Speakers

Take a look at our QB25 lineup so far! We’ll be adding more exciting speakers shortly.

Michael Sorrell Transformative College President & Fortune 50 World’s Greatest Leader

Ranked with the likes of Tim Cook and Bill and Melinda Gates on Fortune’s 2018 list of the world’s greatest leaders, Michael Sorrell transformed struggling Paul Quinn College in Dallas into one of the most innovative colleges in America. An attorney and former White House staffer, Sorrell brought a bold new vision to Paul Quinn, focusing on academic rigor, experiential learning and entrepreneurship. He also pioneered what he named the “urban work college model,” based on Paul Quinn’s dramatic success. Inspiring, straight-talking, and with a compelling and hopeful story to tell, Sorrell received a standing ovation at SXSW Education for his dynamic delivery and groundbreaking approaches to reinventing the future of American higher education.

When Sorrell took the helm of Paul Quinn in 2007, enrollment had been declining for more than five years and the college was on the verge of being shut down. Today, it is considered a shining model of urban education and most years, has a waiting list. As Fortune noted when naming him to their top 50, “Sorrell quickly set about challenging perceptions, both external and internal, by giving Paul Quinn a bigger vision of itself.” With a rallying cry of “WE Over Me,” and a mission to end poverty, Sorrell led both a movement and a total transformation. He bolstered admissions standards, stepped up recruitment, demolished abandoned campus buildings and, in partnership with PepsiCo, turned the football field into an organic farm that feeds the neighborhood and the Dallas Cowboys. The college was honored as HBCU of the Year, the HBCU Student Government Association of the Year and the HBCU Business Program of the Year and was named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. It also became one of only a handful of federally recognized work colleges, a key component of the school’s reality-based educational approach.

Sorrell has received numerous awards and recognition for his civic and educational leadership. He is the only three-time recipient of the HBCU Male President of the Year award and was named one of America’s 10 Most Innovative College Presidents. He also received Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. and PUSH/Excel’s Education Leadership Award, the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and the A. Kenneth Pye Award for Excellence in Education from Duke University’s School of Law. Sorrell received a B.A. from Oberlin, a J.D. and M.A. in Public Policy from Duke University and an Ed.D from the University of Pennsylvania. He was the recipient of a Sloan Foundation Graduate Fellowship, studying as a graduate fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School and Duke. Before taking leadership of Paul Quinn, Sorrell enjoyed a successful career representing professional basketball players, as a public affairs consultant, attorney and as a special assistant in the White House under Bill Clinton.

A talented and energizing presenter, Sorrell has inspired crowds at TEDx, SXSW EDU, The Aspen Institute and Duke University, and numerous other venues with his vision for education, uniting communities and leading through challenges. His memorable speeches often include his formula for success at Paul Quinn College: Preach hope, practice patience, instill resilience, be entrepreneurial in thought and action and, most of all, lead with love.

Sarah Smarsh Author, Educator, Speaker, and Journalist

Sarah Smarsh is an author, educator, speaker, and journalist who focuses on socioeconomic class and rural America. Her book Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth examines historic economic inequality and tells the story of her upbringing among the working poor on a Kansas farm.

By ninth grade, Sarah attended eight southern-Kansas schools, ranging from a 2,000-student high school to a two-room prairie schoolhouse. She holds an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia, as well as degrees in journalism and English from the University of Kansas. Her book, Heartland, has been compared to Jeannette Walls’ bestselling memoir The Glass Castle and is a perfect companion to Barbara Ehrenreich’s iconic Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America. A former English professor and grant-writer for social service agencies, Sarah aims for all of her work to have a backbone of civic responsibility.

Sarah’s reportage and commentary have been published by The Guardian, The New York Times, The New Yorker,Harper’s, and many other publications. Her essays on class and poverty, “Poor Teeth” and “The First Person on Mars,” were both listed as notables in Best American Essays. Sarah recently published a four-part piece in No Depression about Dolly Parton and the working-class feminism found in country music. She is a regular commentator in national media and has spoken on poverty, politics, rural issues, cultural divides and the future of news. Sarah was recently a Fellow at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy and will soon launch a much-anticipated podcast about class and rural America.

