2019 Intersect Keynote Speakers
Jonathan McElderry

Dr. Jonathan A. McElderry has served as the Assistant Dean of Students and the Executive Director of the Intercultural Center at Wake Forest University since June 2016. Additionally, he serves as an affiliate faculty member in the University’s Department of Counseling. Before joining the Wake Forest community, Dr. McElderry served as the Director of the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center at the University of Missouri.

His research has sought to raise awareness of the experiences of underrepresented students at predominantly White institutions and provide strategies to increase their academic and social success.His professional activities include holding several leadership positions within the American College Personnel Association; serving as a Co-Lead Facilitator for the Leadershape Institute and a standout scholar-practitioner, who has authored/co-authored research articles, book chapters, and mainstream resources. He has presented both nationally and internationally and has received several awards for his work in higher education.

Dr. McElderry holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri, a M.Ed. in College Student Personnel from Ohio University, and a B.S. in Administration of Justice from George Mason University.

Payton Head

Former President of the Missouri Students Association & Activist

Payton is a recent graduate of the University of Missouri where he represented 28,000 students as President of the student government. In the aftermath of Ferguson, he spearheaded conversations about improving race relations in Missouri. Head’s viral Facebook post detailing his experience with racism at Mizzou ignited students to fight for a more inclusive campus and shook up the world of higher education. This led to the #ConcernedStudent1950 movement, where campus protests resulted in the resignation of the chancellor and UM-System president in fall 2015. Head was featured in Teen Vogue’s “How Three Students Changed the Course of History at Their Schools.”

Head was awarded an NAACP Image Award on the mantra “Courage Will Not Skip this Generation,” and he was featured in Spike Lee’s ESPN documentary “2 Fists UP.” He is a contributing writer for the Huffington Post and joined former Secretary Arne Duncan with the U.S. Department of Education to discuss strategies for addressing campus race relations. With the National Campus Leadership Council and the Department of Ed, he co-authored a guide for student leaders for addressing inclusion, and has presented to students nationwide on the importance of creating a culture of acceptance.

A member of the LGBTQ community, Head facilitates dialogue on the intersection of race and sexual identities. He has presented at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, addressed the White House Initiative on HBCUs, and helped to organize and present at the first White House Convening for Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Ed. He has been featured in national media outlets such as CNN, MSNBC, ABC, The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Using his platform to advocate for inclusion, Head empowers students and campus administrators to fight hatred with radical love for others and for themselves.


Previous Intersect Keynote Speakers

Denice Frohman

Denice Frohman is a poet, performer, and educator from New York City. Collectively garnering over 10 million views online, she’s been featured on Buzzfeed, Cosmopolitan, Refinery 29, AutoStraddle, and Upworthy. She was named “Top 20 Emerging LGBT Leader” by the Philadelphia Gay Newspaper, and one of “5 LGBTQ Latinx Hereos for Every Classroom” by GLSEN. Her poetry has been commissioned by Twitter as part of the #HereWeAre campaign to uplift women’s voices, which aired on national television in 2018. She has written creative content for brands, collaborated with arts foundations, and worked with grassroots non-profits on social justice campaigns. As a queer Latina, Frohman is the daughter of Puerto Rican and Jewish parents. She’s performed on national and international stages for over 15 years. Her work focuses on identity, lineage, subverting traditional notions of power, and celebrating the parts of ourselves deemed unworthy. She hopes to inspire people, particularly young queer people of color, to know that their stories are worth telling. A former Program Director at The Philly Youth Poetry Movement, she worked to create safe spaces for Philadelphia teens to discover the power of their voices. Her passion to mentor young people has always been a central part of her work. She is co-organizer of #PoetsforPuertoRico and lives in Philadelphia.

Kat Blaque

Kat Blaque is an animator, illustrator and Youtuber from Southern California who has been openly blogging about her life for the past 10+ years on Youtube. Experiencing the ups and downs of New Media, she has ultimately concluded that Social Media is a powerful force for change and awareness. She currently uses her platforms on YouTube and Facebook to speak about the topics she’s passionate about as well as spread information, and cultivate conversations that encourage education across intersections. She playfully refers to herself as “intersectionality salad” as she embodies various identities and experiences. She hosts a weekly show on her channel called “True Tea” where she answers questions sent to her by her followers.


Eduardo Bonilla-Silva

Bonilla Silva.Eduardo Bonilla-Silva is Professor and Chair of the Sociology department at Duke University. Professor Bonilla-Silva gained visibility in the social sciences with his 1997 American Sociological Review article, “Rethinking Racism: Toward a Structural Interpretation” where he challenged social analysts to study racial matters structurally rather than from the sterile prejudice perspective.

