2016-2017

As chronicled in the hit film Concussion (starring Will Smith), Dr. Bennet Omalu’s story is one of great triumph in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Born in 1968 in Eastern Nigeria during the civil war, his family lived as refugees, his town under constant fire by the Nigerian Air Force. Despite suffering war-related under-nutrition in the first two years of his life, Omalu would go on to attend medical school at age 15 and become a physician by age 21.

In 2002, Dr. Omalu made a career breakthrough when he became the first doctor to discover and identify chronic brain damage as a major factor in the deaths of some professional athletes. He called the disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which he first discovered as the result of an autopsy he performed on Mike Webster—one of the best Centers in NFL history. “Iron Mike”, the legendary Pittsburgh Steeler and Hall of Famer, died at age 50, his brain revealing something doctors had never seen before. Within five years of reporting on Webster’s case, Dr. Omalu went on to identify CTE in eight more deceased NFL players. He was also the first to discover CTE in military veterans diagnosed with PTSD, as well as professional wrestlers. But his findings were summarily dismissed—and even ridiculed—by his professional peers, the NFL, and the sports industry. The NFL even made a concerted effort to retract Dr. Omalu’s published papers. But he stood his ground in search of the truth.

Today, CTE has become generally accepted and Dr. Omalu’s findings have revolutionized neuroscience, sports medicine and safety, the study of all types of brain trauma, and the entire sports industry. In 2015, Omalu’s life and work were chronicled in a book and film, both titled Concussion. The book was released in November 2015 and Will Smith portrayed Dr. Bennet Omalu in the film, which was released Christmas Day, 2015.

Dr. Omalu was awarded a WebMD Health Heroes 2015 award for his discovery of CTE and raising awareness to the disease. Health Heroes awards are given to those who do great things to help others live healthier, better lives.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016
3 p.m.
Student Center Ballroom

Veteran Democratic political strategist Donna Brazile is an adjunct professor, author, a syndicated columnist, and the Interim Chair and Vice Chair of Voter Registration and Participation at the Democratic National Committee.

Ms. Brazile began her political career at the age of nine when she worked to support the campaign of a city council candidate who promised to build a playground in her neighborhood. Four decades and innumerable state and local campaigns later, she has worked on every presidential campaign from 1976 through 2000, when she served as presidential campaign manager for former Vice President Al Gore.

Margaret Hoover is a best-selling author and host of SiriusXM’s daily show Get It Right with Margaret Hoover which features pop-culture, entertainment and politics.  A CNN political contributor, LGBT activist, and veteran of the Bush Administration White House, Margaret is passionate about modernizing the Republican Party.  In her bestselling book, American Individualism: How A New Generation of Conservatives Can Save the Republican Party (Crown Forum, July 2011), Ms. Hoover challenges the GOP to modernize in order to connect with the millennial generation.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016
3 p.m.
Student Center Ballroom

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield are the men behind one of the most talked-about and least conventional success stories in American business. Founders of Ben and Jerry’s Homemade, Inc., they built a store-front venture into an ice cream and business phenomenon by harnessing the power of social responsibility and creative management.

With their best-selling Ben & Jerry’s Double-Dip: How to Run a Values Led Business and Make Money Too, they created a nuts-and-bolts guidebook to the promise and pitfalls of “values-led” business, as well as an inspiring wake-up call about the growing international influence of the “socially conscious” or “mission driven” corporation.

Free Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream will be provided (while supplies last)

November 17, 2016
3 p.m.
Student Center Ballroom

Nobody gets results like Judge Glenda Hatchett. A visionary on the bench, she is renowned for her unique way of determining justice in an innovative, authoritative manner.

Well known for her award-winning show, Judge Hatchett, she was lauded for her creative sentencing and powerful administration of justice. With a groundbreaking approach to courtroom television, she delivered revolutionary interventions where litigants "do time" with successful community leaders and professionals from the workforce, the arts, social activism, public service, and athletics.

Glenda Hatchett and the Hatchett Law Firm announced Monday they will be representing the family of Philando Castile in all civil legal matters related to his death after a traffic stop in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota last week.

34th Annual MLK Commemoration
January 19, 2017
4 p.m.
Student Center Ballroom

With a career spanning five decades, George Takei is known around the world for his founding role in the acclaimed television series Star Trek, in which he played Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the Starship Enterprise. But Takei’s story goes where few stories have gone before. From a childhood spent in a Japanese internment camp during WWII to becoming one of the country’s leading figures in the fight for social justice,  LGBTQ rights, and marriage equality, George Takei is a powerful voice on issues ranging from politics to pop culture.

In 2012, Mashable.com named Takei the #1 most-influential person on Facebook. He currently boasts nearly 10 million Facebook likes and more than 1.81 million Twitter followers – and he uses these platforms to share humor, news, and his take on current events.

Currently, Takei hosts the AARP-produced YouTube series Takei’s Take, and is the subject of To Be Takei (2014), a documentary on his life and career. On his own YouTube channel, Takei and his husband Brad give viewers a peek into their personal lives in the “heightened reality” webseries It Takeis Two.

In 2015, Takei made his Broadway debut in the musical Allegiance. Inspired by Takei’s own childhood experiences, Allegiance follows one family’s extraordinary journey in an untold American story of forgiveness, joy, and the redemptive power of love

February 9, 2017
3 p.m.
Student Center Ballroom

Thursday, February 28, 2017
Student Center Speaker Auditorium
4 p.m.
Tierra Benton is a runway model originally from the sun-kissed shores of Oahu, Hawaii. Tierra Benton is an internationally recognized supermodel based in N.Y. Her career grew roots in Atlanta, Ga with fashion editorial, commercial print and runway modeling experience. Tierra has been featured worldwide in TV productions, motion pictures, commercials and billboard campaigns. Her work has been published in countless magazines including Marie Claire, Seventeen and Essence. Tierra has vast experience with promotional modeling, fashion runway, commercial print, and digital productions. On and off the runway, the Georgia State Alumni is a champion for higher education and an advocate for holistic wellness. In fact, nature is Tierra's biggest inspiration and the driving force behind her very own wellness technology and lifestyle brand Verra Life.
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Student Center Ballroom
3 p.m.
Jamie Tworkowski founded To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), a non-profit group dedicated to helping those who suffer from depression, addiction, self-injury and suicidal tendencies find hope, support and love. TWLOHA began as a simple attempt to tell the story of a friend in need of treatment, and soon became an internet phenomenon and global movement. In 2010, Mashable named TWLOHA the Must-Follow Non-Profit and in 2011, TWLOHA was awarded $1 million from the American Giving Awards. In 2015, a film based on TWLOHA was released, as was Tworkowski’s New York Times bestselling book, If You Feel Too Much, which was also one of 15 books nominated in Goodreads’ Choice Awards 2015 in the Best Memoir/Autobiography category.

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