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Keynote Speakers for Power and Privilege Symposium

Juneau, Alaska

The University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) is excited to announce keynote speakers for the 3rd Annual Power and Privilege Symposium on the Juneau Campus, Tuesday, November 6. The symposium is free and open to all, including students, faculty, staff, and community members. It is designed as an engaging and thought-provoking gathering that advances learning and disseminates knowledge about pressing societal issues in a setting supportive of free inquiry and discussion. In addition to keynote speakers, members of the university community propose sessions that are held throughout the day. The event is scheduled as a regular part of the university’s fall calendar. Most classes do not meet on the scheduled day to allow broad participation by members of the university community.

Two keynote speakers will present at the 2018 Symposium. The first is Oscar Vazquez, author of the widely-acclaimed book, Spare Parts, which has also been made into a major motion picture. The book was selected this year for UAS’ One Campus/One Book program; a title read and discussed widely by students, faculty, and staff.

The second keynote speakers are the nationally-known founders of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, Judy and Dennis Shepard. The Matthew Shepard Foundation was created to honor the memory of Judy and Dennis’ son, Matthew, who was murdered in 1998 because of his sexual orientation. The mission of the foundation is to erase hate by replacing it with understanding, compassion, and acceptance.

The keynote speakers will present during afternoon and evening sessions of the Symposium. Details about the speakers and their topics are as follows:

Keynote Speaker: Oscar Vazquez, Veteran, DREAMer, STEM Leader

Like many DREAMers, Oscar Vazquez came to the United States from Mexico as a child in search of a better life. He excelled as a STEM student at Carl Hayden High School in Arizona and led an unlikely and inspiring group of under-resourced Hispanic high school students who successfully took on a MIT team in an underwater robotics competition. He went on to complete college, but without legal status he couldn’t secure a job to provide for his new wife and newborn child.

Oscar returned to Mexico to apply for a visa and, with help from Senator Dick Durbin (who spoke from the Senate floor about Oscar’s case), he was granted a Green Card in August 2010. Six months later, Oscar enlisted in the Army to serve the country he loves and calls home. Oscar served one tour in Afghanistan and is now a proud U.S. citizen. He is a passionate advocate on behalf on expanding STEM opportunities for Latino and other underrepresented youth. His book, Spare Parts, tells the story of four undocumented teenagers, their robot, and their battle to live the American dream.

Keynote Speakers: Judy and Dennis Shepard, Matthew Shepard Foundation

Judy and Dennis Shepard, the parents of Matthew Shepard and founders of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, are presenting for the first time in Alaska. Their evening keynote comes 20 years after a hate crime that led to the death of their son, Matthew, in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998.

Following Matthew’s death, the Shepards began sharing their son’s story and their experience as family of a hate crime victim. The Shepards work to create more compassion within our society and a stronger appreciation of diversity, with an emphasis on the LGBTQ+ community.

Through their work with the Foundation, the Shepards have helped provide a voice and support for LGBTQ+ youth across the country. Their efforts supported enactment in Congress of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, which seeks to create dialogue within communities about hate and acceptance.

The Symposium will begin with a panel featuring a cross-section of UAS employees discussing the ways that the concepts of Power and Privilege have affected their lives, exploring how identity, privilege, and power interact. Speakers will share experiences with attendees that highlight the ways that Power and Privilege can be used to empower communities, make change, and overcome obstacles. The day-long program will feature more than 20 breakout sessions facilitated by students, staff, faculty, and community members.

Not only does this event provide excellent professional development experience, it helps all attendees explore dynamic and pressing societal changes through difficult, thoughtful, and honest conversations about the complex and increasingly diverse society in which we live.

While the Symposium will be held on the UAS Juneau campus, keynote speeches and a selection of breakout sessions will be available live via distance. The Power and Privilege Symposium is free and open to the community.

Press Release Contact

Keni Campbell
University of Alaska Southeast
(907) 796-6509