As a fifth-generation Kansas farm kid, Sarah is a long-time dancer of the Country Two-Step, and she once won a nail-driving contest. She lives in Kansas.

Reid Hoffman Chair of QuestBridge West Coast Advisory Board Partner, Greylock Partners and Co-Founder, LinkedIn

An accomplished entrepreneur and executive, Reid has played an integral role in building many of today’s leading consumer technology businesses, including LinkedIn and PayPal. He possesses a unique understanding of consumer behavior and the dynamics of viral businesses, as well as deep experience in driving companies from the earliest stages through periods of explosive, “blitzscaling” growth. Ranging from Linkedin to PayPal, from Airbnb to Convoy to Facebook, Reid invests in businesses with network effects and collaborates on building their product ecosystems.

Reid co-founded LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional networking service, in 2003. LinkedIn is thriving with more than 500 million members around the world and a diversified revenue model that includes subscriptions, advertising, and software licensing. He led LinkedIn through its first four years and to profitability as Chief Executive Officer. Prior to LinkedIn, Reid served as executive vice president at PayPal, where he was also a founding board member.

Reid is an accomplished investor. He currently serves on the boards of Airbnb, Apollo Fusion, Aurora, Coda, Convoy, Entrepreneur First, Gixo, Microsoft, Nauto, Xapo and a few early stage companies still in stealth. In addition, he serves on a number of not-for-profit boards, including Kiva, Endeavor, CZI Biohub and Do Something. Reid is also Chair of the West Coast Advisory Board of QuestBridge. Prior to joining Greylock, he angel invested in many influential Internet companies, including Facebook, Flickr, Last.fm, and Zynga.

Reid is the co-author of Blitzscaling and two New York Times best-selling books: The Start-up of You and The Alliance. Reid is the host of the podcast, Masters of Scale.

Reid earned a master’s degree in philosophy from Oxford University, where he was a Marshall Scholar, and a bachelor’s degree with distinction in symbolic systems from Stanford University. In 2010 he was the recipient of an SD Forum Visionary Award and named a Henry Crown Fellow by The Aspen Institute. In 2012, he was honored by the Martin Luther King center’s Salute to Greatness Award. Also in 2012, he received the David Packard Medal of Achievement from TechAmerica and an honorary doctor of law from Babson University. In 2017, Reid was appointed as a CBE by her majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

David Simas Chief Executive Officer, Obama Foundation

David Simas is the Chief Executive Officer of the Obama Foundation. A native of Taunton, Massachusetts, he was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick in 2007. Simas then joined President Obama’s administration in 2009 as a Deputy Assistant to the President, working with senior advisors David Axelrod and David Plouffe. In 2012, he served as Director of Opinion Research for President Obama’s reelection campaign. Following the reelection, Simas returned to the White House as Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach. Simas holds a B.A. in political science from Stonehill College and a J.D. from Boston College Law School. He serves on the national board of directors of OneGoal and lives in Chicago with his wife, Shauna, and their two daughters.

Bill Bradley QuestBridge Board of Directors Managing Director of Allen & Company LLC

Bill Bradley served in the U.S. Senate from 1979-1997 representing the state of New Jersey. In 2000, he was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. Before serving in the Senate, he was an Olympic gold medalist in 1964 and a professional basketball player with the New York Knicks from 1967-1977 during which time they won two NBA championships.

Bradley is the author of six books on American politics, culture, and economy, including Time Present, Time PastThe New American Story, and Values of the Game—all New York Times bestsellers.

Currently, Senator Bradley is a Managing Director of Allen & Company LLC, a member of the board of directors of Starbucks Company, and the host of American Voices, a weekly show on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio that highlights the remarkable accomplishments of Americans both famous and unknown.

