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Mount Holyoke College
Weissman Center for Leadership

Speak up! Leadership Conference Presenters

Five College Student Leadership and Public Speaking Conference

Speak Up! Practicing Everyday Leadership

Elaine Brigham Co-Coordinates the Intergroup Dialogue Program on Race, Ethnicity, Socio-economic Class, Sexual Orientation, Ability and Religion at Mount Holyoke College. Elaine leads and facilitates trainings and workshops on social justice issues for K-12 schools, in higher education and at conferences, and is passionate about doing social justice work with people of all ages. In her 12th year as director of Opequon Quaker Camp in Virginia, an arts and outdoors social justice focused summer program for young people, Elaine also teaches social justice/diversity education courses in higher education. She is a doctoral student in the Social Justice Education Program at University of Massachusetts. A certified secondary social studies teacher, Elaine earned degrees from Guilford College in History and Women Studies, with a concentration in African-American Studies and a minor in Education. Upon graduation, Elaine helped to start an alternative public residential boarding and day school for students in the foster care and state systems in Western Massachusetts. There she taught middle and high school social studies and history. She also completed the two-year Institute for Engaging Leadership in Friends Schools through the Friends Council on Education in Philadelphia.

Victoria Christgau, Founder and Executive Director of the Connecticut Center for Nonviolence, is a Teaching and Performing Artist with the CT Commission on Culture and Tourism/Arts Division, and a Peace/Arts Educator for over 25 years. She presents peace and Kingian Nonviolence training programs, lectures, Freedom Song workshops and residencies across the nation. Ms. Christgau is a recipient of the Hartford Courant’s 2010 Tapestry Diversity Award. She works closely with the legendary civil rights leader, Dr. Bernard LaFayette, Jr. former strategist for Martin Luther King, Jr.

Susan Daniels has worked as an actor, director and teacher for over 30 years. She’s performed in regional theatre, Off Broadway and for two years on the daytime drama The Guiding Light. Susan is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from Mount Holyoke College with a BA in Theatre Arts and received her professional training in Acting from the Drama Studio, London. She worked with the Summer Theatre at Mount Holyoke College for 24 seasons, and served as its Artistic Director from 2001 – 2005, producing 11 shows during 8 weeks each summer. She currently works as an Executive Recruiter for senior administrative searches in Education and does leadership training/consulting work with Drama Works Interactive and Van Ness and Company. She is a member of Actors Equity Association and the Screen Actors Guild. Her stories of combining a theatre life with raising her three children have been published in Parents Magazine and aired on NPR.

John Grayson is an ordained minister and Professor of Religion at Mount Holyoke College where he specializes in the philosophy of religion, Frederick Douglas, and New Testament studies. His current scholarly project is an intellectual biography on the women who shaped the mind of Frederick Douglass. Professor Grayson teaches Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, On Human Freedom, Creation and Evolution, and Spirituals and the Blues. Before coming to Mount Holyoke, Professor Grayson taught at Haverford, Marlboro, Smith, and Hampshire Colleges. As a Senior Fulbright Fellow to Germany and an American Cultural Specialist for the United States Information Service, Professor Brayson has lectured throughout western Europe and Africa. He has also been a Ford Fellow and a Danforth Associate.

Laura Greenfield is the Associate Director of the Weissman Center for Leadership where she coordinates the Speaking, Arguing, and Writing Program and is a lecturer in the English Department here at Mount Holyoke College. She earned her B.A. degree in English from Washington University in St. Louis and her Ph.D. in English from The George Washington University where she also served as an Assistant Director of the Writing Center and as an instructor of Composition and American Literature. At Mount Holyoke she teaches courses in peer mentoring, public speaking for ESOL students, using your voice for social change, language diversity in contemporary America, literature about borderland identities, and writing across various levels. She is the editor and a contributing writing of a forthcoming book about racism and writing centers and is currently writing two other books: one about eradicating language discrimination in the United States and the other about creating speaking centers. She is passionate about joining women in their processes of developing as confident, powerful speakers.

