2017 Featured Speakers

Cornel West, Ph.D.

Cornel West is a prominent and provocative democratic intellectual. He is a Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice at Union Theological Seminary and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University. He has also taught at Yale, Harvard, and the University of Paris. Cornel West graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard in three years and obtained his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy at Princeton.

He has written 20 books and has edited 13. He is best known for his classics, Race Matters and Democracy Matters, and for his memoir, Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud. His most recent book, Black Prophetic Fire, offers an unflinching look at nineteenth and twentieth-century African American leaders and their visionary legacies.

Dr. West is a frequent guest on the Bill Maher Show, CNN, C-Span and Democracy Now. He made his film debut in the Matrix – and was the commentator (with Ken Wilbur) on the official trilogy released in 2004. He also has appeared in over 25 documentaries and films including Examined Life, Call & Response, Sidewalk and Stand.

He has produced three spoken word albums including Never Forget, collaborating with Prince, Jill Scott, Andre 3000, Talib Kweli, KRS-One and the late Gerald Levert. His spoken word interludes are featured on productions by Terence Blanchard, The Cornel West Theory, Raheem DeVaughn, and Bootsy Collins.

In short, Cornel West has a passion to communicate to a vast variety of publics in order to keep alive the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. – a legacy of telling the truth and bearing witness to love and justice.

Awilda Rodriguez, Ph.D.


Awilda Rodriguez is an assistant professor in the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education at the University of Michigan. Her research is at the intersection of higher education policy, college access and choice, and the representation of Black, Latino, low-income, and first-generation students in postsecondary education. Her most recent project examines issues of equity in access to rigorous high school coursework. Along with many policy reports and contributions to edited volumes, Rodriguez’s work has been published in Research in Higher Education, Educational Policy, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Rodriguez received her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education and previously worked as a research fellow at American Enterprise Institute’s Center for Higher Education Reform as well as a research associate at The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

Andrea Lyon, J.D.


Andrea Lyon, a leader in curriculum reform and embracing diversity, was appointed dean of Valparaiso University Law School in July 2014. Upon receiving her undergraduate degree from Rutgers University and her law degree from Antioch School of Law, Dean Lyon worked for the Cook County Public Defenders’ Office in the felony trial division, post-conviction/habeas corpus unit, preliminary hearing/first municipal (misdemeanor) unit, and the appeals division. Her last position there was chief of the Homicide Task Force, a 22-lawyer unit representing persons accused of homicides. She has tried more than 130 homicide cases, defended more than 30 potential capital cases at the trial level, and has taken 19 through penalty phase; she won all 19. A winner of the prestigious National Legal Aid and Defender Association’s Reginald Heber Smith Award for best advocate for the poor in the country, she is a nationally recognized expert in the field of death penalty defense, a frequent continuing legal education teacher throughout the country, and founder of the Illinois Capital Resource Center. In January 2015, she was awarded Operation Push’s Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Lyndon B. Johnson Dream-Makers Award.

Trelawney “Trey” Boynton, M.A.


With more than 15 years of experience working in university settings, Trey Boynton has spent her professional career working to create inclusive environments. In 2014, she joined the office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs (MESA) at the University of Michigan, and she previously  served as director of diversity and inclusion at the University of Michigan. In her work, Boynton strives to create a space in which all students are valued, celebrated, and able to define their own success. Originally from northern California, Boynton studied at Spelman College, Georgetown University, and the University of Michigan. She was a Rackham Merit Scholar, recognized as a Distinguished Diversity Leader, and received a Smithsonian Computerworld award.

Joy J. Moore, Ph.D.


Serving as assistant professor of preaching at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., and academic liaison to the William E. Pannell Center for African American Church Studies, Joy J. Moore, Ph.D., (Brunel University/London School of Theology) teaches in the area of homiletics and the practice of ministry. An ordained elder in the United Methodist Church,  Moore seeks to encourage theologically framed, biblically attentive, and socially compelling interpretations of familiar passages in order to understand the critical issues influencing community formation in contemporary culture.