Featured Speakers

Gunnar Shaffer, Founder of Agrowponics, Power Systems Engineer at Southwest Power Pool

Gunnar Shaffer portrait

“Grid of the Future, Finding a way Forward!”

Gunnar Shaffer is the Founder and CEO of Agrowponics, a company specializing in sustainable farming and gardening technologies.  He is also a Power Systems Engineer at Southwest Power Pool near Little Rock, Arkansas.  Gunnar earned his B.Sc. Engineering in Renewable Energy from John Brown University in 2014 and went on to obtain his M.Sc. Renewable Energy specializing in Energy Storage at Universität Oldenburg, Germany, Spring 2016, completing his Master’s thesis at the United Nations in Geneva.  Gunnar has developed international leadership skills that have led to many rewarding life experiences.  He has an enormous drive and passion to study renewable energy, energy storage, and urban farming methodologies in the hopes that we can solve global environmental, economic, social and engineering challenges.  Gunnar has traveled to 30 Countries and lived in four.  As an engineer, he is constantly looking for solutions to problems wherever he travels: from the farms of Arkansas to the rice patties of Cambodia to the universities of China to the United Nations to the electrical grid of West Africa and Southwest Power Pool and Agrowponics.  A 6th-generation crop and cattle farmer raised in Friendship, Arkansas, Gunnar brought Agrowponics to life when he carefully crafted the business’s first products while in the University research lab.

Amy Brady, Editor-in-Chief, Chicago Review of Books

Amy Brady portrait

“Imagining Climate Change Through Fiction”

Amy Brady is the Deputy Publisher of Guernica magazine and the Editor-in-Chief of the Chicago Review of Books, where she also writes a monthly column called “Burning Worlds,” exploring how contemporary fiction addresses issues of climate change.  Brady’s writing has also appeared in O, the Oprah magazineSlateThe Los Angeles TimesThe New Republic, The Village Voicethe Dallas Morning NewsPacific StandardMcSweeney’sLiterary Hub, and other places.  She is the co-editor of the anthology, House on Fire: Dispatches from a Climate-Changed World, forthcoming 2021 from Catapult.  Brady received her PhD in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and has won awards from the National Science Foundation, the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers Conference, the Center for Research Libraries, and various academic organizations.  She is a recipient of a CLIR/Mellon Library of Congress Research Fellowship.  Brady hails from Topeka, Kansas, and lives in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Tshering Yangzom, Bhutan Foundation

Tshering Yangzom Portrait

"Bhutan: Gross National Happiness & Development with Values"

Ms. Tshering Yangzom is the Director of Programs and External Relations for the Bhutan Foundation in Washington, DC. She has a BA in Biology from Westminster College and a Masters in Public Health from George Washington University in Washington, DC. At the Bhutan Foundation, she works with national and district leaders and health care providers to support health camps for semi-nomadic pastoral communities in rural highland villages in Bhutan. In addition, Tshering has also worked on providing support for children and individuals with disabilities throughout Bhutan in partnership with the Ministry of Education and local civil society organizations. Tshering continues to work on developing key partnerships for local Bhutanese organizations with renowned international institutions that can provide technical expertise in areas of need in Bhutan. In an effort to increase awareness of Bhutan in the U.S. and abroad Tshering has also given many lectures and talks on Bhutan in cities across the U.S. and abroad.

Betsy Sharp Lynch, Attorney and Philanthropist

Betsy Lynch portrait

“Non-linear Paths for the Nonconformist”

Betsy Lynch, ’02 ΚΑΘ, is originally from Sikeston, Missouri. She graduated from Westminster College in 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts in Business and received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2005. She began her legal career as a law clerk for the Honorable Robert L. Trout, an Associate Circuit Judge in Jackson County, Missouri and currently runs her own law practice representing small businesses and their owners in the areas of Business Law, Debtor-Creditor Rights and Bankruptcy Law. In recognition of her legal achievements, she’s been named Best of the Bar by the Kansas City Business Journal, a Rising Star by Super Lawyers magazine, and for her volunteer service in the Kansas City community, she was named a Rising Star of Philanthropy by the Independent magazine and NonProfit Connect. She has served on the Council for the Young Lawyers Section of the Missouri Bar Association, the Board of Directors for the Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri, the City of Kansas City’s Fairness in City Contracts board, the Board of Directors for the Association for Women Lawyers of Greater Kansas City, and the Board of Directors for the Kansas City Bankruptcy Bar Association. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Foundation and is the Chairman of the Board for Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph. She lives in the Plaza area of Kansas City, Missouri with her husband and 3 children.