Rhonda Magee Professor of Law and Author

Rhonda V. Magee (M.A. Sociology, J.D.) is Professor of Law at the University of San Francisco, and is an internationally-recognized thought and practice leader focused on integrating Mindfulness into Higher Education, Law and Social Justice. A student of a wide variety of Buddhist and other wisdom teachers, including Norman Fischer and Jon Kabat Zinn, she trained as a mindfulness teacher through the Oasis Teacher Training Institute of the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness. She teaches Mindfulness-Based Interventions awareness and compassion practices from a range of traditions. A former President of the Board of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, Professor Magee is a Fellow of the Mind and Life Institute, she recently completed a 2-year term on its Steering Council. She is am member of the Board of Advisors of the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness and the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute.

Professor Magee graduated is a 1989 graduate, with Distinction, of the University of Virginia College of Arts and Sciences, and received both a Master degree in Sociology from UVA’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and a Juris Doctorate from the UVA School of Law in 1993.

A Professor of Law for twenty-one years (tenured since 2004), who teaches courses dealing civil actions for personal injury and insurance recovery; courses dealing with race and inequality; and a course she co-created on mindfulness and lawyering, Rhonda is experienced in interpersonal dynamics-informed small group facilitation (supported by training, retreats, and practice through a variety of programs, including Stanford University’s Interpersonal Dynamics Facilitator Program and the Gregory Kramer’s Insight Dialogue). Rhonda’s teaching and writing support compassionate conflict engagement and management; holistic problem-solving to alleviate the suffering of the vulnerable and injured; presence-based leadership in a diverse world, and humanizing approaches to education. She sees mindfulness and the allied disciplines as keys to personal, interpersonal and collective transformation in the face of the challenges and opportunities that social change represents.

Beverly Watson Principal, Watson Strategic Consultants

Beverly is the Director of the Scholars Program at King Philanthropies, where she is responsible for leadership development and community building for all Scholars in the King Scholars programs. She brings over 20 years of leadership experience working in a combination of fields, including international development, education, law and business. As Principal at Watson Strategic Consultants, Beverly also advises entrepreneurial leaders in education, business and non-profit sectors to operationalize strategic initiatives.

Previously, she held leadership positions in educational organizations including: Chief Operating Officer of XQ Institute, a foundation dedicated to transforming high school in the U.S; and VP of Relationship Management of Laureate Education, an international network of universities with over 1 million students across 28 countries. Previously, Beverly was the Founder and CEO of Global Imprints LLC, a company designed to empower communities and individuals to address pressing global issues through meaningful interactions and strategic international exchanges. Beverly’s other career highlights include: Associate Country Director for Mozambique for the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a United States corporation founded in 2004, whose mission is to reduce global poverty through the promotion of sustainable economic growth; Project Development and Finance Associate at the law firm Shearman & Sterling LLP in NY; Director of Schools Division for Achieva.com, an internet start-up that helped high school students in the college application process.

Beverly graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and a J.D. from Stanford Law School. She was a three-time exchange student to Brazil during high school, college and law school. She is fluent in Portuguese.

Nico Slate Quest Leadership Alum Professor of History, Carnegie Mellon University

Nico Slate participated in Quest Leadership in 1996 while attending a small public high school in the Mojave Desert. A historian who writes on social movements in the United States and India, Nico teaches at Carnegie Mellon University, directs SocialChange101.org, and strives to help low-income students thrive in college.

Isabel Safie QuestBridge Board of Directors, Quest Leadership alum Partner, Best Best & Krieger LLP

Isabel Safie is the child of a single mother who immigrated to the United States from Mexico to ensure a better life for herself and her children. While Isabel was always driven to succeed after witnessing the difficult life that her mother had, she did not think that an education at an elite university was attainable until Quest Scholars (then Stanford Youth Environmental Science Program), came into her life. Isabel attended Stanford University and obtained a B.A in Political Science with a minor in Human Biology, and then went on to law school at UCLA School of Law, needing to be close to her mother who had been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, during her final year at Stanford. From that point forward, Isabel became the sole provider for her mother and four younger siblings. When her mother passed away 5 years later, she and her husband took her siblings in and raised them as their own. She is now an equity partner at the law firm of Best Best & Krieger, has been married to her high school sweetheart for almost 15 years and has three beautiful children aged 3, 8 and 11. Her four siblings are all grown up and leading happy lives close to home.

