Fall 2020 – Spring 2021

Nyle DiMarco

Nyle DiMarco headshot

Deaf Activist & Winner of America’s Next Top Model
and Dancing with the Stars

March 2021

Co-sponsored in association with Disability Cultural Center, Barnes Center at the Arch and media sponsor WAER.

DiMarco is a deaf activist and ambassador for the deaf community. He won the mirror ball trophy on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” (season 22) and was the last model standing on The CW’s “America’s Next Top Model” (cycle 22).
Born into a multigenerational deaf family, he is an honorary spokesperson for Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids (LEAD-K) and founder of the Nyle DiMarco Foundation, which works to improve the lives of deaf people around the world. DiMarco produced the 2018 return to Broadway of “Children of a Lesser God” and was a creative collaborator on The ASL App, created by native deaf signers to teach conversational American Sign Language.

With a passion for language, literacy and advocacy within the deaf community and beyond, DiMarco shares his barrier-breaking story as a deaf man who has risen above stereotypes to take the world by storm. Believing that his deafness is “an asset rather than a limitation,” he builds a bridge between the deaf and hearing by shining a light on not only the struggles, but also the triumphs of the deaf culture.

Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland Headshot

March, 2021

Principal Dancer, American Ballet Theatre

Copeland began her ballet studies at 13, and at 15 won first place in the Music Center Spotlight Awards. She studied at the San Francisco Ballet School and American Ballet Theatre’s Summer Intensive on a full scholarship and was declared ABT’s National Coca-Cola Scholar in 2000. She joined the ABT’s Studio Company in September 2000 and the ABT as a member of the corps de ballet in April 2001.

In August 2007, Copeland became the company’s second African American soloist and the first in two decades. She was promoted to principal dancer in August 2015, making her the first African American woman to ever be promoted to the position in the company’s 75-year history. She made her Broadway debut in the role of “Ivy Smith/Miss Turnstiles” with the critically acclaimed show “On the Town.”

She has performed in a variety of classical and contemporary roles with ABT, including the title role in “Firebird,” Clara in “The Nutcracker,” Odette/Odile in “Swan Lake” and Aurora in “Sleeping Beauty.”

She holds a number of honors and endorsements, but has found her passion in giving back. She was named National Youth of the Year Ambassador for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in 2013, and was appointed to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition by President Obama in 2014. She has been a Turnaround Arts Ambassador since 2016, representing the Gregory Jocko Jackson School in Brooklyn.

Copeland received an honorary degree from the University of Hartford in 2014 for her contributions to classical ballet and for helping to diversify the art form.

Viet Thanh Nguyen

Headshot of Viet Thanh Nguyen

February, 2021

Author, Pulitzer Prize Winner

Co-sponsored in association with the College of Arts and Sciences and media sponsor WAER.

“Compares favorably with masters like Conrad, Greene, and le Carré.”
—New York Times

Nguyen and his family came to the United States as refugees in 1975 from Vietnam in 1975. As he grew up, he observed that movies and books about the Vietnam War only focused on Americans. He turned his writing towards lifting the voices and perspectives of the Vietnamese.

His debut novel, “The Sympathizer,” won the Pulitzer Prize (2016), the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. The New York Times says that the novel “fills a void … giving voice to the previously voiceless while it compels the rest of us to look at the events of 40 years ago in a new light.” His follow-up novel, “The Committed,” is due to be published this year.

Nguyen is also the author of “Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War,” a finalist for the National Book Award, and “The Refugees,” a collection of short stories. In 2018, he joined with 17 fellow refugee writers to create “The Displaced,” with proceeds supporting the International Rescue Committee.

He is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Grant. Nguyen teaches at the University of Southern California and works as a cultural critic-at-large at The Los Angeles Times.

Stephanie-Johnson Cunningham

Headshot of Stephanie Johnson-Cunningham

Museum Professional and Arts Educator

March 2021

Co-sponsored in association with the Graduate Program in Museum Studies, School of Design, College of Visual and Performing Arts, College of Law and media sponsor WAER.

This lecture is also the keynote to “Deaccessioning After 2020,” a two-day virtual symposium that aims to comprehensively address collections and deaccessioning in the context of the economic fallout of the pandemic and the national call to rethink the role and responsibilities of museums and their collections in an increasingly diverse and complex world. The symposium’s agenda reflects a broad set of perspectives and taps experts from across the art and museum world, from directors and trustees, to seasoned museum professionals, scholars, legal experts, artists, auction houses, journalists and influencers.

Johnson-Cunningham is an agent for arts and culture, and she centers cultural equity as an essential part of achieving social justice. She co-founded and serves as director of Museum Hue, an organization supporting Black, Indigenous and other People of Color. She built the first online directory and system to map BIPOC museums across the United States. She is currently working on a larger cultural mapping project specific to New York City with support from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs.

As a United Nations Human Rights fellow centering on arts and culture, Johnson-Cunningham applies the UN’s ratification of cultural rights to her work to call for a greater recognition and representation in the arts ecosystem. She received the Americans for the Arts 2019 American Express Emerging Leader Award for her work.

She has also hosted and produced “On Display,” a show for WNET’s ALL ARTS Network that focuses on ways museums re addressing societal issues that resulted from intersecting histories and connect to contemporary life. Each episode covers various topics including immigration, mass incarceration, transportation and preservation of Black cultural spaces.

