Main Stage Speakers

Creating a Supportive College Access Community in Seattle and Beyond
Thursday, Sept. 23 | 12 – 1:30 pm PT

The past year-and-a-half has created unprecedented difficulties for students and families in many aspects of life, including planning for postsecondary education and careers. As we gather in Seattle for our first in-person convening since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to take a moment to hear from individuals and organizations who have helped build a community around supporting young people in the Seattle area and talk about how they have addressed barriers to entry into postsecondary education and the workforce.
- Dr. Lisa Chinn, President & CEO, Treehouse
Sigrid Batara, Youthforce Executive Director, Boys & Girls Clubs of King County 
- Dr. Percy L. Abram, Head of School, The Bush School
- Moderator: David A. Hawkins, Chief Education and Policy Officer, NACAC

Soledad O'Brien

Friday, Sept. 24 | 10:30 – 11:30 am PT

NACAC welcomes acclaimed journalist Soledad O'Brien to the main stage at NACAC's 2021 National Conference on Friday, Sept. 24. The session will be moderated by NACAC CEO Angel B. Pérez.

Soledad O’Brien is an award-winning documentarian, journalist, speaker, author and philanthropist. She is the CEO of Soledad O’Brien Productions, a multi-platform media production company dedicated to telling empowering and authentic stories on a range of social issues and a thought leader whose public engagement garners wide attention.

O’Brien has had national impact with her books and speeches, and her presence on the nation’s op-ed pages, and social media, particularly Twitter where she has over 1 million followers.

O’Brien currently anchors and produces the Hearst Television political magazine program Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien, which is distributed by Sony Pictures. She also reports regularly for HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.

She has anchored shows on CNN, MSNBC and NBC, and hosted projects for Fox and A&E. O’Brien has contributed to the three major broadcast networks, Oxygen, Nat Geo, the PBS NewsHour and WebMD. She was a special correspondent on Al Jazeera America’s news program, America Tonight, and produced several documentaries on social issues for the network.

Earlier in her career, O’Brien anchored a show for MSNBC, before moving on to co-anchor NBC’s Weekend Today and contributing segments to the Today show and NBC Nightly News. In 2003, O’Brien transitioned to CNN, where she was the face of CNN’s morning news shows for many years and a frequent reporter and analyst for breaking news stories and election coverage. She also anchored the CNN documentary unit, where she created the In America documentary series Black in America and Latino in America which she continued to produce under Starfish Media Group as speaking tours.

O’Brien’s was recognized with three Emmy awards—for her coverage of the Haiti earthquake, the 2012 election and a series called Kids and Race. She was also honored twice with the George Foster Peabody award for her coverage of Hurricane Katrina and her reporting on the BP Gulf Coast Oil Spill. Her reporting on the Southeast Asia tsunami garnered CNN an Alfred I. DuPont Award.

Upon founding Starfish Media Group, she continued to produce documentaries and series on topics that included youth incarceration, police brutality, veterans with PTSD and the opioid epidemic for Al Jazeera, CNN and the PBS NewsHour.

Besides HBO Real Sports and Matter of Fact, O’Brien recently hosted American Injustice, a BET Town Hall on the future of criminal justice reform. She was a host of the A&E special Shining a Light: Conversations on Race in America. She was the Host and Executive Producer of the Oxygen series Mysteries & Scandals, as well as O.J. Simpson: The Lost Confession and Who Shot Biggie and Tupac, both for Fox. She was also host of National Geographic Channel's Live From Space and moderator and executive producer of the annual National Geographic Bee. She was Executive Producer of the Lifetime Billboard Music Awards.

She has served as Chair of the board of The After-School Corporation (now ExpandED Schools), and as a director on the boards of the Rand Corporation and the National Archives. She was a Harvard University Graduate School of Education, Distinguished Visiting Fellow.

O’Brien frequently speaks on a variety of social issues at college campuses and corporate events. She was named on People Magazine’s list of the 50 Most Beautiful People in 2001 and was on People en Español′s 50 Most Beautiful list in 2004. She was named to Irish American Magazine’s "Top 100 Irish Americans" on two occasions, and was on Black Enterprise Magazine’s 2005 Hot List. Also in 2005, she was awarded Groundbreaking Latina of the Year by Catalina Magazine. In 2006 she was featured in the Newsweek cover story "15 People Who Make America Great".

She is the author of two books, her critically acclaimed memoir The Next Big Story and Latino in America.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, O’Brien and her husband, Brad, created the PowHERful Foundation to help young women get to and through college. The foundation hosts the PowHerful conferences that support hundreds of young women with mentoring programs, professional advice and other services.

She lives in New York with her husband and four children.


shaunharperDr. Shaun Harper
Friday, Sept. 24 | 3:15 – 4:15 p.m. PT

A prolific and energizing speaker on a range of diversity, equity, and inclusion topics, Harper is:
- The Clifford and Betty Allen Professor at the University of Southern California
- Founder and executive director of the USC Race and Equity Center
- The author of 12 books
- The author of more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and other academic publications
- Recipient of dozens of top honors in his field
- A former tenured professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Harper has delivered hundreds of keynote addresses around the world—including the 2017 NACAC National Conference in Boston. He is back on NACAC's Main Stage (Seattle & Virtual) to share his cultural intelligence, reflect on the state of higher ed, and challenge your thinking and accountability. Most importantly, he'll reveal how you can make a difference in your work with students.


A Peak Behind the Media Curtain 
Saturday, Sept. 25 | 1:30 pm PT

College admission is an important and perennial topic for the media. News stories, podcasts, and tweets about standardized testing, college rankings, and now COVID-19 protocols on campus, can fill hours. Reporters are usually the ones asking the questions, but in this behind-the-scenes look at how they do their jobs, we'll be asking the questions.

Hear from these seasoned national education reporters on how they decide which stories to pursue and people to interview; how they're engaging a new audience of readers, listeners, or viewers; how they manage their own biases when writing; and much more.

Meet our expert education journalists:

melissakornMelissa Korn, The Wall Street Journal
Melissa Korn writes about higher education for The Wall Street Journal. She joined Dow Jones in 2007, first writing breaking corporate news for the Dow Jones Newswires Spot News desk and then covering for-profit colleges, student lenders, alcohol, and tobacco for the wire. She moved to The Journal in 2011 to cover business education, workplace issues and the college-to-career pathway. She is co-author of UNACCEPTABLE: Privilege, Deceit and the Making of the College Admissions Scandal, published in 2020.

teresawantanabeTeresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times
Teresa Watanabe covers education for the Los Angeles Times. Since joining the Times in 1989, she has covered immigration, ethnic communities, religion, Pacific Rim business and served as Tokyo correspondent and bureau chief. She also covered Asia, national affairs and state government for the San Jose Mercury News and wrote editorials for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner.

jeremybauer-woldJeremy Bauer-Wolf, Higher Ed Dive
Jeremy Bauer-Wolf is a reporter for Higher Ed Dive. A Maryland native, he has written about Maryland politics, regional, state, and federal education policy, and most recently, national student affairs and athletics.

danlugoDaniel G. Lugo, Queen's University of Charlotte (NC) and NACAC Board of Directors
Daniel G. Lugo is a distinguished higher education professional and inspirational leader known for innovative resource development at some of the nation's most prestigious liberal arts institutions. He joined NACAC's Board of Directors in 2020.