Charles P. Alexander was born and raised on the Southside area of Chicago, IL by his grandmother and later his uncle. While attending college at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale he held the title of President of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., SIUC chapter while also revitalizing the Black Male Roundtable at SIUC. Charles is currently a Communication Professor at Saint Xavier University in Chicago, Illinois. He has been speaking on many topics pertaining to hope, minority entrepreneurship, self-empowerment, and the significance of higher education.
Dr. Claudia Alexander
Dr. Claudia Alexander has a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in Space Plasma Physics. She has a Master's Degree from UCLA, and a Bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley. She served on NASA's historic Galileo mission to Jupiter, eventually becoming the Project Manager, where she had the pleasure of crashing the spacecraft into the planet (on purpose!). She served as Project Staff Scientist on the equally historic Cassini mission to Saturn; as the Principle Investigator of a future mission concept called 'Gem;' and currently serves as the U.S. Project Scientist on NASA’s contribution to the International Rosetta mission. She studies surface bound exospheres of frozen bodies such as Jupiter's moon Ganymede, thermophysical properties of comets, and recently the properties of the collapse of the natal solar nebula.
Dr. Kwang-Wu Kim
Kwang-Wu Kim, D.M.A., is President and Chief Executive Officer of Columbia College Chicago. Appointed by a unanimous vote of the Board of Trustees and the Presidential Selection Advisory Panel, President Kim has served in this role since July of 2013. He assumed the role as Dean of the Herberger College of the Arts at Arizona State University and the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. Dr. Kim holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree and an Artist Diploma from the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. He received his bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, magna cum laude, from Yale University.
Jackie Spinner is an Assistant Professor of Journalism at Columbia College Chicago and the Chicago-Based Correspondent for Columbia Journalism Review's United States Project. She was a U.S. Fulbright Scholar in Oman and taught journalism at Sultan Qaboos University in 2010-2011, where she founded Al Mir’ah, the university’s first independent student newspaper. Jackie writes, shoots photos and produces audio slideshows and video for the Web. She has contributed to the Christian Science Monitor, Foreign Policy, Slate, Glamour and American Journalism Review. She is the author of Tell Them I Didn’t Cry: A young journalist’s story of joy, loss and survival in Iraq (Scribner 2006). She is also the Co-Director of Conflict Zone, a groundbreaking multimedia exhibit from the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan.
John VanDeusen Edwards
John VanDeusen Edwards is the founder of the Food is Free Project. In January of 2012, The Food is Free Project hosted a launch party to share the idea with the community and within 5 weeks you were in the minority on Joe Sayers Avenue if you didn't host a Food is Free garden. After open-sourcing the idea, over 200 cities around the world have joined the movement to start Food is Free Projects of their own and plant true seeds of change.
Lisa Goldman is a dancer, teacher, and dance/movement therapist. Her therapeutic work helps those in in-patient psychiatric facilities, children and adolescents in the DCFS system, teen moms, and brain injury survivors.
Luvvie Ajayi is an award-winning writer and digital strategist who thrives at the intersection of comedy, technology and activism. She was named a 2015 Black Innovator by XFINITY Comcast, along with Ava DuVernay and Issa Rae. In 2012, she made history by being one of the first brown/black bloggers to do press coverage at the Academy Awards. She is also winner of the Women’s Media Center’s 2012 Social Media Award for using her voice and humor for pop culture critique, gender and racial justice.
Matthew Hoffman is a Chicago-based artist & designer whose public works have been exhibited internationally. His ideas and work have been included in Good, the New York Times Magazine, and Ready Made. He has been published in books by Gestalten, Droog, and Taschen, and was featured in a segment on the Oprah network. Matthew was recently recognized in the New City's Design Top 50: Who Shapes Chicago 2014 (March 2014), and was awarded Best Established Artist in the Chicago Reader's public poll (June 2014).
Literary Director of 2nd Story and Writer - Megan Stielstra is the author of the essay collection Once I Was Cool. Her writing is included in The Best American Essays, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Poets & Writers, The Rumpus, and featured on NPR, Chicago Public Radio, and Radio National Australia. She’s the Literary Director of the critically-acclaimed 2nd Story storytelling series and has told stories for all sorts of theaters, festivals, and bars (many, many bars) including the Goodman, Steppenwolf, Museum of Contemporary Art, Neo-Futurarium, and regularly with The Paper Machete live news magazine at The Green Mill. She is the Associate Director of The Center For Innovation in Teaching Excellence at Columbia College Chicago and teaches in the MFA Program at Northwestern University.
Parker Stockman is a storyteller. He's told stories with 2nd Story, You're Being Ridiculous, Story Club, and Outspoken, as well as other live literature series. He is published at Role Reboot and Chicago Literati, and he is an adjunct instructor for Florida Gulf Coast University. He also works as a communications specialist for a Fortune 100 company.
Roger Lee is the owner and director of Roger Lee Dance, LLC, founder and executive director of Philadelphia Arts and Entrepreneurship Festival, and an adjunct professor in the Urban Studies Graduate Program at Eastern University and in the Dance Department at Temple University. He has 13 years of experience teaching dance and has worked with celebrities including American Idol Winner Ruben Studdard, The Voice Finalist Matt Schuler, Grammy-nominated gospel recording artist Vicki Winans, Philadanco's Joan Myers Brown, Comcast's Suzanne Roberts, 6 ABC's Melissa Magee, FOX 29's Mike Jerrick, and Darrin's Dance Grooves' Darrin DeWitt Henson. Roger earned his Master's Degree in Arts Administration (magna cum laude) from Drexel University and his Bachelor's Degree in both Dance and Media & Communication Studies (magna cum laude with honors) from Ursinus College. He is also an alum of Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts and Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts.
Sliman J. Bensmaia is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago where he is also a member of the Committees on Neurobiology and on Computational Neuroscience. Bensmaia received a B.A. in cognitive science from the University of Virginia in 1995, and a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in 2003, under the tutelage of Mark Hollins. Bensmaia has received the prestigious CAREER award from the National Science Foundation, an early career award from the IEEE Technical Committee on Haptics, and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from UNC. His work is regularly featured in the mainstream media, including the Chicago Tribune, Chicago magazine, CBC, WIRED, etc.