Julio Medina QuestBridge Alum, Emory '13 Assistant Professor, Emory University

Julio Medina is an artist from South Central Los Angeles. His work fuses hip-hop vernacular, Latinx social dances, and modern dance, engaging mediums such as movement, film, and text. Medina earned his MFA at UCLA’s Department of World Arts & Cultures/Dance. Beforehand, he completed a double B.A. in Dance and Movement Studies as well as Anthropology at Emory University as a QuestBridge Scholar. Medina was a member of Atlanta-based StaibDance Company until 2013. In 2009, Medina founded TrickaNomeTry (TNT) Dance Crew, a hip-hop crew that continues to perform in the Atlanta community. Medina currently dances with David Rousseve/REALITY, set to tour the evening length work Halfway to Dawn until Fall 2019. After serving as full-time faculty in the dance department at California State University, Long Beach, Medina is delighted to return to Emory University to start a new tenure-track position as Assistant Professor in the dance program.

He is a first-generation Chicano raised in South Central Los Angeles. The neighborhood that Julio grew up in, a neglected and ostracized community in the middle of LA’s glamorous geography, and the sacrifices that his parents made by immigrating from Mexico motivated him to educate himself as a means to better the living conditions of him and his family. As a member of a low-income household, his dream and goal was to go to college for free on a scholarship. QuestBridge and Emory University made that a reality for him.

Ricardo Corona QuestBridge Alum, Stanford '12 Founder and Lead Consultant, Emergentist Endeavors

Ricardo Moreno is an innovation explorer and product strategist, leading both a consulting practice focused on circular economy products and a dynamic meditation practice focused on trauma-informed yoga. First in his family to graduate elementary school, Ricardo went on to earn his B.S. in Materials Engineering from Stanford University. After leaving his Aeronautics doctorate, he immersed himself in traditional industries facing disruption. As Corporate Strategy Associate at Flextronics, he launched their Lab IX hardware accelerator and as Technology Principal at Comet Labs, Legend Holding’s US-based venture capital fund,  he led reports assessing the impact of AI in traditional industries.

His current professional and personal pursuits center around organizations that restructure failed systems by adopting circular economy products and meaningful workflows. Ricardo became a certified trauma-informed yoga teacher as a Fellow in the Niroga Institute’s Yoga Teacher Training program, where he worked directly with underserved and LGBTQI youth in Alameda County as a dynamic yoga and meditation facilitator.

 

Javaughn Lawrence QuestBridge Alum, Yale '14 Venture Capital Investor, Eniac Ventures
Javaughn is a Venture Capital investor at Eniac Ventures in San Francisco, where he focuses on machine learning, robotics, space, and deep tech. Prior to Eniac, he worked at Linkedin and Bain & Company. He also founded BotsandAI.com to bring together founders and engineers of AI focused companies.  He attended Yale University, where he studied economics and statistics. He grew up in Jamaica and Miami.
Calvin N’Guyen QuestBridge Alum, Emory '12 Co-Founder & COO, BrainMind

Calvin Nguyen is cofounder of BrainMind, a platform for funding and building companies with a primary focus on human flourishing in the field of neuroscience. Calvin spent most of his career as a healthcare investor in growth and private equity at Capricorn Healthcare and Genstar Capital. Calvin graduated with honors from Emory University, with a degree in Finance. He grew up in Georgia.

