Meet our speakers for 2021

Keynote Speakers

Marty Baron Marty Baron
Former Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron
DeNeen Brown DeNeen Brown
DeNeen L. Brown has been an award-winning writer for The Washington Post for more than 35 years. 
Brown is also an associate professor at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, where she teaches feature writing and the "Power of the Writing Voice."
At The Post, Brown continues to report and write, uncovering forgotten and untold stories in Black history and connecting today's news to the histories of Black heroes and sheroes including Fannie Lou Hamer, Harriet Tubman, Ella Baker, Isaac Woodard, Emmett Till, Shirley Chisholm, Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells, Annie Lee Cooper, Amelia Boynton, Diane Nash, and Queen Charlotte.
Brown has written about the country's history of racial terror lynchings and massacres. After Brown's 2018 story on the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre was published on the front page of The Washington Post, the mayor of Tulsa announced he would reopen the city's search for mass graves of victims of the massacre. In October 2020, the city discovered a mass grave that may be connected to the massacre. Scientists began examining the remains this summer.
During her more than three decades of work as a journalist, Brown has gained national and international attention as a ground-breaking reporter, with a strong writing voice focused on uncovering stories about the Black community.  At The Post, Brown covered night police, education, courts, politics, arts, theater and culture. She has been a staff writer in the famed Style section of The Washington Post and a staff writer for The Washington Post magazine, where she wrote award-winning narratives.
From 2000 to 2004, Brown worked as a foreign correspondent for The Washington Post. (She was the first Black woman to cover Canada for The Washington Post.) As Canada Bureau Chief of The Washington Post, Brown was responsible for coverage of the entire country of Canada.  She wrote about Canadian elections and the Canadian prime minister's policies.  She reported U.S.-Canada relations and about efforts by Quebec to separate from Canada. In Vancouver, Brown's work included a series of stories about missing women.
As a foreign correspondent, Brown traveled throughout the Arctic and the Arctic Archipelago, which consists of 94 islands, to write about climate change and indigenous populations. Many of her stories about climate change, which were first-hand reports about the fragile Arctic and thinning sea ice, are cited in scientific journals throughout the world.  
In 1999, Brown won the prestigious award for Non-Deadline Writing by the American Society of Newspaper Editors.
Brown's award-winning stories and essays are published in "The Best Newspaper Writing of 1999." The chapter presents five feature narratives, including a profile of a school superintendent and a narrative called “The Accused,” about two young boys wrongly accused of murder in Chicago.
"The Accused" also won the 1999 Salute to Excellence First Place feature award from the National Association of Black Journalists.
In 2020, Brown had the honor of writing about the genius and life of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul. The story was published in the March 2021 National Geographic Magazine, as the companion piece for the Nat Geo TV scripted anthology series "Genius: Aretha."
Brown's work on Tulsa is featured in two documentaries:
"Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer," which was released on NatGeo TV and Hulu on June 18, 2021.
And "Tulsa: The Fire and the Forgotten," which was released on PBS, May 31, 2021.
Major Garrett Major Garrett
American journalist and chief Washington correspondent for CBS News


Featured Speakers

Krys Boyd Krys Boyd
Host of KERA's Think
Kristen Brown Kristen Brown
Kristen V. Brown is a health reporter at Bloomberg, where she has spent the past year and a half covering the science behind the global pandemic from New York. Her recent podcast series, Doubt, digs into the roots of the vaccine hesitancy movement. 
Previously, Kristen covered biotech at Gizmodo, and technology for Fusion and The San Francisco Chronicle. Before becoming a tech reporter, she covered crime, food and agriculture in New York, and was a founding editor and writer at the politics and culture magazine The Caravan in India. Kristen holds an MA in journalism from Columbia University.
Curtis Brown Curtis Bunn
Curtis Bunn is an award-winning journalist at NBC News BLK who has written about race and sports and social and political issues for more than 30 years in Washington, D.C., New York, and Atlanta. Additionally, he is a best-selling author of ten novels that center on Black life in America.
