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Advance Equity Speaker Series

Learn from our speakers as they share insights and perspectives on various DE&I topics.

WGU’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) team hosts the Advance Equity Speaker Series (AESS) as part of our commitment to change lives for the better by advancing equity and expanding access to opportunity. Our monthly webinar series features guests who share insights and perspectives on various topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Recordings from each session are posted on this page after the event.

November 2023

The Power of Choice: My Journey from Wounded Warrior to World Champion 

Join us for a conversation with Melissa Stockwell on perseverance and finding ability in disability. She was the first female American to lose a limb in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Her vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb on April 13, 2004, resulting in the loss of her left leg, above the knee. She was honored with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for her service. Later she represented the USA as a member of the US Paralympic Swim Team where she was the first Iraq War veteran to qualify for the Paralympic Games.

Away from the field of play, Melissa co-founded the non-profit organization Dare2tri, which serves youth and adults with physical disabilities along with injured service members.

Previous Webinars

October 2023

No Need for Sight When You Have a Vision

Join us for a conversation with Lex Gillette who is a globally recognized Paralympian, competing primarily in the long jump. He’s a five-time Paralympic medalist, four-time world champion, and the current world record holder in long jump for totally blind athletes.

September 2023

A Conversation with Dolores Huerta – Community Organizer & Social Justice Leader

Join us for a conversation with Dolores Huerta who is a celebrated Latina labor leader, activist, and community organizer. She has worked for civil rights and social justice for over 50 years. Dolores played a major role in the American civil rights movement. She co-founded the United Farm Workers (UFW) with Cesar Chavez advocating for farm workers in this country. Dolores continues working to develop community leaders to advocate for the working poor, immigrants, women and youth through her work with the Dolores Huerta Foundation.

Dolores is a two-time U.S. Presidential Award Recipient, receiving the Medal of Freedom Award from President Obama in 2012 and the Eleanor D. Roosevelt Human Rights Award from President Clinton in 1998. She is the first Latina inducted into the National Women’s Hall of fame.

August 2023

Behind the Scenes in Research: A Look at Equity and Inclusion

Join us for a conversation with a panel of research professionals who will share insights into equity and inclusion in researcher engagement, participant selection, and research impact. The panel will offer practical considerations to ensure fairness and equity for research.


  • Dr. Susie Chen, Manager, Advanced Analytics, WGU Labs
  • Tom Glover, Sr. Research Analyst, WGU Institutional Research
  • Dr. Chantae Recasner, Vice President for Instruction, Seattle Central College
  • Dr. Robin Throne, Chair, Institutional Review Board, WGU

July 2023

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) in Higher Education

Join us for a conversation with three professionals who will share their insights about DE&I, clarify misconceptions, talk about implications of unaddressed inequities, and discuss opportunities to continue the conversation.

Panelists: Dr. Patricia Gonzalez, Assistant Dean for Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion; University of Colorado Boulder; Dr. Nadine Nakamura, Professor and Psychologist, Alliant International University; and Jason Thompson, Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, WGU.

June 2023

Being a Voice for Change

What is allyship? What can you do to support the LGBTQ+ and other marginalized communities in a challenging world? Join us for a conversation with Greg R. Baird, who will share stories and insights about how all of us can be supportive allies in the workplace and community. Greg is a global LGBTQ+ lecturer, writer, activist, and filmmaker. He was the executive producer for a documentary about Matthew Shepard and directed a short memorial film about the Pulse Nightclub shooting. 

May 2023

Forgiving the Unforgivable

Join us for a conversation with Rais Bhuiyan, an American Muslim from Bangladesh and extraordinary individual with a powerful story. Ten days after 9/11, Rais was the victim of a horrific hate crime. Shot in the face at point blank range by a white supremacist, Rais barely survived. His near-death experience and subsequent religious pilgrimage sparked a profound journey, including the creation of World Without Hate and a campaign to save his attacker from death row.

April 2023

Further Along the Road Toward Gender Equity 

Join us for a conversation with Paula Stone Williams who will share her experience as a transgender woman. Paula will address the obstacles and opportunities to achieving true gender equity. How can men be more attuned to the work environment of women, and make the workplace more equitable? How can women work collaboratively to achieve their goals? Paula has been featured in the New York Times, Washington PostTED, Red Table Talk, National Public Radio, People Magazine, and other media outlets.

