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2017 Keynote Presenters

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Matthew Desmond, PhD

"Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” - PRESENTATION SOLD OUT

Location: Pigott Auditorium 104
Time: Morning Keynote: 10:45 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Themes: Cross-Cultural and Global Understanding, Social Justice

Description of Presentation

Matthew Desmond, PhD Matthew Desmond, PhD Book Cover

Evicted is astonishing—a masterpiece of writing and research that fills a tremendous gap in our understanding of poverty. Taking us into some of America’s poorest neighborhoods, Desmond illustrates how eviction leads to a cascade of events, often triggered by something as simple as a child throwing a snowball at a car, that can trap families in a cycle of poverty for years. Beautiful, harrowing, and deeply human, Evicted is a must read for anyone who cares about social justice in this country. I loved it.” – Rebecca Skloot

MacArthur “Genius” Matthew Desmond’s New York Times best-selling book, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (2016), draws on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data. This landmark work of scholarship and reportage takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge. Arleen is a single mother trying to raise her two sons on the $20 a month she has left after paying for their rundown apartment. Scott is a gentle nurse consumed by a heroin addiction. Lamar, a man with no legs and a neighborhood full of boys to look after, tries to work his way out of debt. Vanetta participates in a botched stickup after her hours are cut. All are spending almost everything they have on rent, and all have fallen behind.

Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid, intimate prose, Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality—and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship. As Jacob Blumgart of Slate writes, “Desmond’s book manages to be a deeply moral work, a successful nonfiction narrative, and a sweeping academic survey—all while bringing new research to his academic field and to the public’s attention.”

Author Biography

“Desmond is an academic who teaches at Harvard—a sociologist or, you could say, an ethnographer. But I would like to claim him as a journalist too, and one who… has set a new standard for reporting on poverty.” – Barbara Ehrenreich

Matthew Desmond is John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences and co-director of the Justice and Poverty Project at Harvard University. His primary teaching and research interests include urban sociology, poverty, race and ethnicity, organizations and work, social theory, and ethnography. In 2015, Desmond was awarded his MacArthur “Genius” grant for “revealing the impact of eviction on the lives of the urban poor and its role in perpetuating racial and economic inequality.”

A former member of the Harvard Society of Fellows, Desmond is also the author of the award-winning book On the Fireline, co-author of two books on race, and editor of a collection of studies on severe deprivation in America. He has written essays on educational inequality, dangerous work, political ideology, race and social theory, and the inner-city housing market. The principal investigator of the Milwaukee Area Renters Study, an original survey of tenants in Milwaukee’s low-income private housing sector, Desmond’s work has been supported by the Ford, Russell Sage, and National Science Foundations, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune.

Photo Credit: Michael Kienitz

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Anthony Doerr

“All the Light We Cannot See” - PRESENTATION SOLD OUT

Location: Campion Ballroom
Time: Afternoon Keynote: 4:15 p.m.-5:30 p.m.
Themes: Arts and Culinary Arts, History

Description of Presentation

Anthony Doerr Anthony Doerr Book Cover

Anthony Doerr’s latest novel, runaway New York Times best seller All the Light We Cannot See (2014), is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and finalist for the National Book Award and Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. The celebrated prose stylist brings his keen naturalist’s eye and his empathetic engagement with humanity’s largest questions to the parallel stories of Marie, a blind girl living in occupied France, and Werner, a German orphan whose extraordinary mechanical abilities earn him a place among the Nazi elite. The novel was on over a dozen year-end lists, including Barnes & Noble, Slate, NPR’s Fresh AirEntertainment WeeklyThe GuardianKirkusThe New York TimesThe Washington Post, and The Christian Science Monitor.

Author Biography

“Anthony Doerr writes beautifully about the mythic and the intimate, about snails on beaches and armies on the move, about fate and love and history and those breathless, unbearable moments when they all come crashing together.” – Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins

Since the publication in 2002 of his first story collection, The Shell Collector, Anthony Doerr has been lauded for his lyricism, his precise attention to the physical world, and his gift for metaphor. Tamara Straus, a reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle, characterized Doerr’s literary ancestry as a combination of “Henry David Thoreau (for his pantheistic passions) and Gabriel García Márquez (for his crystal-cut prose and dreamy magic realism).”

