2017 Speakers

We are adding new speakers all the time. Check back often!

Title:

A Framework for Addressing Pervasive Racial Disparities

Description:

This presentation will critique the dominant consensus on race and how it gives rise to social and institutional dynamics that lead to racial disparities. It will then present systemic racism framework as an analytic tool to address issues of racial discrimination.

Bio:

Wornie Reed obtained his Ph.D. in Sociology at Boston University.  Currently, he is Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies and Director of the Race and Social Policy Research Center at Virginia Tech University. Previously, he developed and directed social science research centers at three universities, including the William Monroe Trotter Institute at UMass/Boston. Among his scholarly accomplishments, Reed directed the project, “Assessment of the Status of African Americans,” which involved 61 scholars and resulted in the production of a four-volume work published by Auburn House Publishers.  He is past president of the National Congress of Black Faculty (1990-1993) and the Association of Black Sociologists (2000-2001). Currently, he is a member of the Steering Committee of the Montgomery County Dialogue on Race Project.

Title:

The Anthropocene: Where are We Heading?

Description:

We are accelerating towards the future: artificial intelligence, rapid urbanization, supercharged innovation, global connectivity, and billions pulling themselves out of poverty to join the middle class. Real obstacles to sustaining development exist. Between now and 2050 we must almost double food and energy consumption, perhaps more than double urban infrastructure, mitigate and adapt to climate change, transition from a linear to a circular economy, overcome mounting water stress, employ several million new workers a week, and manage widening inequity and the social unrest it causes. Some paths into the future lead to amazing opportunities; others lead to horrendous misery. This talk examines strategies for navigating the challenges and realizing the opportunities.

Bio:

Dr. Hull is a professor in the College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech who writes and teaches about leadership for sustainable development in the Anthropocene and how to influence change in the cross-sector space where government, business, and civil society intersect. He is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability based in Arlington Virginia, which provides graduate education, executive, and professional development opportunities for sustainability professionals. He is President of the Board of Climate Solutions University, whose mission is to help communities adapt to climate change. He also serves on the advisory council for VT’s Global Change Center and Center for Communicating Science. He has authored and edited numerous publications, including two books, Infinite Nature and Restoring Nature.

Title:

Beyond Informality: A new approach to inclusive cities

Description:

As cities deal with the effects of climate change and population growth, informal practices have become more common over the years. Although these practices are often stereotyped as urban mistakes, acknowledging the potential of the informal sector, and paying attention to what we can learn from it, could lead to the start of a new approach to alleviate poverty, empower isolated communities, and promote sustainable development.

Bio:

Vanessa is an architect and urban planner who is currently a researcher and doctoral student in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech. Her research interests include urban interventions (such as urban regeneration, public space, sustainable transport, slums clearance) as potential contributions to poverty reduction and sustainable development. She has presented her work in several conferences across the United States and South America, and has spoken at a TEDx event in Quito-Ecuador.

Prior to Virginia Tech, Vanessa worked as a project architect, participated with the University of Melbourne-Australia in the project “How Sustainable Transport Networks Build Great Cities” at Munich and Zurich, and taught at USFQ University in Quito-Ecuador, where she also coordinated the seminar “Ecuador towards Habitat III”. She is currently a member of the Global Forum for Urban Regional Resilience (GFURR), a member of the Regional Studies Association (RSA), and co-founder of LIGNUM, an architecture and urbanism firm in Ecuador.

Title:

Libraries: Transforming Your Community

Description:

The American Library Association’s Libraries Transform public awareness and advocacy campaign effectively conveys the transformative nature of today’s libraries and the critical role they play in the digital age. Since 2015, more than 7,100 libraries and supporters have joined the effort using the campaign in a variety of ways, including to support a referendum campaign, advocate for state funding, and make an impact with students. Jeff Julian, director of the ALA’s public awareness office, will talk about how the Libraries Transform campaign’s messaging, strategy, and tools are resonating with libraries and the public on a local and national level.

