All-Conference Sessions

Keynote: Dr. Shaun Harper  |  ACUI Talks: Inclusion and the Student Union  |  Community Builders Panel  |  Keynote: Alex Sheen

Dr. Shaun Harper
Keynote: Dr. Shaun Harper

The first all-conference session will be at Houston Hall, the first student union in the United States. Keynote Dr. Shaun Harper will present "Race Matters in College Unions and Student Activities." Harper will offer amazing insight as to the role of the college union as it relate to this topic. Recognized in Education Week as one of the 12 most influential professors in the field of education, Harper is an expert on race, gender, and student success in U.S. colleges and universities. He is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where he founded and serves as executive director of the Center for the Study of Race & Equity in Education. He has published 12 books and more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles and other academic publications and received more than $12 million in research grants. His research has been cited in nearly 5,000 published studies. Nearly two decades ago, he was an intern in the ACUI Central Office. He also served as an elected member of the ACUI Board of Trustees from 2001–03 and is now president of the Association for the Study of Higher Education. The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, and more than 11,000 newspapers have quoted him and featured his research.

ACUI Talks: Inclusion and the Student Union

In this modified ACUI Talks presentation, you will hear various viewpoints on inclusion issues and how a college student union can help to break down these barriers.

  • Laci Green
    Laci Green is a YouTuber, public speaker, and activist from Oakland. She is best known as the woman behind the Internet’s most popular sex education show: Sex Plus, which reaches 5 million young adults every month and is viewed in all 196 countries. In 2011, Green graduated with highest honors from the University of California–Berkeley and currently holds a certificate in rape and dating violence crisis counseling. Since graduating, she has worked with more than 100 universities, conferences, military groups, and government offices on sexual health and sexual violence prevention efforts. She is also the host/writer of MTV Braless and produces an educational series for Planned Parenthood.

  • Benjamin O’Keefe
    At only 21 years old, Benjamin O’Keefe is already taking the world by storm as a speaker, Internet personality, and leader in progressive politics. O'Keefe gained international acclaim after beginning a global movement against the clothing company Abercrombie & Fitch and their company’s size-based discrimination and went on to launch body positive campaigns with some of the largest clothing and beauty companies in the world. Since then, he has continued advocating to lift up the voices of marginalized communities and create systemic change. O'Keefe currently works as the social and cultural producer at, the largest progressive nonprofit in America. Benjamin is passionate about starting conversations, especially with young people, about the power of our voices to create change in our lives and in the lives of others.
  • Davin Searls
    A deaf person and native American Sign Language user who comes from a culturally deaf family, Davin Searls is the executive director of Discovering Deaf Worlds, a nonprofit organization that provides organizational management and leadership training to Deaf advocates in developing countries. Searls joined DDW in 2008 after spending nearly a year teaching at a deaf university in Changchun, China, and was the catalyst behind DDW’s move to nonprofit status. Searls has given presentations on human rights, advocacy, and diversity within the global deaf community to audiences from around the world.

Community Builders Panel

We have assembled a panel of community builders from the Philadelphia area. These leaders are engaging their community to be more active, philanthropic, or simply finding their place. By assembling this panel, we hope you find new inspiration to renovate that unused space, create more diverse student programming, or turn that one crazy idea into something that will benefit your campus. Our panelists include:

  • Mason Wartman
    Philadelphia native Mason Wartman returned to his hometown after working in Manhattan in 2013 to start Rosa’s Fresh Pizza, a pizza shop modeled after the $1 slice joints he admired in NYC. Opening and managing a pizza shop was a dramatic change from his daily routine of formatting reports and crunching numbers on Wall Street as an associate at a young equity research company. Several months into the operation, a customer asked to prepurchase a slice of pizza for one of the many homeless people that Rosa’s served. Wartman liked the idea and made the pay-it-forward program—a prominent part of his business model. Since that first slice, Rosa’s now feeds about 100 homeless people every day and has expanded to sell T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, gloves, and socks to support the neighborhood’s homeless population. Wartmen attended high school at Germantown Academy and went on to get a bachelor's degree in business administration with a concentration in finance at Babson College.
  • Ariell Johnson
    A true child of the 80s, Ariell Johnson grew up on a diet of He-Man, She-Ra, Thundercats, and Transformers. This would be the gateway to a lifelong love of superpowers, superheroes, and comics. She turned this passion into a career at the age of 33 when she opened the Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse in Philadelphia, the only black-woman owned shop of its kind, and the only black-woman owned comic book store on the East Coast.The Baltimore/Glen Burnie, Md., native was introduced to Philadelphia in 2001 as a student at Temple University. Johnson majored in accounting at Temple’s Fox School of Business and graduated in 2005. She made Philadelphia her permanent home in 2007. She balances her busy work life with dance, gymnastics, and circus aerials—just to keep things interesting. Johnson has a strong passion and commitment to diversity, representation, and inclusivity. It is the goal of her shop to showcase works that are created by and feature characters of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Jeffery Barg
    Jeffery Barg is the associate director of planning and external policy relations at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. His work includes planning and implementation of pop-up gardens, government affairs, policy, and research related to the organization's work in community gardens, vacant land management, tree planting, storm-water management, and more. He previously spent seven years as a writer and editor for Philadelphia Weekly newspaper. He holds a master's degree in urban planning and a bachelor's degree American history, both from the University of Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) connects people with horticulture. The growth of PHS reflects the changes in horticulture itself, from an early focus on specimen plants and ornamental gardens viewed alone in their majestic beauty, to a more holistic understanding of plants as a tool for urban transformation. Since PHS began its highly effective greening programs in the mid-70s, the impact on communities throughout the region has been dramatic. PHS understands that plants and gardens are linked to the health of people, the environment, and the economic vitality of Philadelphia. Programs like Tree Tenders, Plant One Million, Philadelphia LandCare, Civic Landscapes, and City Harvest are changing the conversation on urban decay to a story of hope and transformation, one of renewal and civic pride.

Alex SheenKeynote Speaker: Alex Sheen

Alex Sheen is the founder of because I said I would, a social movement and nonprofit dedicated to the betterment of humanity. Its mission is to strengthen humanity’s will. because I said I would encourages and supports making and keeping promises to end suffering, establish peace, and build happiness. Sheen's work has been featured on CNN, ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, TODAY Show, Good Morning America, NPR, Fox News, Los Angeles Times, CBS Nightly News, and many other programs. He has been featured on the cover of Spirit Magazine, honored as a Steve Harvey "Harvey’s Hero," and was the closing TED speaker at TEDxUtica and TEDxYouth@Austin. Sheen's efforts in social media were featured in BuzzFeed’s "Most Important Viral Videos of 2013." His posts have made the No. 1 spot on the front page of more than 10 times.

Speaker exclusive sponsor:

Gotham Artists

Updated March 7, 2017