James Hartley is a Professor of Economics at Mount Holyoke College where he specializes in Macroeconomics and business cycles. While he describes himself as an “economist to the core,” he developed his class, The Great Books and Economics, to attract non-majors to the field of economics where all the reading material is drawn from the “Great Books” of Western civilization. The course explores the ideas that constitute Western civilization, including interdisciplinary materials from such authors as Shakespeare, Plato, Dante, Einstein, Augustine, Darwin, Homer, Locke, Goethe, Eliot, and the writers of the Old and New Testaments. Professor Hartley is the author of The Representative Agent in Macroeconomics (Routledge, 1997) and the coeditor, with Kevin D. Hoover and Kevin D. Salyer, of Real Business Cycles: A Reader (Routledge, 1998). He also edited Mary Lyon: Documents and Writings (Doorlight Publications, 2008).

Elizaveta (Liza) Lozovaya believes in the deep connection between spirituality and education. As the Muslim Chaplain at Mount Holyoke College, she is trying to incorporate her experience as a former college teacher (Languages and Literature) and her involvement with the Hampshire Mosque of Amherst to achieve the balanced environment for learning within the Muslim faith group and for clarifying the misconceptions about Islam to benefit the college community. All gatherings and projects of the Muslim sisterhood of Mount Holyoke are about improving their own knowledge of Islam and sharing the essence of their religion with others. It's Liza's strong conviction that any religion can lose its vitality if practiced without knowledge and understanding.

Elizabeth Markovits is an assistant professor of politics at Mount Holyoke College who specializes in ancient and contemporary political thought, with special interests in Plato, ancient tragedy, rhetoric, feminism, citizenship, and democratic theory. She is the author of “The Politics of Sincerity: Frank Speech, Plato, and Democratic Judgment.” The book explores the dangers that invocations of sincerity hold for contemporary democracy through an examination of Plato's Socratic dialogues and the work of Hannah Arendt. Her work has also appeared in the Journal of Political Philosophy and the online journal POROI (Project on the Rhetoric of Inquiry). She is currently working on an essay exploring the politics of interpreting Plato, as well as another essay on intergenerational justice in Aeschylus's Oresteia trilogy. The latter piece is part of a larger project, which draws on ancient authors to explore the implications of human reproduction for democratic theory. Professor Markovits also serves as the Executive Co-Director for the interdisciplinary Association for Political Theory (2007-2010).

Joshua Nelson serves as advisor to all established Mount Holyoke College student organizations as well as individual students seeking to start an organization on campus. He is available to assist in group organization, leadership training, conflict resolution, activity and event planning, and promotion. Joshua works most closely with the SGA, the Family and Friends Weekend Committee, and the Commuter Student Organization. He collaborates with the Director in the production and promotion of major campus events sponsored by The Student Programs Office and coordinates with the Weissman Center for Leadership to implement a leadership development program available to all students.

Christine Overstreet is the Assistant Coordinator of the Speaking, Arguing, and Writing Program at Mount Holyoke College’s Weissman Center for Leadership where she plays a primary role in facilitating operations in the SAW Center located in Williston Library. She also works with the SAW Coordinator to provide educational workshops on writing and speaking for SAW staff and the campus-wide student community.  As a member of the Springfield chapter of Toastmasters International, Christine mentors adult professionals seeking to hone their public speaking skills. Christine graduated from MHC in 2006 as a Frances Perkins Scholar, and received a Master of Arts in Religion in 2009 from Yale University.

Lynn Pasquerella, a teacher, scholar, and prominent ethicist with a career marked by local and global engagement, assumed the Presidency of Mount Holyoke College on July 1, 2010. A first-generation college student, President Pasquerella first found her way to Mount Holyoke in 1978, transferring in as a junior from Quinebaug Valley Community College. It was at Quinebaug where she was discovered by faculty members and encouraged to move on to a rigorous and challenging four-year college. Still working full-time throughout the academic year to support herself, she graduated from Mount Holyoke magna cum laude and a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 1980. She went on to receive a full fellowship at Brown University where she earned her Ph.D. in Philosophy in 1985.

