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2019 Opening Night Speakers

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2019 Opening Night Keynotes

DR. BRENÉ BROWN is a research professor at the University of Houston, where she holds the Huffington Foundation – Brené Brown Endowed Chair at The Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy and is the author of five number one New York Times best-sellers, including The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, Braving the Wilderness, and her latest book, Dare to Lead, which is the culmination of a seven-year study on courage and leadership. Brown’s TED talk – The Power of Vulnerability – is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world with over thirty five million views. She is also the first researcher to have a filmed talk on Netflix. The Call to Courage special debuted on the streaming service on April 19, 2019. Brown lives in Houston, Texas with her husband, Steve. They have two children, Ellen and Charlie. @brenebrown


ANGIE THOMAS is the author is the number one The New York Times bestseller, On the Come Up. In the number two spot you’ll find her debut novel, The Hate U Give. It’s safe to say that this chart-topping author is no longer on the come up—she’s arrived. On the Come Up is currently being adapted into a movie by the makers of the blockbuster film version of The Hate U Give. Thomas’ keynotes resonate with the same authenticity, insight, and hope that make her writing so powerful, and give context and background to the culture, politics, and movement that inspired it. The Hate U Give explores the world of sixteen-year-old Starr Carter: a girl who walks a careful line between her upper-crust prep school, and the poverty-stricken neighborhood where she grew up. But when she witnesses a police officer shooting her best friend Khalil—an unarmed youth—Starr is plunged into even more uncertainty. Thomas’ second novel, On the Come Up, is about what it means to be young and black in America, when freedom of speech isn’t always free. Thomas is the recipient of the 2018 William C. Morris Award and the 2018 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, and was nominated for the Michael L. Printz Award and the Coretta Scott King Award. She is the inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Myers Grant, awarded by We Need Diverse Books. Born, raised, and still residing in Jackson, Mississippi, and a former teen rapper, Thomas earned a BFA in creative writing from Belhaven University. @angiecthomas

DANIELLE WEISBERG and CARLY ZAKIN are co-founders and co-CEOs of theSkimm, a membership company dedicated to helping millennial women live smarter. The two former news producers launched theSkimm from their couch in 2012, and have built a brand that continues to be a trusted source to their more than seven million daily subscribers. theSkimm is committed to helping its members tackle big decision-making moments in life by giving them the information they need to make informed and empowered choices whether that be in civic engagement, finance, career, health, and more. theSkimm’s flagship product, the Daily Skimm, is still the fastest growing newsletter on the market, and the company’s product suite has grown to engage with members at home, work, and on-the-go, including theSkimm app and Skimm Studios. theSkimm’s first book, How to Skimm Your Life, was released in June 2019 and debuted at #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list. Zakin and Weisberg have been featured on Forbes 30 Under 30 in Media, Vanity Fair’s The Next Establishment, Fortune’s 40 Under 40,  and Adweek’s Young Influentials. You’ve also seen them in TIME’s Most Influential People, Marie Claire’s New Guard, and they were named one of the most 100 Intriguing Entrepreneurs by the Goldman Sachs Builders and Innovators Summit. They still prefer to work from a couch.