Nick Charles Nick Charles
Nick Charles has reported, written, and edited for various media at the local and national levels. He has been a reporter/writer and contributor to the Daily News, People, NPR, the Washington Post, The Undefeated, as well as several other publications. He was the Editor-in-Chief of AOL Black Voices and the VP of Digital Content for Charles is the Managing Director of Word In Black, a collaborative of 10 Black-owned media and an editor and spokesperson for Save Journalism Project.
Michael Cottman Michael Cottman
Michael H. Cottman is an author and award-winning journalist, and Program Editor for the NBCUniversal Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Team. (NBC News/MSNBC/CNBC.) He is the former Editorial Manager of NBCBLK, a division of NBC News, that offers stories and opinions about the African American experience from the African American perspective. Cottman is a former political reporter for the Washington Post and a former reporter for the Miami Herald, among other publications. Cottman, who has received numerous awards, was also part of a reporting team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for Newsday's coverage of a deadly subway crash in New York.
Kurt Eichenwald Kurt Eichenwald
Journalist & best-selling author
Patrice Gaines Patrice Gaines
Patrice Gaines is author of the memoir Laughing in the Dark (Random House 1995) and Moments of Grace (Random House 1998). Gaines is a freelance writer, who was a reporter at the Washington Post for 16 years. She was awarded a Soros Justice Media Fellowship to write a series of columns about the impact of incarceration on the Black community. Gaines is also a justice advocate and abolitionist.
Patricia Gaston Patricia Gaston
Patricia E. (Weems) Gaston joined the University of Kansas in 2018 after a long, stellar career at The Washington Post, where she was an editor who worked on several desks including National, Foreign and Editorial. Before going to the Post in 1997, Gaston worked at the Dallas Morning News, where she was an assistant foreign editor and was co-editor of the 1994 Pulitzer Prize-winning series on violence against women.
Gaston received a bachelor's degree in Journalism from KU in 1981 and a master's degree in sports management from The George Washington University.
In 2013, she was a Leadership Institute Fellow with the Center for American Progress, a progressive public policy program. 
Since returning to KU to teach, she advises the staff of the University Daily Kansan, serves as a mentor in the Rising Scholars Program, is a trustee of the William Allen White Foundation, and is member of Faculty Senate and its executive committee.
Carey Goldberg Carey Goldberg
Boston bureau chief & veteran health/science reporter, Bloomberg News
Tara Haelle Tara Haelle
Tara Haelle is an independent science/health journalist, author, professional speaker, and photographer. With two decades of reporting experience under her belt, her work has appeared in the New York Times, National Geographic, Texas Monthly, NPR, Washington Post, Scientific American, Politico, Parents, Self, O Magazine, and Wired, among others. Her trade work covering medical research and medical conferences has appeared in MDEdge, Medscape/WebMD, and Haymarket titles. 
A former Forbes contributor, Tara is now a regular weekly contributor at Medium and blogs at the Association of Health Journalists, where she is the Medical Studies Core Topic Leader, providing resources and giving talks on responsible journalistic coverage of medical research. Her monthly blog at Science & the Sea, from the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, highlights short stories about marine life. 
She is especially passionate about reporting on vaccines and vaccine hesitancy, including helping people understand the risks and benefits of vaccines and explaining scientific findings in ways that the average person can easily understand. She recently served on an NIH panel to develop COVID-19 Vaccination Communication recommendations. Her other specialties include pediatrics, women’s and maternal health, mental health, infectious disease, public health, parenting, medical research, and general wellness. 
Tara’s most recent book, Vaccination Investigation: The History and Science of Vaccines, is a starred Kirkus book. She coauthored The Informed Parent: A Science-Based Resource for Your Child’s First Four Years and has written nearly a dozen children’s nonfiction science books. 
As a professional speaker, Tara spoke about vaccine hesitancy at TEDx Oslo and has delivered national and international keynotes, webinars, and grand rounds on vaccines and vaccine hesitancy, parenting, understanding medical research, storytelling, and mental health, including how to manage the depletion of your personal surge capacity. 
