations associated with that business, and served as a member of the company’s senior legal leadership team providing support to the Johnson Controls General Counsel.

Previously, Crosby held positions with Hanesbrands, Inc., National Textiles and Sara Lee Corporation.


Annie Kubes

Annie McGinnity Kubes

Executive Director, McGinnity Family Foundation

Annie McGinnity Kubes is a native of Milwaukee, graduate of UW-Milwaukee, and spent the first 15 years of her career in MPS where most recently she served as the Coordinator of City-Wide Programs for the Recreation Department. Prior to her work in Recreation, Annie was an MPS Teacher.

Annie was recently named the first executive director of the McGinnity Family Foundation which works to elevate the voice of young people by funding their game changing, socially innovative ideas for addressing community-based challenges. Her role with the Foundation combines her passion for youth leadership development with her interest in using philanthropy as a vehicle for creating sustainable positive change in communities.

Annie was given a voice as a young person while serving as a member of Youth Advisory Councils at both the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and the Volunteer Center of Greater Milwaukee. She credits these formative experiences with her first exposure to both the giving and receiving sides of philanthropy, building a solid foundation of leadership capabilities and fueling her passion for empowering young people to lift their voices. Annie lives in Milwaukee with her husband and two sons.


Naya Jones

Naya Jones

Postdoctoral Fellow, Medical College of Wisconsin

Naya Jones, PhD is a geographer, holistic practitioner, and healing arts strategist. Her engaged research with community partners uses arts-based and body-centered methods for social change. Her current partnerships focus on food sovereignty, cultural healing ways, and wealth-building with communities of color. Naya is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Medical College of Wisconsin and a national Culture of Health Leader, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Learn more about her work and partners at Naya Jones' website.


Janan Najeeb

Janan Najeeb

President, Milwaukee Muslim Women's Coalition

An educator, social justice advocate and community builder, Ms. Najeeb is able to mobilize diverse communities to counter hatred and bigotry and find common ground. A scientist by profession, Ms. Najeeb left her career to work tirelessly for a just and equitable society.

Ms. Najeeb engages thousands of people every year. She runs the Islamic Resource Center, which hosts Wisconsin's first Islamic public lending library and cultural center. She is founder of the Milwaukee Muslim Film Festival and publisher of the Wisconsin Muslim Journal. She is the first Muslim to open the floor of the Wisconsin State Legislature with a prayer. Ms. Najeeb lives by the motto, if you are not actively part of the solution, then you are part of the problem!


Shauntay Nelson

Shauntay Nelson

Wisconsin State Director - All Voting is Local 
The Leadership Conference Education Fund

Shauntay Nelson brings a deep background in policy and government and years of effective networking skills, facilitation, public policy, organizing, and strategic planning. She is a registered lobbyist and her successes include lobbying for the expansion of early voting locations in the city of Milwaukee (leading up to the 2018 election), influencing legislation introduction around automatic voter registration, redistricting, and voting rights, and influencing the outcome of Executive Orders from the Governor’s office. Shauntay is one of the primary contacts for nonpartisan issue advocacy in the state of WI; working with the Evers Administration and the State Legislature to draft, submit, and introduce policy for the state.


Tracey Sparrow

Tracey Sparrow, Ed.D.

President, Next Door Foundation

Dr. Tracey Sparrow joined Next Door in 2015. She previously served as Vice President for Children’s Programs at the Milwaukee Center for Independence and as President of the Milwaukee Academy of Science. Next Door works in the Direct Service pathway: We are addressing the immediate needs of low income children and families in Milwaukee through early childhood education and family support services.


2018 Symposium

Dr. Howard Fuller, 2018 Symposium Keynote Speaker

Dr. Howard Fuller

Distinguished Professor of Education, Marquette University

Founder/Director, Institute for the Transformation of Learning

Howard Fuller’s career includes many years in both public service positions and the field of education. Dr. Fuller is a Distinguished Professor of Education, and Founder/Director of the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The mission of the Institute is to support exemplary education options that transform learning for children, while empowering families, particularly low-income families, to choose the best options for their children.

