Guest Speakers

Neal Lester

Neal A. Lester, Ph.D. is Foundation Professor of English and Founding Director of Project Humanities at Arizona State University. He has been a Professor of English at Arizona State University since 1997, having taught previously at the University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa)—the first African American faculty member tenured in the Department of English--and at the University of Montevallo (AL). Dr. Lester earned his B.A. in English and was Valedictorian at the State University of West Georgia (Carrollton). He took his M.A. and Ph.D. in English at Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN) and is the first African American to receive the doctorate degree in English at Vanderbilt. His areas of specialization are African American literature and cultural studies.

Katherine Stewart

Katherine Stewart is an investigative reporter and author who has covered religious liberty, politics, policy, and education for over a decade.

Her latest book, THE POWER WORSHIPPERS: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism, is a rare look inside the machinery of the movement that brought Donald Trump to power.

Young Women Activists

Invest in Her

Neha Basu

Neha is a co-founder of Invest in Her.  She is a high school junior at BASIS Scottsdale interested in economics and gender equality. She enjoys competing in economics competitions and is a partner in a student-run investment fund focused on sustainability and ESG (?). While pursuing her interest in economics, she found very few female peers, so she started Invest in Her to empower girls with skills needed for financial independence and success. In her free time, she loves swimming and hiking. 

Katelyn Cai

Katelyn is a junior in Scottsdale, and the co-founder of Invest in Her, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to empowering young women in the fields of economics and business. She's an active speech and debate participant who is currently ranked #2 in the country for extemporaneous speaking, an economics enthusiast, and a volunteer in the local community. In her free time, she likes to play with her border collie Stella and draw.

Generation Ratify Arizona

Generation Ratify Arizona is a youth led movement that works to ratify the ERA and advance gender equality in the United States. Our mission is to build and empower a coalition of young people across Arizona and lead an intersectional feminist revolution that advocates for the equality of young women, femmes, non-binary, and Queer folx. 

Left to right, top to bottom: Sydney Pearson; Jennifer Vo; Hayden Nguyen; Sophia Hammer, State Director; Richa Chirravuri; and Malika Sunder.

She's the First

Lavanyaa Gupta:

"She's the First is a girl-centered organization that works to guarantee access to education for young girls around the world while empowering these girls to reach for the stars with that education. Since the establishment of the organization in 2009, She's the First has reached 138,000 girls across 26 countries in the past decade alone. She's the First's work has been recognized by the UN for its partnership with grassroots organizations and advocacy for girls' rights, including gender-nonconforming, genderfluid, and transfeminine experiences."


Rosemarie Dombrowsky - Poet Laureate

Rosemarie Dombrowski was appointed the inaugural Poet Laureate by Mayor Greg Stanton in December 2016 and was reappointed by Mayor Williams in 2018. She is still filling the position as her term was supposed to expire at the end of 2020.

Rosemarie Dombrowski is the founder of Rinky Dink Press, a poetry editor at Four Chambers Press, and the co-founder and host of the Phoenix Poetry Series, which is about to enter its tenth year. She has been nominated for several poetry-related awards and her work has appeared in numerous publications. Her collections include The Book of Emergencies, a lyrical exploration of the culture of autism, and The Philosophy of Unclean Things, a celebration of phobias, superstitions, and decay.

Jess Hawk Oakenstar - Performer

Oakenstar is a widely traveled solo guitarist/singer/songwriter and "one-woman band" who was born and raised in Zimbabwe and lived in the UK and New Zealand before working her passage to the US aboard a German container ship in 1990. From then until late 1996 she toured constantly, both nationally (36 states across the country) and internationally (in Australia and New Zealand) as a singer/songwriter.

She has received much critical acclaim for her two albums, Leave a Little Light Behind and Your Heart Will Show You, both of which were produced by Jeff Dayton, band leader for Glen Campbell. She was also featured on A Love Worth Fighting For, a compilation album which included such artists as Janis Ian and Ani DiFranco.