Meet Our Speakers

Lisa Hanasono

Keynote Speaker, Bowling Green State University

Allies and Advocates: Taking a Stand against Bullying

Dr. Lisa Hanasono (Ph.D., Purdue University) is an associate professor in the Department of Communication at Bowling Green State University (BGSU). Her research interests examine how people communicate and cope with prejudice and discrimination. Specifically, she studies how people engage in hate speech, bullying, and microaggressions on social media and in face-to-face interactions. She also investigates how people can stop discrimination and hate through anti-hate advocacy, allyship, supportive communication, and institutional change. At BGSU, Dr. Hanasono enjoys teaching a wide collection of courses including race and communication, interpersonal communication, research methods, persuasion, and critical thinking. To make meaningful connections between her scholarship and service, Dr. Hanasono works on initiatives and committees related to diversity, equity, and inclusion like the President's Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion, and she is a fellow of the MAC Academic Leadership Program.

Rudy Bankston

Adjunct Instructor at Edgewood College

Restorative Practices Coach in the Madison Metropolitan School District

Roderick "Rudy" Bankston grew up on the North side of Milwaukee. In what he refers to as his 'lost period,' he followed what seemed like the given pattern of fast living for young black males which led to a murder conviction for a crime he did not commit. He was given a life sentence in 1996 of which he served 20 years while fighting to get his life back. Finally in 2015, following a successful appeal, he was released. Soon after which he relocated to Madison and worked multiple jobs until landing a position at James Madison Memorial High School as the community liaison for their peace room. He's also worked at Restore, a newly developed MMSD expulsion abeyance program. Currently, Rudy is adjunct instructor at Edgewood College and works full-time as a Restorative Practice Coach for the Madison Metropolitan School District. Rudy is also a writer who wrote prolifically from prison and published a novel, 'Shed So Many Tears'. He recently published a moving collection of Haiku poetry written behind and beyond bars, some collaboratively, entitled 'Snippets of Soul in Seventeen Syllables.' Both books are on sale through his website, you can check them out here.

Bret Evered

UW Superior

First Nations History

Bret Evered is a Lecturer in First Nation Studies at University of Wisconsin Superior. Bret teaches in the programs of First Nation Studies, Gender Studies, History and Social Work. Bret is a member of Human Behavior, Justice and Diversity Department of UW - Superior. 

Chandra Waring


Biracial, gender, family, media & pedagogy

Dr. Chandra Waring came to UW-Whitewater in 2012 after earning her Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut. She has taught courses on social problems, white racism, and ethnicity and race. Her areas of specialization include racial and ethnic relations; minority and multiracial families; qualitative research methods; and media and gender. 

Laura Khoury


Race/ethnic relations in US Race & police profiling

Dr. Laura Khoury received her doctorate from Kansas State University in 2000. She teaches Sociology and Ethnic Studies and UW Parkside and Platteville. Professor Laura Khoury has been selected as 2017's receipt of the Wisconsin Sociological Association's William H. Sewell Outstanding Scholarship Award. The award acknowledges and honors people who have a record of outstanding scholarly accomplishments in sociology.

Sandra Neumann

UW-Marshfield/Wood County

Diversity awareness & LGBTQ+

Dr. Sandra L. Neumann, associate professor of Psychology, attended the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues' 2010 Early Career Scholars' Workshop in June in New Orleans. She also published "Animal Welfare Volunteers: Who are They and Why Do They Do What They Do?" in the most recent volume of the peer-reviewed journal Anthrozoos. Her area's of expertise include: diversity awareness for adults; awareness of and combating discrimination among adults; comprehensive sexuality education; environmental sustainability in higher education.

Fenaba R. Addo



Dr. Fenaba R. Addo is an Assistant Professor of Consumer Science at UW-Madison, where she is also an affiliate of the Center for Financial Security, Institute for Research on Poverty, Center for Demography and Ecology, and the La Follette School of Public Affairs. She received her Ph.D. in Policy Analysis and Management from Cornell University and holds a B.S. in Economics from Duke University

Lora Vahlsing

Race & adoption - a personal account

Lora Vahlsing earned a BA from UW-Milwaukee in English Literature, a BFA in Graphic Design from the University of Oshkosh, and an MFA in Poetry from the University of Oregon. She teaches art, contemplative photography, and poetry. Lora is a certified yoga instructor and teaches yoga and meditation in schools, hospitals, businesses and the juvenile detention center. She is also the 2017 recipient of the Envision's Entrepreneur grant.

Jody Siker


Disabilities in education & teacher/advisor training

Dr. Jody Siker is an assistant professor of education at UW-Parkside. Specializing in Special Education and Math. She previously taught students in K-8 and university settings in Wisconsin and California. She was part of a team to develop an online resource for teachers to build their understanding of proportionality and also has done research on number talks in first grade classrooms. Her other research interests include co-teaching, teacher's beliefs and attitudes, critical reflection, self - regulation, special education services, and teaching preparation.

Christopher Szymczak

Student of UW Fond du Lac/Eau Claire


Christopher Szymczak is a student and activist. His dedication to standing with oppressed people grew out of his own childhood experiences in small-town Wisconsin, where he was singled out as "different" from an early age. As he grew into his own identity in the LGBTQ+ community, he began to advocate for the rights and safety of others. Most recently, he founded and created programming for the Equality Project-a monthly gathering to educate, support, and take action to achieve equality for LGBTQ+ persons-held at Open Circle Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Fond du Lac and open to all community members who stand on the side of love. He also led the LGBT student group at the UW-Fond du Lac Campus, where he'll receive his associate's degree 2017-18 and changed his lifework from veterinary science to advocacy. Starting Spring Semester in January, he will be attending UW-Eau Claire, where he will continue his LGBTQ+ activism, as well as his solidarity in supporting women, people of all races and religions, the environment, and animals, while earning a degree in history and political science with a minor in women/gender/sexuality studies. Because of his work, studies, and activism, he has little free time but when he does it is mainly spent with his dog, Banksy!

Kenneth Smits 

Rev. Kenneth Smits, Capuchin-Franciscan Friar

Diversity and Religion: Borders and Walls 

Achieved degrees in theology from schools in Canada, France, and Germany. Professor of Liturgy at St. Francis Seminary, Milwaukee, for 13 years. Retreat ministry and spiritual guidance for 24 years, while also part time in hospital chaplaincy, addiction counseling, prison ministry, and LGBT ministry. Semi-retired in Fond du Lac, and chaplain to Community of St. Agnes (women religious).