Jeanne L. Narum, Principal, Learning Spaces Collaboratory

Jeanne Narum portrait

"Making a Difference: Shaping the Future"

As founding principal of the Learning Spaces Collaboratory (LSC), Jeanne Narum’s professional focus since 2010 is on promoting best practices in visioning, planning, and assessing physical spaces serving 21st-century undergraduate learners and learning communities. Her leadership within the LSC reflects more than two decades engaging with academics and architects involved in integrated planning of the undergraduate learning environment—physical, intellectual, and social.  From 1989 to 2010, Narum was Director of Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL), an NSF-funded initiative to catalyze the transformation of undergraduate STEM learning environments. This was a unique opportunity to collaborate with leading agents of change from STEM disciplinary communities and from individual campuses, as well as with creative design professionals, to develop and disseminate resources that inform planning of formal and informal spaces for 21st century STEM learners.  From 2003 to 2009, with support from NITLE, Narum facilitated workshops focusing on planning technology-enhanced spaces, including information commons and classrooms. She has had leadership responsibility for over 100 PKAL/LSC facilities-related activities designed to advance awareness of how space matters to learning and of planning strategies to realize that spaces matter for a particular community.

Dr. Mary Nestor, Pediatric Occupational Therapist, Playabilities Clinic

Mary Nestor portrait

“Finding Your Vision in Your Values: An Occupational Therapist’s Perspective”

After graduating from Westminster College in 2010, Dr. Mary Nestor, ’14 ΚΑΘ, completed her Doctorate of Occupational Therapy at Belmont University in Nashville, TN. Mary has completed additional trainings and specializations including identifying, evaluating and treating Sensory Processing Disorder within children and utilizing hippotherapy (movement of a horse) as a treatment strategy. Mary currently works in a private practice pediatric clinic in the Kansas City area and has recently started her own private practice to provide occupational therapy utilizing hippotherapy at a facility outside of Kansas City.  Mary is passionate about helping her clients realize their own vision and values by engaging in everyday activities. 

Jacob Marsh, author, business owner, sustainability seeker

Jacob Marsh portrait

“The New American Dream – Vanlife, Social Entrepreneurship and the Rehabilitation from Expectation”

Jacob Marsh, ‘08 ΔΤΔ, is the founder and owner of two successful businesses.  After graduating from Westminster College in 2008 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English, he went on to start up Bite Back Bed Bug Removal in Denver, CO, pest-control company with offices more recently in Boulder, CO, and Las Vegas, NV.  The service relies solely on the use of steam instead of chemicals.  In 2017, Jacob founded Fully Human SEO, a search engine optimization company geared to small businesses.  Based on his senior thesis at Westminster, Jacob’s freshman novel, In the Weeds, is a work of narrative nonfiction detailing the main character's (and author’s) journey spanning three weeks in three ecologically oriented living communities.  The novel attempts to accord visibility to a forgotten but still very active counter-culture.  Jacob currently resides in Denver.

Noelia Cerna, performance poet

Noelia Young Cerna portrait

"The Power of Owning Our Story"

Noelia Cerna, ’09, is a Latina poet based in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  She was born in Costa Rica and immigrated to the United States at the age of seven and received a Bachelor’s degree in English from Westminster College in Missouri.  Noelia’s interest in poetry continued to grow following graduation. The Fayetteville resident eventually won the 2017 Spa City Poetry Slam in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  Noelia is a reader and poetry feedback editor for Tinderbox Poetry Journal, a writing mentor for Pen America’s Prison Writing Mentorship program, the Board President of the Ozark Poets and Writers Collective and an Associate Editor with Sibling Rivalry Press.  She is currently working on a book of poems discussing the experience of being a first-generation immigrant and a book of essays about the Arkansas prison system.

Alexis Lowery, victim advocate, founder of, Mary’s House of Hope

Alexis Lowery portrait

“Building Hope, Building Homes”

Alexis Lowery is a junior at Webster University in St. Louis. She is currently working as a victim advocate at a domestic violence shelter in her county. Alexis is a co-founder of the organization Mary’s House of Hope Project. The project works to serve women and children escaping domestic violence and has since partnered with a larger agency in the county to build transitional housing, now called Mary’s House of Hope at A Safe Place. Alexis is a fierce advocate for justice and victim’s rights.

Omar El Akkad, National Newspaper Award winning journalist

Omar El Akkad portrait
Omar El Akkad is an author and journalist. His journalism earned a National Newspaper Award for Investigative Journalism and the Goff Penny Award for young journalists. His fiction and non-fiction writing has appeared in The Guardian, Le Monde, Guernica, GQ and many other newspapers and magazines. His debut novel, American War, is an international bestseller and has been translated into thirteen languages. It won several prizes and was selected by the BBC as one of 100 novels that changed our world.

Bill Whitmar, Laboratory Director, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services

Bill Whitmar portrait

"COVID-19 Pandemic Response: The Story from Those Who Live It Daily"

Bill Whitmar is the Laboratory Director for the State Public Health Laboratory within the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services since 2008.  The Public Health Laboratory is a biological safety level 3 (BSL-3) facility where many levels of safety, training and protocols are utilized to ensure accurate and safe testing occurs for its staff and citizens.  As laboratory director, Bill is responsible for overseeing a staff of 100 that test for infectious diseases, genetic and metabolic conditions for all the newborns in Missouri, bacteriologic and chemical contaminants in drinking water, sexually transmitted diseases, biological and chemical terrorism response testing, and all emerging novel diseases such as Ebola, SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), avian influenza, poxviruses, swine influenzas and others.  Over his thirty-year career with the laboratory, Bill has also served as Program Director of the Breath Alcohol Program, Laboratory Information System, Emergency Response and Outreach Team, Assistant Laboratory Director, and Interim Laboratory Director.  Bill is currently the President of the Association for Public Health Laboratories, an international organization whose mission is to provide for quality laboratory services globally.

