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Plenary Speakers Lineup to Challenge Your Thinking

Join fellow higher education executives to hear the below thought-provoking speakers and receive cutting-edge information about critical topics in higher education at ACE2018 plenary sessions. Speakers will focus on the themes of equity and social justice; leadership in a changing world; and innovation; and they will unpack the political, policy, and practical issues impacting the decisions you make every day.

Robert H. Atwell Plenary Session

Sunday, March 11, 2018, 5:00 p.m. – 6:15 p.m.
Sponsored by Fidelity Investments

Solving the Completion Puzzle: Leadership Counts


Nancy Zimpher

Nancy Zimpher

Chancellor Emeritus, The State University of New York and Senior Fellow, Rockefeller Institute of Government, University at Albany

Monday Breakfast Plenary Session

Monday, March 12, 2018, 8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.
Sponsored by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Facing History

Under the leadership of President Ruth Simmons, in 2006, Brown University (RI) released a landmark report from its Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice. The report documented the participation of some of Brown’s founders and benefactors in the eighteen-century transatlantic slave trade and presented recommendations on how to address this troubling legacy. Simmons’s pioneering effort encouraged other colleges and universities to undertake similar projects and to discover and reveal histories of injustice and the complex political, legal, and moral issues that emerge. A decade later, President John J. DeGioia of Georgetown University (DC) followed suit, releasing a 2016 report from the university’s Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation. Such examination by these and other institutions creates a unique opportunity for higher education to confront the past in an effort to better our future. During this session, Simmons and DeGioia will reflect on the role of historical legacies of injustice on the modern day fulfillment of higher education’s mission. 


Ruth J. Simmons

Ruth J. Simmons

President, Prairie View A&M University (TX)

John J. DeGoia

John J. DeGioia

President, Georgetown University

Judy C. Minor

Judy C. Miner

Chancellor, Foothill-De Anza Community College District (CA)


Monday Luncheon Plenary Session

Monday, March 12, 2018, 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Sponsored by TIAA

A 50-Year Experiment: The Evolution of Higher Education and American Society


Freeman A. Hrabowski, III

Freeman A. Hrabowski, III

President, University of Maryland Baltimore County

Tuesday Closing Plenary Session

Tuesday, March 13, 2018, 9:45 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
Sponsored by ACT

Free Speech on Campus: What Students Think and How We Respond

Over the past three years, campus leaders have seen an escalation of tensions around the First Amendment, attempting to manage the often competing goals of encouraging an open exchange of ideas while making sure all students feel respected and welcome. Important to these efforts is understanding just how college students view and exercise their First Amendment rights. A landmark poll conducted by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in 2016 provided a window into student beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. The 2018 poll finds dramatic shifts in how secure students perceive First Amendment Freedoms, and explores significant new ground in how students understand the relationship between values of free expression and values of diversity and inclusion. Join us for a closing plenary to unpack these new findings and talk about what they means for campuses now and in the future.


Becky Petit

Becky Petitt

Vice Chancellor – Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, University of California San Diego

Maxwell Little

Maxwell Little, M.Ed.

Student Activist, Concerned Student 1950, University of Missouri-Columbia

Steve Isenberg

Steven Isenberg

Former Publisher, New York Newsday, Chairman Emeritus and Former Interim President, Adelphi University (NY)

Lorelle Espinosa

Lorelle Espinosa

Assistant Vice President, Policy Research and Strategy, ACE

Brandon Busteed

Brandon Busteed

Executive Director, Education & Workforce Development, Gallup

Sylvia Burwell

Sylvia Burwell

President, American University