Nature is also an important theme in Doerr’s novel About Grace (2004), the story of a scientist who flees the country after having a premonition that he causes the accidental death of his baby daughter. Doerr’s memoir Four Seasons in Rome (2007) is a carefully observed account of the year he spent as a fellow at the American Academy in Rome, accompanied by his wife and infant twin sons. His second story collection, Memory Wall (2010), features characters from all over the world who are grappling with issues of preservation and extinction, permanence and evanescence.

Doerr’s fiction has been translated into over 30 languages, and is anthologized in The Best American Short StoriesThe Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, and The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Fiction. He was notified that he won the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters on the day his wife gave birth to newborn twins. He has won the Story Prize, which is considered the most prestigious prize in the U.S. for a collection of short stories, and The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award, which is the largest prize in the world for a single short story. In 2007, the British literary magazine Granta placed Doerr on its list of 21 Best Young American Novelists.

Doerr has lectured at campuses all over the country on originality, the importance of failure, and the role of wonder in contemporary life. He is currently working on two novels, one set in 15th century Europe, and another set in the future. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Doerr now lives in Boise, Idaho, with his wife and two sons.

Photo Credit: Todd Meier

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Margot Lee Shetterly

“Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race” (moderated by Enrique Cerna of KCTS9) - PRESENTATION SOLD OUT

Location: Campion Ballroom
Time: Morning Keynote: 10:45 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Themes: History, Social Justice, Women's Studies

Description of Presentation

Margot Lee Shetterly Margot Lee Shetterly Book Cover

Audiences of all backgrounds will be captivated by the phenomenal true story of the black “human computers” who used math to change their own lives—and their country’s future. Set against the rich backdrop of World War II, the Space Race, the Civil Rights Era, and the burgeoning fight for gender equality, this talk brings to life the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, who worked as mathematicians at NASA during the golden age of space travel. Teaching math at segregated schools in the South, they were called into service during the WWII labor shortages. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had jobs worthy of their skills at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, in Hampton, Virginia. Even as Jim Crow laws segregated them from their white counterparts, the women of this all-black “West Computing” group helped America achieve a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War. They were part of a group of hundreds of black and white women who, over the decades, contributed to some of NASA’s greatest successes. 

In this keynote, Margot Lee Shetterly talks about race, gender, science, the history of technology, and much else. She shows us the surprising ways that women and people of color have contributed to American innovation while pursuing the American Dream. In sweeping, dramatic detail, she sheds light on a forgotten but key chapter in our history, and instills in us a sense of wonder, and possibility.

Author Biography

Writer, researcher, and entrepreneur Margot Lee Shetterly is the author of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race (2016). The highly anticipated film based on her book is in theaters now. It stars Taraji P. Henson (Empire), Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner.

Shetterly is also the founder of the Human Computer Project, a digital archive of the stories of NASA’s African-American “Human Computers” whose work tipped the balance in favor of the United States in WWII, the Cold War, and the Space Race. Shetterly’s father was among the early generation of black NASA engineers and scientists, and she had direct access to NASA executives and the women featured in the book. She grew up around the historically black Hampton College, where the women in Hidden Figures studied. Along with Aran Shetterly, Shetterly co-founded the magazine Inside Mexico. She graduated from The University of Virginia, and is a 2014 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow.

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Doreen Carvajal

“The Quest: In Search of Religious Identity, Family Secrets, and Missing Tombs”

Location: Student Center 160
Time: Sunday Keynote: 1:00 p.m.- 2:15 p.m.
Themes: Religion, Faith and Ethics, Spirituality and Wellness, History

Description of Presentation

Doreen Carvajal Doreen Carvajal Book Cover

Deep in every family history is a mystery of who we really are. Doreen Carvajal's The Forgetting River (2013) is an unexpected and moving story of an American journalist who unravels her Catholic family's long-buried Sephardic Jewish ancestry in Spain. As Carvajal searches for proof that her family was forced through the Inquisition to convert to Christianity 600 years ago, she moves into a mystical white pueblo on Spain's southern frontier to crack the secret messages left by hidden Jews—an ancient cry from the past. She comes to understand that her family's history flows like a river through time—and that while the truth might be submerged, it is never truly lost.

Author Biography

Doreen Carvajal is a Paris-based, former reporter at The New York Times who has covered a wide range of stories, from tracking a Serbian war criminal to tracing the heirs of art looted during World War II. She applied her own investigative skills to crack her Catholic family's secret mystery of Jewish identity - a journey which led to the Inquistion archives in Madrid and the hidden tombs of her ancestors in Segovia, Spain.

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