Featured Speakers

Opening Keynote

What does it mean to “matter” as a student affairs professional in 2023? Prompted by shifts in how we work, how we bear witness to ourselves at work, and the role of profession in our lives, join us for this conversation about reimagining student affairs to be more inclusive of the fullness of our being. Drs. Britt Williams, Jon Paul, and TJ Stewart will join Dr. Kedrick Perry in a moderated discussion about how to honor voice and identities to create a culture of “mattering” in the field. We hope this session encourages you to explore the choices made, commitments formed, difficulties encountered, and the joys that fuel your motivation and momentum in and beyond student affairs.

Dr. Brit M. Williams

As an Assistant Professor for the Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration program at the University of Vermont, Dr. Brittany M. Williams (she/her) primarily teaches courses on student development theory, college student development, and organizational theory. Her research and teaching expertise broadly examine issues of (in)equity. Specifically, she focuses on career development and supervision issues, identity development (theory and experiences), social class (in)equality, and education as a social determinant of health.

Dr. Williams is a 2022 through 2024 National Academy of Education (NAEd)/ Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow studying Black college women and HIV/AIDS in Metro-Atlanta. Her personal and professional advocacy recently appeared in AIDS United, National Public Radio, Teach for America, the National Black Women’s Health Imperative, and the National Minority Aids Council. She is also a proud co-founder of two digitally rooted co-mentoring communities for Black women: #SisterPhD and #CiteASista.

Prior to joining the professoriate, she served in housing and residence life, career services, academic affairs, and student engagement. Originally from Southwest Atlanta, Georgia, Williams obtained her Ph.D. in College Student Affairs Administration and Graduate Certificate in Qualitative Research from the University of Georgia. She holds her bachelor’s and master’s degree from Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, and Teachers College-Columbia University in New York City, respectively. She is a proud product of Atlanta Public Schools.

Dr. Jonathan P. Higgins

Dr. Jonathan P. Higgins (DoctorJonPaul) is an educator, professor, national speaker, freelance journalist, thought leader and media critic who examines the intersections of identity, gender and race in entertainment. Named National Black Justice Coalition’s Inaugural Emerging Leaders to Watch and Business Equality Magazine’s “Top 40 LGBTQ People Under 40”, their work has been featured on sites like Essence, Ebony, Complex, MTV NEWS, Out Magazine, BET & Paper Mag. A Culture Strike 2021 Disruptor and Twitter Spaces Spark Creator, Dr. Higgins is a trailblazer who is creating, sharing, and crafting the stories their ancestors didn’t get to tell.

Dr. Higgins has held positions at both Chernin Entertainment & Edith Productions and currently consults at United Artists, Amazon, and other media leaders. They have worked on inclusion projects with leaders in entertainment including Fox, the NFL, Apple, Disney, Instagram, Buzzfeed and GLAAD. They have also been a featured speaker for SXSW & TEDx and also competed on the latest season of Netflix’s hit show, “Nailed It”.

They are the creator, executive producer and host of the “Black Fat Femme Podcast” which was developed via IHeartMedia’s Next Up Initiative. You can listen to the BFF podcast on IHeartradio, or wherever you get your podcasts. Dr. Higgins holds a doctorate in educational justice from University of Redlands and regularly writes and lectures on what liberation means for Black, queer, fat, non-binary people.

tj stewart headshotDr. TJ Stewart

I have committed my personal, professional, and academic career to engaging radical & power-conscious approaches to transform the world; and I strive to do so through higher education research, practice, and art. I believe that holistic and transdisciplinary approaches are required when doing the hard but necessary work of equity and justice. My work is informed via theoretical/conceptual underpinnings, empirical research, media, and pop culture.

My experience with equity and justice work goes back 10 years and I have significant experience with workshop facilitation,  participation in programs related to social justice, social identity, and  heritage/awareness months. In addition, I have experience with bias assessment and response and teaching courses as an instructor of record related to social justice and intergroup dialogue, among other topics.

My approach to equity and justice work is tactile and down to earth. I have a foundational belief that to properly implement diversity/inclusion strategy and policy we must first intimately know our organizations and – perhaps more intimately – know the people that make the organization. Doing “this work” requires that we keep our hands, hearts, and minds on the pulse of what is “up” with our students, staff, faculty, and their communities. This work demands the understanding that what happens in the world – not just on our campuses – has an impact on us all.

Dr. Kedrick Perry

Dr. Perry has a B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an M.A. in public administration from North Carolina State University, and a Doctorate in education from the University of Virginia. He began his professional career as Assistant Director of Graduate Diversity Programs at UVA. He then served as the director of Suffolk University’s McNair Program, a post-baccalaureate achievement program that prepares underrepresented and low-income undergraduates for doctoral study, before joining the UC Berkeley staff in 2016 where he served as the Chief Diversity Officer at the Center for Energy Efficient Electronics Science, building a pipeline of diverse graduate students in STEM.

Closing Keynote

Preston Mitchum

Preston Mitchum (he/him) is a Black queer attorney, advocate, and activist with a focus on the power of Black people, young people, and queer, trans, and nonbinary people. With a decade of legal and policy experience, he is excited to join The Trevor Project’s lifesaving advocacy and government affairs team.

Preston serves as the Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and mental health organization for LGBTQ youth. Prior to Trevor, Preston served as the Director of Policy at URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity. While there, he shaped state and federal strategies on reproductive health, rights, and justice in the South and Midwest, with issues on abortion access, comprehensive sexuality education, and LGBTQ+ health equities. He led reports on young people and voting and inclusive sexuality education for young people. Previously, he has worked at Advocates for Youth, the Center for Health and Gender Equity, Center for American Progress, and the National Coalition for LGBTQ Health. In addition, Preston has been an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center teaching LGBTQ Health Law & Policy and at American University Washington College of Law teaching Sexuality, Gender Identity, & the Law.

Preston deeply believes in policy and community organizing. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for SPARK Reproductive Justice Now! and the National Women’s Health Network’s Policy Advisory Council. He is also the President of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Omicron Eta Lambda Chapter. Most recently, Preston served as the Co-Chair of Collective Action for Safe Spaces’ Board of Directors and the National Bar Association Young Lawyers Division’s Social Justice Committee. In the summer of 2021, Preston helped lead a 10-week protest against Nellie’s Sports Bar, a popular bar in the nation’s capital, after a video revealed a security guard dragging a Black woman down the stairs by her hair.

Preston has been featured in Washington Post, BET, MTV, The Root, The Grio, The Atlantic, Buzzfeed, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, The Guardian, and others. He has earned many accolades including being named Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.’s Inaugural 40 Under 40, a Rockwood Fellow for Leaders in Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice, and was voted DC LGBTQ’s “Most Committed Activist” by the Washington Blade in 2021. He was named one of the 2020 Best LGBTQ Lawyers Under 40 by the LGBTQ Bar Association. Preston was the first openly LGBTQ Chair of the Washington Bar Association Young Lawyers Division and was a featured author in the 2022 book, The Black Agenda: Bold Solutions for a Broken System.

He holds a LL.M. in Law and Government from American University Washington College of Law, a Juris Doctorate, cum laude, from North Carolina Central University School of Law, and a Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, in Political Science from Kent State University. Preston resides in Washington, DC where he actively pushes for safe spaces for Black LGBTQ residents.