Cody Coleman QuestBridge Alum, MIT '13 Computer Science Ph.D. Candidate, Stanford University

Cody Coleman is a computer science Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University advised by Professors Matei Zaharia and Peter Bailis and is supported by a National Science Foundation Fellowship. As a member of the Stanford DAWN Project, Cody’s research is focused on democratizing machine learning (ML) through tools and infrastructure that enable more than the most well-funded teams to create innovative and impactful systems. Prior to joining Stanford, he completed his B.S. and M.Eng. in electrical engineering and computer science (EECS) at MIT, where he was president of the EECS honor society and researched how ML could improve education. Cody was adopted and raised by his maternal grandparents after his father left and mother went to prison. Going to college, let alone at MIT and later Stanford for my Ph.D., seemed nearly impossible growing up, but thanks to some encouragement from his former teachers and the Quest Scholars Program, he thought why not and gave it a try.

Vi Nguyen QuestBridge Alum, Yale '11 Data Scientist

Vi immigrated to Des Moines, Iowa from Vietnam, with her parents and younger brother. At the age of 10, Vi began translating for her parents as the family navigated America’s English, culture, blue-collar jobs, public housing, and mental health system with plenty of successes and failures. Vi went on to study economics, computer science, and public policy at Yale, and the University of Chicago. She is a QuestBridge Scholar, a Dell Scholar, and an Education Pioneers fellow.

Her career north star revolves around education and data. She co-founded a youth development program in Vietnam in 2009 that still runs today, and jumpstarted alumni communities in Chicago and the Bay Area. After conducting research for the U.S. Congressional Budget Office, Vi went on to analyze textbook costs, budget allocations, and advisor/tutoring usage for executive decisions at the City Colleges of Chicago. Having been guided directly by QuestBridge through the college admissions process many years ago, Vi was excited to come full circle in 2017 to lead QuestBridge’s data science team.

When not immersed in ideas related to data, technology, and students’ thriving, Vi is working on creative family projects–a collection of family recipes with her brother, and a bilingual children’s book with her mom. Thanks to the support of friends, Vi and her mom are bringing their first book to market later this year: Why Toads Rule The Sky, a Vietnamese folktale never before told in English and Vietnamese!

Shellby Fabian QuestBridge Alum, Amherst '14 Talent Associate, Bessemer Venture Partners

Shellby Fabian currently works for Bessemer Venture Partners, a venture capital firm that invests in early stage technology companies. She supports the firm’s portfolio companies on talent acquisition and people operations.

Shellby graduated from Amherst College in 2014 where she designed a major that combined Sociology and Architectural Studies. After college, she worked for an architectural design studio leading business operations and social impact projects.

Outside of work Shellby seeks opportunities to empower others to advance in school and career. At Amherst she was a Peer Career Advisor and a mentor for high school students applying to college. She continues to support high schoolers as a mentor and tutor at College Track in her hometown of San Francisco.

Shawon Jackson QuestBridge Alum, Princeton, '15 MPP/MBA Student, Harvard University and Stanford University

Shawon Jackson is an MPP/MBA student at Harvard Kennedy School and Stanford Graduate School of Business. Before graduate school, Shawon lived in DC and worked with Deloitte, doing consulting for the federal government. He also spent a year in the Dominican Republic with an education non-profit. At Princeton, Shawon was Student Body President and a Quest Liaison.

Viet Nguyen QuestBridge Alum, Brown '17 Associate Consultant, Bridgespan Group

Viet Nguyen is a co-founder and executive director of EdMobilizer, which oversees the 1vyG conference. He graduated from Brown in 2017, where he successfully advocated for the creation of the First-Gen, Low-income Students Center and the elimination of application fees for low-income students. He then served as president of the student body his senior year and now serves as a voting member on Brown’s Board of  Trustees. He is a Fulbright Scholar and was recently named one of Forbes’ 30 under 30 in Education. He is currently an associate consultant at the Bridgespan Group, a non-profit consulting firm, and will be attending Stanford for his MBA in a year.