2019 Opening Night Speakers

DENA BLIZZARD is one funny mother, known as the “Target mom” for her viral videos including Back to School Rant, which had over one hundred fifty million views, and Chardonnay Go, with twenty four million views. She is a comedian and mother of three who’s written and starred in her own Off Broadway show, created Chardonnay Go, The Board Game for Wine Lovers, Moms and Other Shameless People, and was a LIVE with Kelly top five co-host winner. She has served as the official host of the Miss America Pageant preliminaries for ten years, as co-host with Anderson Cooper, and has had her own talk show on NJ 101.5 FM. Blizzard drinks in her living room on her weekly Facebook LIVE show, Tipsy Tuesday, with thousands of fans worldwide. She hates doing dishes and enjoys eating gluten-free lasagna. @onefunnymother
SHAYNA SEYMOUR is an Emmy winning journalist, and co-anchor of WCVB’s award-winning nightly newsmagazine, Chronicle. She was previously a reporter, producer and co-anchor of WCVB’s weekend EyeOpener newscast. Seymour has been nominated for several local Emmy Awards, and was awarded an Emmy in 2015 and 2018 as co-host of WCVB’s telecast of the annual “Holiday Lights” tree lighting event. Seymour has emceed many events for local community and charitable organizations, including the annual Boston MLK Breakfast, the nation’s longest-running and Boston’s premiere event dedicated to honoring the legacy of Dr. King. In addition, she has served as a moderator at the annual Massachusetts Conference for Women. Other organizations near and dear to her heart include The Home For Little Wanderers and Dress for Success, to name a few. A native of Amherst, Massachusetts, Seymour earned a BA in sociology from Spelman College and an MS in broadcast journalism from Syracuse University.
CAROLYN FISCHER is the vice president of global talent management for TJX Companies, the leading off-price retailer of apparel and home fashions in the U.S. and worldwide. With nearly $40B in revenues in 2017, and more than 4,000 stores worldwide and over 270,000 associates, the company ranks 85th in the most recent Fortune 100 listings. Fischer runs the Global Talent Management Center of Expertise for TJX Companies with a specific emphasis on the executive development function which is focused on accelerating the readiness of executives in the Organization. Fischer has more than thirty years of experience in the field of HR, specifically in executive and organizational development, training & development and employee communications. She earned a BS in management from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and an MS in organizational development and leadership, as well as her executive coaching certification in Evidenced Based Coaching from Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, CA. @tjxcareers

CHRISTINA LUCONI leads Rapid7’s strategic people initiatives as its chief people officer. She is responsible for the entire employee lifecycle, with critical focus on recruiting stellar talent, building and inspiring corporate culture, acquisition integration and “scaling with soul.”  Prior to joining Rapid7, Luconi was the owner of People Innovations, a consulting firm focused on the creation of innovative people strategies for start-ups and high growth companies. She also served as chief people officer at @stake, a professional services security firm which she helped build from the launch through its acquisition to Symantec. She also played the role of VP of people strategy at Sapient Corporation.  She is an investor and advisor to Scholarjet and CultureHQ. She serves as an advisor to the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, and is on the advisory board of BUILD Boston.  She contributes a weekly blog to VentureFizz and LinkedIn. She earned a BA in psychology from George Washington University and an MS in organizational administration from Boston University.

2019 Health & Wellness Presenters

DARCEY STEINKE is the author of the New York Times Notable memoir Easter Everywhere, as well as five novels. In 2017 Maggie Nelson wrote a foreword for a new edition of Suicide Blonde. With Rick Moody, she edited Joyful Noise: The New Testament Revisited (Little, Brown 1997). Her books have been translated into ten languages, and her nonfiction has appeared widely. Her web-story Blindspot was a part of the 2000 Whitney Biennial. She has been both a Henry Hoyns and a Stegner Fellow; Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi; and has taught at the Columbia University School of the Arts, Barnard, The American University of Paris, and Princeton. Flash Count Diary is her most recent book. @darceysteinke


VIRGIE TOVAR started the #LoseHateNotWeight campaign. She is one of the nation’s leading experts and lecturers on weight-based discrimination and diet culture. She earned an MS in sexuality studies with a focus on the intersections of body size, race and gender. Tovar is the founder of Babecamp, a series of online courses and retreats for women who are ready to break up with diet culture. She is the author of You Have the Right to Remain Fat, which was awarded the American Library Association’s Amelia Bloomer award. Her new book, FLAWLESS: Radical Body Positivity for Girls of Color, comes out Spring 2020. She is a contributor for Forbes, and in 2018 received Yale’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism. Tovar has been featured by the New York Times, Tech Insider, BBC, MTV, Al Jazeera and NPR. @virgietovar

Additional speakers will be announced here soon. Check out last year’s program, speakers and sponsors.


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