A celebrated master teacher who ascended through the professorial ranks in the Philosophy Department of the University of Rhode Island, President Pasquerella served in senior administrative roles at both the University of Rhode Island and the University of Hartford. Her leadership has extended beyond higher education into surrounding communities and around the globe. She served as a board member and project leader with the Africa Center for Engineering Social Solutions, focusing on women empowering women in Kenya. Her leadership in community service has also been with Paul Newman's Discovery Center, the Women's Adult Correctional Facility in Rhode Island, the Day Kimball Hospital, and the Rhode Island Health Department's Institutional Review Board where she served as chair.

In 1998, President Pasquerella was honored by Change Magazine and the American Association of Higher Education as one of the nation’s “Young Leaders of the Academy.” She is married to John Kuchle, a biologist and photographer. Their twin sons are in college: Spencer at Hampshire and Pierce at Mitchell.

Kesha Ram is currently the youngest member of the Vermont Legislature and the youngest state legislator in the nation. She is a strong voice for empowering marginalized communities, creating affordable housing, advancing environmental justice, and promoting a just and sustainable economy. When not serving in the legislature, Kesha is a legal advocate for victims of domestic violence at Women Helping Battered Women in Chittenden County. Kesha graduated from the University of Vermont with dual degrees in Natural Resource Planning and Political Science in 2008. Her achievements have earned her recognition as a Morris K. Udall Scholar, Ronald E. McNair Scholar, Harry S. Truman Scholar, and Oxfam Sister on the Planet.

Yedalis Ruiz graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Mount Holyoke College in 2008 with a major in psychology and education. She completed her master’s of education in 2010 and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in educational policy, research, and administration with a specialization in Higher Education at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She is the Director of Take the Lead, a nationally-renowned MHC program for high achieving high school students who are passionate about social change. Yedalis’ research and academics focus primarily on community-based research methods, youth development, the role of language and culture on educational trajectories and the impact of educational access and equity on Latino and urban youth. Prior to her academic and professional work at Mount Holyoke College and the University of Massachusetts, Yedalis worked professionally in leadership roles in research and education in several community-based agencies in Hartford, Connecticut.

Carol Stewart began part-time as ombudsperson at Mount Holyoke in 2007 where she works in a role whose function is to assure fundamental fairness to every member of the community. Carol’s background includes more than 14 years of community-based conflict management work in New York City. She completed her master's in public policy and public administration at the University of Massachusetts in 2009, with a focus on social justice education and non-profit management. In addition to working at Mount Holyoke she also currently works as the ombudsperson for Hampshire and Amherst Colleges; she lives in Springfield with her partner and her nine year old son.

Patricia VandenBerg is the Executive Director of Communications and Marketing at Mount Holyoke College, a position she has held since 1999. She oversees the College’s media relations, periodicals, and electronic and print publications. She reports to President Pasquerella and is responsible for developing and implementing a campus-wide integrated communications and marketing program, including the marketing arm of the College website. Patricia holds an academic appointment in the Department of Theatre Arts at Mount Holyoke and was the founding director of the College’s Take the Lead program for high achieving high school girls. Patricia is on the faculty of the Lewis Leadership Program at Smith College. She also taught for ten years as an adjunct professor of communication in the Professional M.B.A program at the University of Massachusetts. Patricia came to the Mount Holyoke from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she served as Assistant Vice Chancellor for Communications and Marketing. Prior to that, she was Director of Theatre and Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, her undergraduate alma mater. She holds Masters and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Michigan. Patricia consults to a wide variety of business, academic, and community service organizations in the areas of leadership and communication. Her articles on communications, management, theater, and gender issues have appeared in scholarly and popular journals.