Bio:

Jeff Julian is the director of the Public Awareness Office for the American Library Association, which oversees the Libraries Transform public awareness and advocacy campaign, media relations, and crisis communications.

Julian previously served as the executive director of communications at Elgin (Ill.) Community College. In this position, he was responsible for leading strategic media and public relations programs, projects and campaigns to promote, enhance, and protect the image, reputation, and brand of Elgin Community College, a public community college serving approximately 12,000 students in a 360-square-mile district. Prior to joining the Elgin Community College staff, Julian served as the director of communications and external relations at Joliet (Ill.) Junior College.

Julian has a Master’s degree in English Studies from Elmhurst (Ill.) College and a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Communications from the University of St. Francis, Joliet, Ill. He is a member of the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the National Council of Marketing and Public Relations, the Public Relations Society of America and holds a certification from the Crisis Leadership in Higher Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Julian serves as co-chair of the Advisory Board of Directors of Girls Rock! Chicago, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering girls’ creative expression, positive self-esteem and community awareness through rock music.

Title:

The Grandin Theatre Film Lab – Community Connectivity through Experiential Student Filmmaking

Description:

Join Grandin Theatre Executive Director Ian Fortier as he shares the process, pitfalls, and positive outcomes of developing the Grandin Theatre Film Lab, a unique model for experiential student Filmmaking in the Roanoke Valley.  Learn how this community based program not only works directly to help teenagers find their voice and creativity through the cinematic medium, but also the multiple ways in which the Lab serves the community that supports it.

Bio:

Ian Fortier is the Executive Director of the Grandin Theatre Foundation.  Prior to his arrival he served as the Director of Patron Services at the Jefferson Center for nearly 5 years.  Ian has been a nonprofit professional for over 20 years. After earning his undergraduate degree in Geography from the University of Vermont. Ian cut his teeth in Washington, DC, working and volunteering for such organizations as the National Geographic Society, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, and the American Lung Association.  He is an avid traveler, visiting over 47 countries and living in six of them.

Arriving in Southwest Virginia in 2007, Ian has been very active in community endeavors, including serving on the Roanoke Arts Commission’s Parks and Arts Committee, the Roanoke City Downtown Planning Advisory Committee, and is a Board Member of the Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op and the Grandin Village Business Association.  Ian has also volunteered teaching veteran’s guitar lessons at the VA, and shuttling orphan dogs to new homes up and down I-81. He is also a Special Olympics coach.

Ian earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration with a focus on nonprofit management from the James Madison University satellite program at the Roanoke Higher Education Center.  In his spare time, Ian is an avid mountain biker, a commissioned stained glass artist, and the emotional and disruptive captain of his two-time defending champion Roanoke City Men’s Ice Hockey Team.  He has a 11 year old black Labrador mix name Livvy, a 4 year old Shiz Tsu named Paul, a beautiful Bulgarian wife, Mariana, and their 9-year old, wide-eyed mischievous son Alex.

Title:

Redrafting the Plot Line: Data as the Protagonist in Placemaking

Description:

If your “To-Do” list includes grandiose plans to change the world, it’s important to have a handle on the current state of affairs. Data can provide the essential context needed for developing innovative and impactful projects, establishing cross-sector partnerships, and inciting community-level change. Using the Roanoke Valley Community Healthy Living Index as a platform, we will consider how health disparities can illuminate inequities in neighborhood-level infrastructure and healthy living resources to set the stage for innovative placemaking. In this way, we can consider data as a catalyst rather than a destiny.

Bio:

Dr. Liz Ackley is a fervent Roanoke enthusiast and community partner. An Associate Professor in Health and Exercise Science at Roanoke College, Liz devotes her time to serving as a committed bridge-builder between the research and service sectors in the Roanoke Valley. As director of the Roanoke Valley Community Healthy Living Index and team lead for the Roanoke City Invest Health Initiative, Liz works with area neighborhoods to better understand complex relationships between community-level infrastructure, perceptions of access to healthy living resources, and health outcomes. Liz is an avid runner, biker, and urban farmer, and is thankful to call Roanoke home.