WACUBO 2023 Keynote Speakers


 

Heather McGhee

Heather designs and promotes solutions to inequality in America. Over her career in public policy, Heather has crafted legislation, testified before Congress, and helped shape presidential campaign platforms. Her book The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together spent 10 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and was longlisted for the National Book Award and Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction. The New York Times called it, “The book that should change how progressives talk about race.” and the Chicago Tribune said, “Required reading to move the country forward…”. It is a Washington Post and TIME Magazine Must-Read Book of 2021. The paperback version will be out in February 2022. The Sum of Us will be adapted into a Spotify podcast by Higher Ground, the production company of Barack and Michelle Obama in June 2022, and into a young adult readers’ version by Random House Children’s in 2023.

Heather is an educator, currently serving as a Visiting Lecturer in Urban Studies at the City University of New York’s School of Labor and Urban Studies. She has also held visiting positions at Yale University’s Brady-Johnson Grand Strategy Program and the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics. She is the recipient of honorary degrees from Muhlenberg College, Niagara University, and CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy.

For nearly two decades, Heather helped build the non-partisan "think and do" tank Demos, serving four years as president. Under McGhee’s leadership, Demos moved their original idea for “debt-free college” into the center of the 2016 presidential debate, argued before the Supreme Court to protect voting rights in January 2018, helped win pro-voter reforms in five states over two years, provided expert testimony to Congressional committees, including a Supreme Court confirmation hearing in 2017, and led the research campaigns behind successful wage increases for low-paid workers on federal contracts, as well as at McDonald's, Walmart, and other chain retailers.

As an executive, McGhee transformed Demos on multiple levels. She led a successful strategic planning and rebranding process. She designed a Racial Equity Organizational Transformation which led to an increase in staff racial diversity (from 27 percent people of color to 60 percent in four years), an original racial equity curriculum for staff professional development, and a complete overhaul of the organization’s research, litigation and campaign strategies using a racial equity lens. McGhee also nearly doubled the organizational budget in four years. A strong coalition-builder and trusted cross-movement leader, McGhee deepened Demos’ influence through new networks and collaborations inside and outside the Beltway.

An influential voice in the media and a former NBC contributor, McGhee regularly appears on NBC’s Meet the Press and MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Deadline White House, and All In. Her 2020 TED talk is entitled “Racism Has a Cost for Everyone”. She has shared her opinions, writing, and research in numerous outlets, including the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Politico, and National Public Radio. McGhee’s conversation on a C-SPAN program in 2016 with a white man who asked for her help to overcome his racial prejudice went viral, receiving more than 10 million views and sparking wide media coverage that included a New York Times op-ed, a New Yorker piece, and a CNN town hall. In spring 2018, Starbucks founder Howard Schultz asked McGhee to advise the company as it designed anti-bias training for 250,000 employees in the wake of the unjust arrest of two black men in a Philadelphia store. McGhee wrote a report with recommendations for how Starbucks can apply a racial equity lens to their businesses, and how other companies both large and small can benefit from doing the same.

McGhee also played a leadership role in steering the historic Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and was one of the key advocates credited for the adoption of the Volcker Rule.

She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Yale University and a J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley School of Law,. McGhee is the chair of the board of Color Of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization, and also serves on the boards of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Open Society Foundations’ US Programs, and Demos.


 

Katharine Hayhoe

Katharine Hayhoe is an accomplished atmospheric scientist who studies climate change and why it matters to us here and now. She is a remarkable communicator who has received the National Center for Science Education’s Friend of the Planet award, the American Geophysical Union’s Climate Communication Prize, the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service award, and has been named to a number of lists, including Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, Foreign Policy’s 100 Leading Thinkers, FORTUNE magazine’s World’s Greatest Leaders, and the United Nations Champion of the Earth in Science and Innovation.

Her writing has appeared in many outlets, including The New York Times, Wired, O Magazine, and Chatelaine. Her TED talk, “The most important thing you can do to fight climate change: talk about it” has nearly 4 million views, and her most recent book, “Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World,” is published by Simon & Schuster.

Katharine has served as lead author on the Second, Third, and Fourth National Climate Assessments. She also hosts and produces the PBS Digital Series Global Weirding, and serves on advisory committees for a broad range of organizations, including the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, the Earth Science Women’s Network, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Katharine serves as Chief Scientist for The Nature Conservancy, and she is also a Paul W. Horn Distinguished Professor and the Political Science Endowed Professor in Public Policy and Public Law at Texas Tech University. She has a B.Sc. in Physics from the University of Toronto and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science from the University of Illinois and has been awarded honorary doctorates from Colgate University and Victoria University at the University of Toronto.


 

Alexandra Samuel

In the post-pandemic world, the time-honored rules of work no longer apply. Alexandra Samuel shows us how to carve a path toward a thriving and productive hybrid work culture. A digital workplace expert and author of the timely and practical book Remote Inc., Alexandra brings over 25 years of experience as a hybrid worker to her presentations, helping audiences conceptualize and act on new ways of working in the modern age.

“Hybrid gives us the opportunity to create a new world of work, and a new kind of workplace—one that combines the commitment and energy of the traditional office with the flexibility and focus of working from home.” 

— Alexandra Samuel

A regular contributor to The Wall Street JournalThe Harvard Business Review, CBC, and JSTOR Daily, Alexandra Samuel is a prolific writer whose articles on management, hybrid work, and tech culture have earned extensive media coverage. The author of the Work Smarter with Social Media series for Harvard Business Review Press, Alexandra has long experience helping people navigate the digital workplace. As the data journalist for the annual Forbes list of the World’s Most Influential CMOs, she has a deep understanding of how top brands and executives navigate digital transformation and the realignment of employee and customer experience in a hybrid world. She works regularly with companies like Twitter, Sprinklr, and Microsoft on reports and workshops that address the biggest challenges in digital business. 

Alexandra began her career in technology as the research director for the Governance in the Digital Economy program, leading a Toronto-based research program for a global consortium of government leaders from her home office in Vancouver. As the VP Social Media for customer intelligence software company Vision Critical, Alexandra led a social media analytics pilot program while working from home so she could homeschool her autistic son. And as the co-founder of Social Signal, Alexandra built one of the world’s first social media agencies while working out of her home with her husband and their first hires. She holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard University, where her dissertation was the first comprehensive study of hacktivism (politically motivated computer hacking). While at Harvard, Alexandra researched the impact of technology on social capital for Robert Putnam’s groundbreaking book, Bowling Alone.