Tara received her master’s in photojournalism from the University of Texas at Austin, and her images have appeared in NPR, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Chicago Sun-Times, and Women’s Wear Daily. An avid traveler, Tara has backpacked, hiked, train-hopped, and motorbiked through more than 40 countries on six continents while eating strange insects, trekking to ancient ruins, and swimming with sharks. She lives in Texas with her husband and two sons, four dogs, a bearded dragon, and ten pet rats, give or take.
Keith Harriston Keith Harriston
Keith Harriston is a Washington, D.C., writer who worked for 23 years as a senior newsroom manger, department editor, investigative reporter, and beat reporter at the Washington Post. As a reporter at The Post, Harriston twice was a nominated finalist by the Pulitzer Prize Board. Since leaving The Post, Harriston has taught journalism at American University, Howard University, and George Washington University, where he currently is a professorial lecturer in journalism.
Sarah Hepola Sarah Hepola
Sarah Hepola is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir, "Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget." She is a writer-at-large for Texas Monthly and host of a new podcast on the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, "America's Girls."
Elvia Limon Elvia Limón
Elvia Limón is The Texas Tribune's engagement producer. She forges deeper connections with our readers through our daily newsletter, The Brief; our Facebook community, This Is Your Texas; and our crowd-powered explainer series, Texplainer. Before joining the Tribune, Limón worked as an engagement and community reporter for The Dallas Morning News. She is a native Dallasite, and has a master's degree in journalism from the University of North Texas' Frank W. Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism and a bachelor's degree from the Frank W. and Sue Mayborn School of Journalism.       
Wanda Lloyd Wanda Lloyd
Retired journalist Wanda Lloyd is author of the memoir, COMING FULL CIRCLE: From Jim Crow to Journalism. She is also co-editor (with Tina McElroy Ansa) of MEETING AT THE TABLE: African-American Women Write on Race, Culture and Community. Both books were published in 2020.
As a newspaper editor for more than four decades, Lloyd retired from daily journalism in 2013 after serving more than eight years as executive editor of the Montgomery Advertiser in Alabama’s capital city. As executive editor in Montgomery, Lloyd was responsible for news content for the daily newspaper, news websites and several local magazines and weekly newspapers.
She worked as an editor at seven daily newspapers, including The Washington Post and USA Today. She was the founding executive director of the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute at Vanderbilt University, and most recently she was associate professor and chair of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications at Savannah State University. 
Lloyd's memoir is about her life as an African American girl who grew up privileged and educated in the restricted culture of the American South in the 1950s–1960s. Her path was shaped by segregated social, community, and educational systems, a strong religious and cultural foundation, and early leadership opportunities. Despite Jim Crow laws that affected where she lived, how she was educated, and what civil rights were denied, Lloyd grew up to realize her childhood dream to be a professional journalist, eventually rising to become one of the first African American women top editors of a mainstream daily newspaper.
Lloyd is also co-author/co-editor of The Edge of Change: Women in the 21st Century Press, published in 2009.
She has been a four-time juror for the Pulitzer Prize. As a long-time member of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), she directed that organization’s landmark study “Muted Voices: Frustration and Fear in the Newsroom,” a survey of black journalists and newsroom managers. In 2019, she was inducted Lloyd into the NABJ Hall of Fame.
She is currently a member of the board of directors of Journal-isms, Inc., the nonprofit corporation that publishes the “Richard Prince’s Journal-isms™ column and organizes the monthly Journal-isms Roundtable. She also serves on the board of the Georgia Writers Association, where she recently chaired the committee that created the John Lewis writing awards. 
Lloyd served 12 years as a member of the Accrediting Committee of the Accrediting Council on Education for Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC). She is a former director of the American Society of News Editors (ASNE, now the News Leaders Association), and she also served as a member of the advisory board of the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund. 
