WACUBO 2021 Keynote Speakers

Tara Westover
Professional Headshot: Tara Westover

Tara Westover is an American author. Born in Idaho to a father opposed to public education, she never attended school. An older brother taught her to read, and after that her education was erratic and haphazard, with most of her days spent working in her father’s junkyard or stewing herbs for her mother. She was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. After that first encounter with education she pursued learning for a decade, graduating magna cum laude from Brigham Young University in 2008 and subsequently winning a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She received an MPhil from Trinity College, Cambridge in 2009 and in 2014 was awarded a PhD in history. Currently, she is a Senior Research Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, working on projects related to media and political polarization.

In 2018, she published her memoir, Educated, which explores her struggle to reconcile her desire for education and autonomy with her desire to be loyal to her family. Educated was an instant commercial and critical success, debuting at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and remaining on the list for more than a year. It was also a finalist for a number of national awards, including the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. The New York Times named Educated one of the 10 Best Books of  2018, and the American Booksellers Association voted it the Nonfiction Book of the Year.

To date, Educated has sold more than 3 million copies and is expected to be translated into 40 languages. President Barack Obama included Educated on his annual reading list, calling it “remarkable,” and Bill Gates listed it as one of his favorite books of the year, saying, “It’s even better than you’ve heard.” For her staggering impact, TIME Magazine named Westover one of the 100 most ifluential people of 2018.

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Jaye and Adam Fenderson

Jaye FendersonJaye Fenderson (Writer/Director/Producer)
Jaye is an award-winning director and producer with credits spanning feature-length documentaries, commercial & branded content, and acclaimed shows for ABC, NBC, FX, Lifetime, and MTV. A former admissions officer at Columbia University and passionate advocate for college access and success, Jaye has  presented internationally at conferences, universities, and on Capitol Hill. The author of Seventeen’s Guide to Getting into College and a former college advice columnist for Seventeen.com, her writing has also appeared in Seventeen, Good Housekeeping, and The College Access & Opportunity Guide.

Jaye holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and French from Columbia University. Her all-time favorite directing gig is being a mom to her four wonderful children.

Adam FendersonAdam Fenderson (Editor/Director/Producer)

With over 15 years behind the camera, Adam is an award-winning director, producer, and editor. His credits span feature-length documentaries, commercial & branded content, and acclaimed shows for NBC, MTV, Lifetime, Discovery, History, CNBC, and many other networks. As a filmmaker, he is driven by a desire to tell stories that entertain and have lasting impact. He is often brought in as a guest lecturer or documentary expert at universities and conferences across the country. He has been interviewed for media outlets including The New York Times, FOX, NPR, among others. 

Adam earned his BA in Film and Television at the University of Southern California. When he’s not making films, you can find him skateboarding around the streets of Santa Monica or watching his beloved San Francisco Giants.

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Shola Richards

Professional Headshot: Shola RichardsShola Richards is a dynamic keynote speaker, the best-selling author of Making Work Work, the author of the newly-released book—Go Together, he’s an in-demand workplace civility expert, and he is a positivity writer with a passionate worldwide following. His articles and wildly-popular Monday morning “Positivity Solution” email series have been read by readers in over 160 countries, and his work has been featured in the Huffington Post, Forbes, Black Enterprise, Complete Wellbeing India, Business Insider Australia, and in numerous other publications all over the world who recognize him as an authority on workplace happiness and engagement.
As a speaker, Shola has shared his transformative message with leading healthcare organizations, top universities, Silicon Valley, the motion picture industry, the TEDx stage, and in his greatest honor to date, as a keynote speaker for the Department of Homeland Security three days before the 15th Anniversary of 9/11, under the Obama Administration.
Last, but certainly not least, Shola is a father, husband, identical twin, and a self-professed “kindness extremist” who will not rest until bullying and incivility is extinct from the American workplace.

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Adam Braun

Adam BraunAdam Braun is a New York Times bestselling author, speaker and entrepreneur. He is the Founder & Executive Chairman of Pencils of Promise, the award-winning organization that has built more than 500 schools around the world. After leading PoP as CEO for 8 years he went on to become Co-Founder & CEO of MissionU, a higher education startup pioneering high-quality remote learning that was named one of FastCompany’s 50 Most Innovative Companies before being acquired by WeWork in May 2018, where Braun acted as COO of the company’s education arm WeGrow.

He has been featured as a speaker at The White House, the United Nations and the Clinton Global Initiative. He has also been named to Business Insider’s 40 Under 40, Wired Magazine‘s 50 People Who Are Changing the Worldand was selected as one of the World Economic Forum’s original ten Global Shapers.

Braun began working summers at hedge funds when he was sixteen years old, sprinting down the path to a successful Wall Street career. But while traveling abroad as a college student he met a young boy begging on the streets of India, who when asked what he wanted most in the world, simply answered, “a pencil.”

This small request became the inspiration for Pencils of Promise, the organization Braun would leave Bain & Company several years later to start with just $25. Using his unique “for-purpose” approach, the organization has now raised more than $75M to address global education. Through his work across the full spectrum of education, Braun has combined his passion for mission-driven impact to support children and adults in the pursuit of unlocking their greatest potential.

Braun graduated from Brown University and has been a frequent speaker at conferences, colleges and Fortune 500 companies. He avidly engages with his social media following of over 900,000 people and has received the nation’s most prestigious award for public service, the Jefferson Award.

His book The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change debuted at #2 on the New York Times Bestseller list and went on to become a #1 national bestseller.

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