Daniela Uribe QuestBridge Alum, Stanford '11 Co-Founder and CEO Lazy Bear Tea

Daniela is the cofounder and CEO of Lazy Bear Tea, a social enterprise that upcycles healthy and delicious foods to benefit both people and the environment. She emigrated to the U.S. from Colombia with her mom to begin a new life when she was 12 years old. She found QuestBridge a few years later and was matched to Stanford University through the QuestBridge National College Match program. While at Stanford, she studied International Relations and African Studies, founded a chapter of Nourish International, and traveled around the world. She has worked at various nonprofits across the U.S. and Latin America in areas of conservation, civic engagement, sustainable tourism. Prior to founding Lazy Bear Tea, Daniela worked at FSG, a social impact consulting firm. She is the founder of the Torres del Paine Legacy Fund in Chile and is currently launching an initiative to support the transition to peace in Colombia through tourism and environmental stewardship.

Michael Woods QuestBridge Alum, Vassar '17 Singer-songwriter and Investment Banking Audit Analyst

Michael K. Woods is a New York based singer-songwriter, producer, and Investment Banking Audit Analyst from Sparta, Georgia. He is a member of the GRAMMYs Recording Academy, a Fulbright Summer Institute Award winner, QuestBridge Scholar, National Coca-Cola Scholar, and a Bill and Melinda Gates Scholar. He studied at the London School of Economics (LSE) focusing on the intersection of political economy and identity, which served as praxis for his latest music project, “Primal Instinct.” Prior to studying at the LSE, he spent a summer on a Fulbright award conducting independent research on slavery and memory at the University of Bristol.

As an artist, academic, and financial services analyst, he is balancing very distinct worlds. Woods believe that being placed in counterintuitive situations can create deeper understanding of systems at work. He is always looking towards the next adventure. In a music review, SoulTrain notes, “He’s acutely aware of the power the arts have in transmitting the messages of the people, he flatly says, ‘If I’m singing something that has no message, there’s no point.’” Woods holds a B.A. in Political Science from Vassar College.

Jochebed Bogunjoko QuestBridge Alum, Williams '16 Senior Investment Analyst at GRID 202 Partners

Jochebed Bogunjoko is a young financial professional with a passion for promoting diversity, practicing inclusion and pursuing social equity through racial justice-oriented investing. Most recently, she was a member of the Investment Group at a large nationally recognized RIA, where she helped lead firm-wide Impact Investing and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (“DEI”) strategy, as well as conducting due diligence on investment vehicles across all asset classes. She has since moved on to opportunities focused on providing investment advisory and financial planning services to those typically underserved by these industries, as well as consulting on DEI at corporations while preparing for the CFA exam and business school applications in the fall.

Jin Kim QuestBridge Alum, Yale '14 Law Clerk, US District Court for Southern District of New York

Jin Kim immigrated to the United States from Seoul, South Korea when he was 13 years old.  Thanks in large part to the opportunities created by QuestBridge, he went on to study economics and political science at Yale University as a first-generation college student.  Although he desired to attend law school right after college, Jin decided to put his personal goals on hold and supported his family financially after his mom was diagnosed with debilitating chronic pulmonary illnesses.  Before law school, he worked as a management consultant at the Boston Consulting Group and as an internal corporate strategy consultant at Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, where he founded the company’s first affinity group for LGBTQ employees.

Jin received his law degree from Harvard Law School, where he was on the Board of Student Advisers and a teaching assistant in the First-Year Legal Writing and Research program.  He is currently serving as a law clerk to the Hon. Naomi Reice Buchwald in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Ana Rowena McCullough QuestBridge Co-Founder and CEO

Ana Rowena McCullough is Co-Founder and Board Chair of QuestBridge. While an undergraduate at Stanford, she co-founded Quest with Michael McCullough. For this, she received the Dinkelspiel Award for outstanding contributions to education at Stanford. She is Co-Founder and former VP, Content of Shmoop.com, a leading provider of digital curriculum for middle school, high school, and college students. McCullough has also worked as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, a consulting scientist to the Environmental Defense Fund, and a research associate for Stanford President emeritus Donald Kennedy (also a QuestBridge Board Member). McCullough holds a B.A. from Stanford in Human Biology and a J.D. from Stanford Law School where she focused on environmental and youth law.