2020 Co-Keynote Speakers
Dena Simmons, Ed.D. is a lifelong activist, educator, and student of life. A native of the Bronx, New York, Dena grew up in a one-bedroom apartment with her two sisters and immigrant mother. There, Dena learned and lived the violence of injustice and inequity and decided to dedicate her life to educating and empowering others.
Dena is the founder of LiberatED, an antiracist approach to social and emotional learning and healing. She is the former Assistant Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, where she supported schools to use the power of emotions to create a more compassionate and just society. Prior to her work at the Center, Dena served as an educator, teacher educator, diversity facilitator, and curriculum developer. She has been a leading voice on teacher education and has written and spoken across the country, including at the White House, the United Nations, two TEDx talks, and a TED talk on Broadway.
Dena has been profiled in the Huffington Post, the AOL/PBS project, MAKERS: Women Who Make America, and a Beacon Press Book, “Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists.” Dena is a recipient of a Harry S. Truman Scholarship, a J. William Fulbright Fellowship, an Education Pioneers Fellowship, a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship, a Phillips Exeter Academy Dissertation Fellowship, and an Arthur Vining Davis Aspen Fellowship among others. Dena’s research interests include teacher preparedness to address bullying in the K-12 school setting and social and emotional learning (SEL) interventions—all in an effort to ensure and foster justice and safe spaces for all.
Anthony Jack, sociologist and Assistant Professor of Education at Harvard University, is transforming the way we address diversity and inclusion in education. His new book, “The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges are Failing Disadvantaged Students,” reframes the conversation surrounding poverty and higher education. In it, he explains the paths of two uniquely segregated groups.
“It’s one thing to graduate with a degree from an elite institution, and another thing to graduate with the social capital to activate that degree,” Anthony explains. In many ways, rather than close the wealth gap, campus culture at elite schools further alienates poor students by making them feel like they don’t belong. To challenge these deeply ingrained social, cultural, and economic disparities on campus, Anthony reveals how organizations—from administrators and association organizers, to educators and student activists—can ask the right questions and bridge the gap.
Anthony is a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and assistant professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Recently, he wrote a feature for The New York Times Magazine’s Education Issue, based off his book and life experience as a low-income college student. His research has been cited by The New York Times, the Boston Globe, The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, The National Review, The Washington Post, American RadioWorks, WBUR, and MPR. “The Privileged Poor” was named the 2018 recipient of the Thomas J. Wilson Memorial Prize by Harvard University Press.