Her honors include the Robert G. McGruder Award for Media Diversity and the Ida B. Wells Award for Media Diversity. She is a graduate of Leadership Savannah, Leadership Montgomery and Leadership Greenville (S.C.).
She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Spelman College in Atlanta. In 2016 Spelman awarded her an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. 
She is a life member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and she is a member of The Links, Incorporated. 
Connie Mack Connie Mack
Former Senator
Megan Martinez Megan Martinez
Megan Martinez is a Master of Journalism student at the University of North Texas. She previously attended the University of Texas at Austin where she received her Bachelor of Arts in English. She is a writer, dog-lover, and on rare occasions, a beginner pianist if no one is around. 
Olivia Messer Olivia Messer
Olivia Messer is a freelance journalist. She was the former lead COVID-19 reporter for The Daily Beast, where for more than a year, she tirelessly covered super-spreaders, hot spots, shaky re-openings, and how this insanity could eventually end. When Messer quit, she wrote a viral essay on burnout and started speaking publicly about trauma recovery and journalism. She's completed groundbreaking investigative reports on subjects ranging from crime and education to politics. Messer graduated from McGill University in Montreal.
Rebecca Najera Rebecca Najera
Rebecca Najera is a Spring 2021 graduate of the Frank W. Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism. After graduating, she moved to Oklahoma City to cover race and equity for Oklahoma Watch, a statewide nonprofit investigative news organization, as a Report for America Corps member. During her time at the Mayborn, she worked for North Texas Daily, where she started as a reporter and worked her way up to Editor-in-Chief. Najera’s writing and photography have earned her awards from the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association.
Kristi Nelson Kristi Nelson
Award-winning reporter/anchor, for KXAS/NBC 5 News
Kate Pezzulli Kate Pezzulli
Before coming to the Mayborn I received my undergraduate degree in history, but I found journalism, particularly solutions journalism, to be absolutely fascinating. Between degrees I started a screen printing company, travelled the world playing roller derby, and got a 33-foot sailboat. I love the Mayborn and have very much enjoyed being a student here, so much so that I hope to one day become a journalism professor
Elena Rivera Elena Rivera
Before joining KERA, Elena covered health in Southern Colorado for KRCC and Colorado Public Radio. Her stories covered pandemic mental health support, rural community health access issues and vaccine equity across the region. 
She also worked as a daily show producer with Georgia Public Broadcasting and a reporter and host with Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has won awards for arts and culture reporting, podcasting and team coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic in Colorado from the Society of Professional Journalists.
Elena got her start as a reporter and producer at KBIA, Mid-Missouri’s NPR station. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri.
Outside of her public radio work, she serves as a mentor to emerging audio producers and reporters as the captain of the New Voices program with the Association of Independents in Radio (AIR).
Alana Rocha Alana Rocha
Alana Rocha is the director of news partnerships for the Tribune, where she previously served as a multimedia reporter after working in television and radio news for eight years. She has covered politics for stations in Florida, Kansas and Texas and traveled the country reporting from the 2012 and 2016 presidential campaign trails. Rocha has been the lead reporter on several award-winning projects. A native of Tampa, Florida, she received bachelor's degrees in journalism and Spanish from the University of Florida.
Alex Samuals Alex Samuals
Alex Samuels reports on politics and race for FiveThirtyEight – an online outlet that offers data-driven news and analysis. Samuels previously worked for The Texas Tribune where she helped with national campaign coverage, wrote stories about the intersection of race and politics in Texas and covered the hottest political news bubbling out of local communities. Originally from Massachusetts, Samuels graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin.
Fernanda Santos Fernanda Santos
Fernanda Santos is an immigrant, mother and writer who believes in the transformative power of a well-told story. She is a contributing columnist for The Washington Post, writing from and about the American Southwest, and a Southwest Borderlands Initiative professor of practice at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, which she joined in 2017 after a long career in newspapers, including 12 years at The New York Times. Her first book, “The Fire Line: The Story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots,” published by Flatiron Books, received the Western Writers of America 2017 Spur Award for Best Nonfiction Book. She is currently at work on a memoir. Fernanda is a board member of the Arizona Latino Media Association and vice president of The Sauce Foundation, created in memory of her husband to raise money for pancreatic cancer research and journalism scholarships for first-generation college students.