Bonilla-Silva has received many awards, most notably, the 2007 Lewis Coser Award given by the Theory Section of the American Sociological Association for Theoretical-Agenda Setting and, in 2011, the Cox-Johnson-Frazier Award given by the American Sociological Association “to an individual or individuals for their work in the intellectual traditions of the work of these three African American scholars.” He is the President-Elect of the Southern Sociological Society and is running right now for the presidency of the American Sociological Association.


Clint Smith

Clint Smith.Clint Smith is a teacher, poet, and doctoral candidate at Harvard University. He believes we all share a story, the human story. It’s in the telling, he believes, that we emerge as individuals and celebrate what we have in common. His TED Talk, a presentation of his spoken word poem, “The Danger of Silence,” has been viewed more than two million times, and was named one of the Top 20 TED Talks of 2014. His new TED Talk, “How to Raise a Black Son in America,” was released in April 2015. Using his experience as an award-winning teacher and poet to share personal stories of justice, community, and education, his customizable art-form illuminates how we can all find the courage to create change, overcome challenges, and unite ourselves through the power of the collective voice.


Geena Rocero

Geena Rocero.Born to humble beginnings in Manila, Philippines, Geena always had big dreams. Growing up, she knew that she was different from her childhood friends. At a young age, she told her mom that her gender assignment at birth was different. At fifteen, a pageant manager approached her to join a beauty contest. This opportunity led her to the world of the Trans Women Beauty Pageant in the Philippines. As a young teenager, she then became one of the most prominent figures in the Trans Beauty Pageant world. Through her own experience into womanhood and working as a professional model, she realized her bigger purpose in life was to share her journey and work towards justice and beauty in the transgender community. On March 31, 2014, in honor of International Transgender Day of Visibility, Geena came out as transgender while giving a TED talk, which has now been viewed over 2 million times. Geena is now working full-time on Gender Proud, a global transgender rights campaign. Her purpose is to raise awareness of the transgender community and to change the global policy that will allow transgender individuals to change their names and gender markers without having to go through surgery.


Jose Antonio Vargas

Jose Antonio Vargas.A journalist for over a decade writing for some of the most prestigious news organizations in the country, Jose Antonio Vargas’ personal journey contends with some of the most fascinating stories he’s covered. After being born and raised in the Philippines, his mother, wanting to give her son a better life, sent him to live with his grandparents in Silicon Valley in 1993. However, at 16 years old, when applying for his learner’s permit at the DMV, he discovered his green card was a fake. Vargas then realized he needed to continue hiding his true identity to avoid deportation and be able to pursue his American dream – a career in journalism. Vargas wrote a widely circulated profile of Mark Zuckerberg for The New Yorker and was part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize for covering the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech. In the summer of 2011, 18 years after arriving in America he decided he was done running. Vargas exposed his story in his groundbreaking essay, “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant” for The New York Times Magazine. Vargas wrote, directed, and produced the autobiographical film Documented: A film by an undocumented American, released in 2013, and presented by CNN Films on July 15, 2014, after living for 21 years in the United States as an undocumented resident, Vargas was arrested by immigration authorities while trying to fly out of the border town of McAllen, Texas.


Zach Wahls

Zach Wahls.When 19-year-old engineering student Zach Wahls got up to testify before the Iowa House of Representatives in February 2011, he had no idea what was in store for him. He spoke briefly and directly about his family and why he believes same-sex marriage, legal in Iowa since 2009, should remain protected by his state’s constitution. By the next day, without his knowledge, Zach’s words and image had been uploaded onto YouTube and he’d become a national topic—over 1.5 million viewers within ten days. Energized by his new, and astoundingly sudden, emergence as a national advocate for marriage equality, Zach has continued speaking and in 2012 published his book, My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength, and What Makes a Family about his life growing up with two lesbian parents.


Dr. Silvia Cristina Bettez

Silvia Cristina Bettez.Dr. Silvia Cristina Bettez teaches about issues of social justice in the University of North Carolina at Greensboro graduate program. Her classes include Teaching Social Justice and Sociology of Education. Her scholarship centralizes social justice with a focus on fostering critical community building, teaching for social justice, and promoting equity through intercultural communication and engagement. She has published articles in several journals. She is active in the American Educational Studies Association including as a former executive council member, serves on the School of Education Faculty Access & Equity Committee, and is a member and the former co-chair of the UNCG Coalition for Diverse Language Communities.


Tim Wise

Tim Wise.Tim Wise, whom philosopher Cornel West calls, “A vanilla brother in the tradition of (antiracism and antislavery fighter) John Brown,” is among the most prominent anti-racist writers and educators in the United States. Wise, who was named one of “25 Visionaries Who are Changing Your World,” by Utne Reader in 2010, has spoken in all 50 states of the U.S., on over 800 college and high school campuses, and to community groups across the nation. Tim Wise provides a critical perspective on racism and privilege not only through his lectures but through his six books. His next book, The Culture of Cruelty: How America’s Elite Demonize the Poor, Valorize the Rich and Jeopardize the Future, was released in Winter 2014.