Thom Filicia ’93

Thom Filicia Headshot

October, 2020

Virtual Zoom Lecture

Co-sponsored in association with the College of Visual and Performing Arts and media sponsor WAER.

Filicia started his career at renowned design firms Parish-Hadley, Robert Metzger and Bilhuber & Associates. He launched his acclaimed enterprise Thom Filicia Inc. in 1998 and emerged as one of today’s most influential and respected interior and product designers. His projects range from residential and hospitality to commercial interiors all over the world.

His design portfolio includes such projects as the VIP Suite for the USA Pavilion at the World’s Fair in Aichi, Japan; an eco-friendly apartment for Riverhouse, Manhattan’s first premium (LEED certified) “green” luxury condominium tower; and the Delta Sky Decks at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Filicia has been praised as a top designer and international tastemaker. He gained widespread fame for his role as the interior design expert on the Emmy Award-winning “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” as well as for his television work for Style Network, HGTV and most recently Bravo’s “Get a Room with Carson & Thom.”

He is also the driving force behind the Thom Filicia Home Collection, which includes furniture, artwork, bedding, textiles and wallcovering, and has a flagship showroom, called Sedgwick & Brattle, at The New York Design Center.
Filicia is the best-selling author of “Thom Filicia Style” (Atria/Simon & Schuster, 2008) and “American Beauty: Renovating and Decorating a Beloved Retreat” (Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2012).

Nikole Hannah-Jones

Nikole Hannah-Jones Headshot Photo
James Estrin, NYT

October, 2020

Virtual Zoom Lecture

Co-sponsored in association with the Humanities Center and media sponsor WAER.

Nikole Hannah-Jones covers racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine, and has spent years chronicling the way official policy has created—and maintains—racial segregation in housing and schools. Her deeply personal reports on the black experience in America offer a compelling case for greater equity. Hannah-Jones is the creator and lead writer of the New York Times’ major multimedia initiative, “The 1619 Project.” Named for the year the first enslaved Africans arrived in America, the project features an ongoing series of essays and art on the relationship between slavery and everything from social infrastructure and segregation, to music and sugar—all by Black American authors, activists, journalists and more. Hannah-Jones wrote the project’s introductory essay, which ran under the powerful headline ‘Our Democracy’s Founding Ideals Were False When They Were Written. Black Americans Have Fought to Make Them True.’ The essay earned her her first Pulitzer Prize for commentary. Nothing we know about American life today has been untouched by the legacy of slavery.

Her piece “Worlds Apart” in The New York Times Magazine won the National Magazine Award for “journalism that illuminates issues of national importance” as well as the Hillman Prize for Magazine Journalism. In 2016, she was awarded a Peabody Award and George Polk Award for radio reporting for her This American Life story, “The Problem We All Live With.” She was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists, and was also named to 2019’s The Root 100 as well as Essenece’s Woke 100. Her reporting has also won Deadline Club Awards, Online Journalism Awards, the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service, the Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting, and the Emerson College President’s Award for Civic Leadership. In February 2020, she was profiled by ESSENCE as part of their Black History Month series, celebrating “the accomplishments made by those in the past, as well as those paving the way for the future”.

Hannah-Jones co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting with the goal of increasing the number of reporters and editors of color. She holds a Master of Arts in Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina and earned her BA in History and African-American studies from the University of Notre Dame. For the Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies, she investigated social changes under Raul Castro and the impact of universal healthcare on Cuba’s educational system. She was also selected by the University of Pennsylvania to report on the impact of the Watts Riots for a study marking the 40th anniversary of the Kerner Commission report. Along with The New York Times, her reporting has been featured in ProPublica, The Atlantic Magazine, Huffington Post, Essence Magazine, The Week Magazine, Grist, Politico Magazine, and on Face the Nation, This American Life, NPR, The Tom Joyner Morning Show, MSNBC, C-SPAN, Democracy Now, and radio stations across the country.

Wilmer Valderrama

Wilmer Valderrama Headshot

September, 2020

Virtual Zoom Lecture

Co-sponsored in association with the Office of Multicultural Affairs and media sponsor WAER.

Actor, producer and activist Wilmer Valderrama has been making audiences laugh, listen and think for nearly two decades. Perhaps most recognized for his role as exchange student Fez on the Emmy-nominated series That 70s Show, the role catapulted him to stardom and garnered numerous Teen Choice Awards.

Valderrama currently stars in the #1 TV drama NCIS and will voice the first Latino Prince Charming in the upcoming animated feature film Charming. Other recent television credits include appearances in Netflix’s The Ranch, ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and Robert Rodriguez & Quentin Tarantino’s television series From Dusk Till Dawn. Valderrama also voiced the main character of Disney’s hugely popular animated children’s show Handy Manny, which introduced preschoolers to Spanish.

Behind the camera, Valderrama created and produced the MTV series YO MOMMA, also serving as its host. And, his production company WV Entertainment has multiple television and film projects in development.

Series events typically take place on campus, but – following public health guidance due to the COVID-19 pandemic – this fall’s lectures will all be virtual, viewable via Zoom. And audience members will be able to submit questions for consideration as part of the experience, time permitting. Connection information will be provided closer to each event.