Keynote Speakers

Brandi Hinnant-Crawford

Associate Professor of Educational Leadership, Clemson University

Brandi Hinnant-Crawford, Ph.D., is a self-described mother scholar, critical pragmatist, and liberation theologian. Crawford’s scholarship focuses on equity and inclusion for marginalized students across the P-20 pipeline as well as how research, particularly improvement science, can be leveraged as methodological tools to catalyze justice. Brandi’s research uses quantitative and qualitative traditions to illuminate the experiences and opportunities of minoritized students. Her quantitative scholarship is informed by QuantCrit where she is careful to use a critical lens and not add to discourses that reify deficit narratives about marginalized populations.

In her 2020 book: Improvement Science in Education A Primer, she reconceptualizes improvement as a pursuit of justice. She asks scholars and scholar practitioners to consider equity not only as an outcome of improvement but to ensure equity in the process by continuously asking who is involved (who is defining the agenda, who is given decision making authority) and who is impacted (who benefits and who bears the burden of the work). From teaching in the rural south, to working in central office in the urban northeast, to conducting research across the county, she remains committed to providing equitable opportunities to learn for all children. Brandi seeks to do the work her God and her soul require, her ancestors approve, and her children deserve.

Heather McGhee

Author of The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together

Heather designs and promotes solutions to inequality in America. Over her career in public policy, Heather has crafted legislation, testified before Congress and helped shape presidential campaign platforms. Her book The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together spent 10 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and was longlisted for the National Book Award and Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction. The New York Times called it, “The book that should change how progressives talk about race.” and the Chicago Tribune said, “Required reading to move the country forward…”. It is a Washington Post and TIME Magazine Must-Read Book of 2021. The paperback version was released in February 2022 and the book was adapted into a Spotify podcast by Higher Ground, the production company of Barack and Michelle Obama in June 2022. A young adult readers’ version of The Sum of Us was released by Random House Children’s in 2023 and was selected as a Best Teen and Young Adult Non-Fiction book of that year by Kirkus Reviews.

Heather is an educator and most recently served as a Distinguished Visiting Lecturer in Urban Studies at the City University of New York’s School of Labor and Urban Studies. She has also held visiting positions at Yale University’s Brady-Johnson Grand Strategy Program and the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics. She is the recipient of honorary degrees from Muhlenberg College, Niagara University, and CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy.

For nearly two decades, Heather helped build the non-partisan “think and do” tank Demos, serving four years as president. Under McGhee’s leadership, Demos moved their original idea for “debt-free college” into the center of the 2016 presidential debate, argued before the Supreme Court to protect voting rights in January 2018, helped win pro-voter reforms in five states over two years, provided expert testimony to Congressional committees, including a Supreme Court confirmation hearing in 2017, and led the research campaigns behind successful wage increases for low-paid workers on federal contracts, as well as at McDonalds, Walmart and other chain retailers.

Download full bio