Immediately before his appointment at Marquette University, Dr. Fuller served as the Superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools June 1991 - June 1995. Dr. Fuller became nationally known for his unending support for fundamental educational reform.

His prior positions included: Director of the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services 1988 -1991; Dean of General Education at the Milwaukee Area Technical College 1986 - 1988; Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Employment Relations 1983 - 1986; and Associate Director of the Educational Opportunity Program at Marquette University 1979 - 1983. He was also A Senior Fellow with the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University 1995 - 1997.

Dr. Fuller received his B.S. degree in Sociology from Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin, in 1962; M.S.A. degree in Social Administration from Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1964, and his Ph.D. in Sociological Foundations of Education from Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1986.

He has received numerous awards and recognition over the years, including four Honorary Doctorate Degrees: Doctorate of Humane Letters from Carroll College in 1987; Doctorate of Laws from Marian College, Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin in 1992; Doctorate of Business and Economics from Milwaukee School of Engineering in 1995. Doctorate of Humane Letters from Edgewood College, Edgewood College, Madison WI. He is also a member of the Charter School Hall of Fame of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

He serves on the Board of Milwaukee Collegiate Academy, Milwaukee Region Board of Teach for America, FaithActs, Milwaukee Charter School Advocates, The Black Teacher Collaborative and Education Cities. He is an Advisory Board member of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

His memoir, No Struggle No Progress was published in 2014.

2017 Symposium


Dr. Timothy K. Eatman, 2017 Symposium Keynote Speaker

Dr. Timothy K. Eatman

Social Scientist, Educator – Publicly Engaged Scholar

Timothy K. Eatman, Ph.D. is the inaugural dean of the Honors Living Learning Community (HLLC) and professor of urban education at Rutgers University Newark. He also serves as Faculty Co-Director of Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life (IA). A national consortium of over 100 higher education institutions and community based partners working at the nexus of the cultural disciplines (humanities, arts and design) and community engagement, IA founded and initially headquartered at the University of Michigan and now at Syracuse University has been Tim’s primary network of operation and leadership for over a decade.

An educational sociologist who earned the 2010 Early Career Research Award from the International Association for Research on Service Learning and Community Engagement (IARSLCE) Tim was elected to its board of directors in 2016. He is a widely sought after speaker, workshop facilitator, and collaborator who has earned local, national and international recognition for his leadership in advancing our understanding of the multi-faceted impact of publicly engaged scholarship in the university of the 21st century.

Tim has published in such venues as the Journal of Educational Finance and Readings on Equal Education, Diversity and Democracy, The Huffington Post, and has written several other book chapters and reports including the widely cited Scholarship in Public: Knowledge Creation and Tenure Policy in the Engaged University, a seminal IA research report on faculty rewards and publicly engaged scholarship. This work extends to a study of the aspirations and decisions of graduate students and early career scholars. He is co-editor of The Cambridge Handbook of Service Learning and Community Engagement. The core of Dr. Tim’s research takes up questions of equity in higher education and the larger society. Most recently he has been appointed to the design team for Truth Racial Healing & Transformation, a W.K. Kellogg Foundation multiyear Initiative.

Navigating a range of conversations and collaborations critical to the amelioration of higher education, Tim strategically focuses his energy to participate in important efforts like The Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) Summer Institute on High Impact Practices which he has served as a faculty member for since its inception in 2011. He sits on the editorial board of University of Michigan Press - The New Public Scholarship book series, Urban Education, Diversity, and Democracy and reviews for several scholarly journals and publications. Tim is a member of the Advisory Panel for the Carnegie Engagement Classification for Community Engagement.

Tim received his Ph.D. in educational policy studies at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a master’s degree in college student development at Howard University, and a bachelor’s degree in early childhood development at Pace University. For more information, please view Dr. Eatman's website.