Eli Saslow Eli Saslow
ELI SASLOW is a reporter for The Washington Post, and the author of TEN LETTERS, AMERICAN HUNGER, and RISING OUT OF HATRED, which won the 2019 Dayton Literary Peace Prize. He was awarded The Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting in 2014 and was a Pulitzer Finalist in Feature Writing in 2013, 2016 and 2017. The series on which this book is based won the 2020 George Polk award for Oral History. 
Faye Smith Dr. Sanderia Faye (Smith)
Dr. Sanderia Faye (Smith) is an Assistant Professor of Practice and Executive Director of the Dallas Literary Festival at Southern Methodist University (SMU). She is also a professional speaker, activist and sommelier, where she pairs wine with books. Her novel, Mourner’s Bench, a coming of age story set in the Arkansas Delta during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, is the winner of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, Philosophical Society of Texas Award of Merit for fiction, and Arkansas Library Association, Arkansiana Award. She is the co-leader of Pen America/DFW, co-founder of Kimbilio Center for Fiction and the founder of LitNight Reading Series. She also serves on the faculty at the Antioch University MFA Low Residency Program, and on the board of Deep Vellum Publishing.
Faye’s work has appeared in the New Yorker, New York Times, Southwest Review, Rain Taxi, Nat Brut, the Collagist and other literary journals. She received “Best Of” honors at the 2011 Eckerd College Writers’ Conference, Co –Directors Dennis Lehane and Sterling Watson, where her winning story was published in SABAL Literary Journal.
She published in the anthology Arsnick: The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Arkansas, and moderated the grassroots panel for the Arkansas Civil Rights Symposium during the Freedom Riders 50th Anniversary. She coordinated the first AWP African Diaspora Caucus, and has moderated and severed on several panels.
In conjunction with resurrecting and directing the Dallas Literary Festival, a series of events featuring celebrated authors from throughout the US and internationally, she was recently named by D magazine as one of the 78 women who make Dallas, Texas great. She received grants and scholarships offers from Hurston/Wright Writers Conference, Eckerd College Writers’ in Paradise Conference, Callaloo Writers Workshop, and Vermont Writers Studio. She attended The Writers' Colony at Dairy Hollow and Martha’s Vineyard Writers Residency. 
She holds a PhD in English from the University of North Texas where she was nominated for the University of North Texas Wingspan Presidential Award For Excellence, an MFA from Arizona State University, an MA from the University of Texas at Dallas, a BS in Accounting from the University of Arkansas.
Sanderia lives in Dallas, Texas where she is at work on her new novel Eleven about the Arkansas Correctional Facility. 
Mimi Swartz Mimi Swartz
Mimi Swartz is a long-time executive editor at Texas Monthly, and a two-time National Magazine Award winner and a four time finalist. The co-author of the national bestseller Power Failure, with Sherron Watkins, about the failures at Enron, her work has appeared in Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Esquire, Slate, and her op-ed pieces appear regularly in the New York Times.
Seema Yasmin Seema Yasmin
Seema Yasmin is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, medical doctor, and author. A fiction fellow of the Kundiman and Tin House workshops, she is the author of four books including Muslim Women Are Everything, Viral BS: Medical Myths and Why We Fall for Them, and If God is a Virus, poems based on her reporting on the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, and the forthcoming What The Fact?! A young adult non-fiction book journalism, social media and misinfodemics. Yasmin is a medical analyst for CNN and a correspondent for Conde Nast Entertainment. Her writing appears in Rolling Stone, The New York Times, WIRED, Scientific American, and other outlets. She teaches science storytelling and health journalism at Stanford University where she is director of the Stanford Health Communication Initiative and clinical assistant professor of medicine.