Laurie R. Blank, Clinical Professor of Law, Emory University

Laurie Blank portrait

"The Future of Perpetual Wars: Do Warring Parties Have an Obligation to End the Conflict?"

Laurie R. Blank is a Clinical Professor of Law, Director of the Center for International and Comparative Law and Director of the International Humanitarian Law Clinic at Emory University School of Law, where she teaches the law of armed conflict and works directly with students to provide assistance to international tribunals, non-governmental organizations and militaries around the world on cutting edge issues in humanitarian law and human rights.   Professor Blank is the co-author of International Law and Armed Conflict: Fundamental Principles and Contemporary Challenges in the Law of War, a casebook on the law of war, and the co-author of Law of War Training: Resources for Military and Civilian Leaders. She is also the co-director of the End of War Project, a multi-year project exploring a range of legal, policy, moral and strategic challenges in ending complex counterterrorism and counterinsurgency conflicts. Professor Blank is a core expert on the Woomera Manual on International Law of Military Space Operations and the Oslo Manual on Selected Problems in the Law of Armed Conflict.  She is currently a Senior Fellow at the Lieber Institute for Law and Land Warfare, the Chair of the American Society of International Law Lieber Prize Committee, a term member of the American Bar Association’s Advisory Committee to the Standing Committee on Law and National Security and the series editor of the ICRC’s teaching supplements on IHL.

Victor B. Pasley, Retired Executive, Xerox Corporation

Dr. Victor Pasley portrait
A Fulton native who attended George Washington Carver School, Mr. Pasley received his B.S. in Education from Lincoln University and the M.S. in Education from Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, and the Professional Management Development, PMD, from Harvard Business School at Harvard University.  He retired from the Xerox Corporation in 2010, after 32 years as a member of their executive team.  He served as the Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Managed Services, Rochester, New York; Vice President, Sales Operations, Mid Central Customer Business Unit, Indianapolis, Indiana; Region Marketing Manager, Business Manager and Account General Manager (State of Indiana/Kentucky), Chicago, Illinois; and held Managerial Assignments for Local, Regional and Headquarters for the Xerox Corporation.  Prior to that, he served as an Instructor and Assistant Principal for Ellis Junior High School, Elgin Public Schools, School District U-46, in Elgin, IL.  He served as a Captain in the United States Army from 1969-1972, Republic of South Vietnam. Victor’s mother, Mamie Louise Black Pasley, had a long association with Westminster College and staffed the luncheon with President Truman and Winston Churchill during their visit to campus on March 5, 1946.

Carmen Brandt, President, George Washington Carver Cultural Center Board of Directors

Carmen Brandt portrait
Carmen Brandt has served on City of Fulton’s Human Rights Commission for 10 years and has been acting president for a majority of that time. Under her leadership, the commission has been repeatedly recognized for its ongoing efforts within this community, including fair housing seminars, recognition of local humanitarian leaders and the honor of receiving the Local Human Rights Commission of the Year (2017), awarded by the Missouri Commission on Human Rights. A retired psychiatric nurse, teacher and humanitarian, Carmen serves on numerous boards and volunteers with many organizations within the city and county including the Cavalry Baptist Church, the George Washington Carver Cultural Center Board, the Guiding Light Missionary Baptist Church of Christ, and the Mid-Missouri Friends of America’s National Churchill Museum.

Dr. Gary Kremer, Executive Director, The State Historical Society of Missouri

Dr. Gary Kremer portrait

A fifth-generation Missourian, Gary R. Kremer earned his PhD from American University in Washington, DC. Kremer has written, coauthored, and coedited 12 books and is one of the nation’s leading authorities on the life of George Washington Carver. Previously, Kremer taught history at Lincoln University in Jefferson City (1972-1987) and William Woods University in Fulton (1991-2004). He also served as the state archivist of Missouri from 1987 to 1991. He has been The State Historical Society executive director since 2004.



Timothy Riley, Sandra L. and Monroe E. Trout Director and Chief Curator; Churchill Fellow of America’s National Churchill Museum at Westminster College

Timothy Riley portrait

During his 25-year career, Timothy Riley has served as an education and curatorial assistant at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and worked at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, where he later served as the founding director of The Trout Museum of Art. As Director and Chief Curator at America's National Churchill Museum, Mr. Riley has expanded the Museum’s reach, curating exhibitions aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, at the Society of Four Arts in Palm Beach, Florida and at Washington University in St. Louis, among others. The latter exhibition was hailed as “the most significant exhibition of Churchill’s paintings in North America.” He is the author or co-author of more than 20 articles on a variety of art, music and historical topics, including several essays about Winston Churchill. He is a contributing editor for Finest Hour, the journal of the International Churchill Society.