Plenary Speakers


Ethel Williams, Ph.D.

Dr. Williams is the director of University of Nebraska at Omaha’s School of Public Administration and president of the Network of Schools of Public Policy (NASPAA). As NASPAA President, Williams oversees governance and academic accreditation standards and insurances for public affairs programs across the globe. Professor Williams serves on the Personnel Board for the City of Omaha where she has served as chair and secretary. She has also served on the Judicial Nominating Committee for the state of Nebraska and on numerous other local boards and commissions.

Lia Epperson, J.D.

Lia Epperson, Associate Professor of Law and Director of the SJD Program at American University Washington College of Law, is a nationally recognized expert in the areas of civil rights, constitutional law, and education policy. Her scholarship centers on the constitutional dialogue between federal courts and the political branches, and its implications for educational equity. Her scholarship, published in leading journals, also explores the role of public schools, colleges, and universities in creating equal opportunity. Prior to her appointment at American University, she served on the law faculties of the University of Maryland and Santa Clara University. She has also served as a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, focusing on federal civil rights enforcement of educational policies and practices. Professor Epperson's research interests are informed by her experiences litigating education cases throughout the country, and lobbying for the maintenance and enforcement of civil rights protections.

E.J. Dionne, Ph.D.

Before joining The Washington Post in 1990 as a political reporter, he spent 14 years at The New York Times, covering local, state, and national politics, and also serve as a foreign correspondent in Paris, Rome and Beirut. Dionne began his column for The Post in 1993. He is a University Professor at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution. Dionne has been a frequent commentator on politics for National Public Radio, ABC's "This Week," and NBC's "Meet the Press." His book "Why Americans Hate Politics" (1991), won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was a National Book Award nominee. His most recent book is "Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith & Politics After the Religious Right" (2008). He is also author of "Stand Up Fight Back: Republican Toughs, Democratic Wimps, and the Politics of Revenge" (2004), and "They Only Look Dead: Why Progressives Will Dominate The Next Political Era" (1996).

Dionne received the American Political Science Association's annual Carey McWilliams Award in 1996 for a major journalistic contribution to the understanding of politics. In 2002, he received the Empathy Award from the Volunteers of America, and in 2004 he won the National Human Services Assembly's Award for Excellence by a Member of the Media.

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