March 2023

Representation Matters: The Stories, Experiences, and Opportunities for Women in Technology

Join us for a conversation with three dynamic leaders who are creating pathways to advance equity for women in the tech sector. This panel will look at barriers that women face in the tech sector and its implications, discuss how to retain and support underrepresented women in tech, and highlight initiatives taking place to close the gender gap in IT.

Panelists: Jane Chung, Managing Director, Deloitte & Touche LLP; Dwana Franklin-Davis, CEO, Reboot Representation; and Peggy White, Associate Dean and Director, WGU College of Information Technology.

February 2023

Diverse Journeys in Higher Education 

Join us for a conversation about the experiences of faculty from diverse backgrounds in higher education roles. This panel will explore challenges, opportunities, as well as share strategies to foster an equitable and inclusive environment for underrepresented faculty and staff. This panel will feature Dr. Antija Allen, author of “We’re Not Ok: Black Faculty Experiences and Higher Education Strategies,” WGU course instructors Alice Tarun and Melvin Sanchez, and WGU program mentor Mike Dodge.


  • Dr. Antija Allen, Author and Educator
  • Alice Tarun, WGU Course Instructor
  • Melvin Sanchez, WGU Course Instructor
  • Mike Dodge, WGU Program Mentor

January 2023

Lessons from Little Rock

Join us for a conversation with Dr. Terrance Roberts who made history as one of “The Little Rock Nine.” In 1957, Dr. Roberts was one of nine African American students to enroll at an all-White Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Dr. Roberts will share his experience of desegregation at the school and lessons to be learned from this event. Dr. Roberts has taught, written, and consulted on issues related to race and racism in United States. He is the author of two books: Lessons from Little Rock and Simple, Not Easy.

November 2022

Growing Up with Heroes: A Daughter’s Journey with the Navajo Code Talkers

WGU hosted a conversation with Zonnie Gorman as she shares the remarkable journey of her father who was one of the first twenty-nine Navajo Code Talkers during World War II. Recognized historian of the Navajo Code Talkers of World War II, Zonnie is an expert in her field and a dedicated teacher. She has served as a consultant to numerous documentaries, museum exhibitions and authors.

Read more about the life and work of Zonnie Gorman.

October 2022

Disability Rights: Past, Present, and Future
A Conversation with Judy Heumann “Mother of Disability Rights”

Join us for a conversation with Judith (Judy) Heumann who is an internationally recognized disability rights activist and leader. Judy was instrumental in the development and implementation of key legislations (e.g., Section 504, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, ADA, Rehabilitation Act, and UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities). Over the span of her impressive career, Judy has held noteworthy government and civic appointments to expand the global reach of her work, including serving for two U.S. Presidents, the Mayor of D.C., and as the first advisor on disability and development for the World Bank. In addition to her degree from Long Island University and Master of Public Health from University of California at Berkeley, she has been awarded several honorary doctorate degrees from universities across the United States including University of Pittsburgh, Middlebury College, and Smith College.

Learn more about Judy Heumann.

September 2022

A Look at Migration Through an Equity Lens

Join our panelists for a discussion on the social inequalities impacting displaced migrant communities, dispel myths about asylum seekers, and explore the intersection of race, privilege, access, and how these factors impact persons seeking asylum in the United States.

Panelists: Lindsay Goldford Gray, CEO, Vecina; Nicole Ramos, Border Rights Project Director, Al Otro Lado; and Alejandra Adán, Volunteer Interpreter/Translator and Senior Community Relations Liaison at WGU.

August 2022

Advancing Equity in Education

Our School of Education discusses efforts to address equity disparities, including initiatives in the field of education.

Participants include: David Bell, Ed.D., Former Director and Associate Dean of Advanced Programs and Dr. Mamie L. Pack, Managing Principal of Healthy Learning in WGU’s School of Education, and Dr. Christine Gleason, Instructor General Education Science.

July 2022

Advancing Equity Through Entrepreneurship

Join dynamic businessman and inventor Cedric Cobb for a lively discussion on harnessing the power of entrepreneurship to advance equity, in addition to income inequality, wealth trends, and the impact on communities of color. Best known for securing a deal on Shark Tank for his invention, the “best pocket square holder,” Cedric credits his mother as the impetus for his success. A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Cedric developed a passion for business that started in his teens after his first visit to the flea market where his mother taught him how to properly greet people and negotiate prices. He said, “I fell in love with business and connecting people's needs to a product or service.” Cedric recently published a book to guide people how to get their idea to market.

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Contact WGU's Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) team for more information.