2021 NCSL Presenters

Every keynote is research-based educational content delivered in a culturally relevant way. The NCSL speakers and workshop leaders deliver cutting-edge presentations that do more than just motivate students. They give students tangible skills to lead on campus and beyond.

“My favorite part of the conference was how engaged the morning keynote was. It was an icebreaker that brought us closer by making us talk to each other throughout the conference.”

— 2019 NCSL attendee

Speakers Who Get You

Our speakers move beyond theory into practical application because they’ve been right where you are. They are business owners, advocates, advisors, teachers, professors, entrepreneurs, poets, and artists. They are first-generation college grads, children of immigrants, and people busting the status quo on a regular basis.

They get you. And they want to relate with you during the conference. 

“My favorite part of the conference was interacting with the presenters and speakers, whether it was during keynotes, workshops, or just meeting them outside of the rooms.”

— 2019 NCSL attendee

Rockell Bartoli

Rockell Bartoli has spoken to thousands of students and has delivered empowering messages for notable organizations such as TRIO, Burger King’s McLamore Foundation, and Carnival Cruise Line’s Scholarship & Mentoring Program. Before she became a professional speaker and author, Rockell’s role as a school counselor allowed her to help teens and young adults identify their career path and the right tools to reach their most important life goals. Rockell grew up the product of a single mother and was raised by her grandmother. Using the goal-setting strategies she shares in her presentations, she became one of the first people in her family to obtain a bachelor’s degree (in education) and a master’s degree (in school guidance and counseling). In her spare time, Rockell loves traveling with her family, making therapeutic trips to Target, and watching a good Netflix series with her hubby.

Cybel Betancourt

Educator, speaker, and leader developer Cybel Betancourt is a spicy Latinx from the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. She is the CEO of Buenas Cosas, a platform that focuses on helping people gain the tools they need to conquer what she calls their “personal jungle.” Cybel uses everyday situations in a fun and energetic way to empower others to become the best versions of themselves. Her self-reflection exercises, cunning questions, and creativity make people grow exponentially on a personal and professional level. Cybel is the author of the book Yo Valgo 18 Quilates and podcast producer of Los Influencers by Buenas Cosas. Her mission to empower young adults to influence the world and disrupt society’s norms.

Jonathan Cabrera

At age 27, this Dominican/Ecuadorian Latino from the NY/NJ area has worked in the field of criminal justice, government and nonprofit management for a total of five years. That experience includes working in halfway houses, the NYC Department of Corrections, and programs for community organizations that seek to assist adolescent with schooling and employment. In 2014, Jonathan earned his degree in criminal justice from New Jersey City University and in 2018 earned his master’s degree in public administration at New York University. Jonathan is now a professor of Criminal Justice at CUNY. Additionally, he is founder and CEO of his own platform, Abstract Lifestyle, a motivational platform that encourages students to pursue higher education and entrepreneurship through presentation, musical content and blogs. Jonathan is also a hip-hop artist and releases music that addresses social ills while also still being fun and creative.

Dr. Jermaine Davis

Before receiving the prestigious College Instructor of the Year Award, Dr. Jermaine Davis worked in corporate America for IBM, Keebler cookies, and Frito-Lay in sales and management. Now he’s an award-winning professor of communication studies at Century College and organizational leadership at St. Kate’s University in Minnesota. Dr. Jermaine has authored 10 books, including Get Up off Your Butt & Do It NOW, Leading with Greatness, and Leading and Working with an Inclusive Lens. Dr. Jermaine specializes in helping colleges and universities develop healthy and inclusive environments so all students and employees can thrive and flourish. He teaches individuals and institutions how to cultivate trust using his “three Cs” approach: communication, cooperation, and collaboration. Dr. Jermaine is an international speaker and leadership and communication coach who engages audiences with a style of speaking and facilitating known as edutainment—a fun combination of education and entertainment. Prestigious organizations such as 3M, Best Buy, the University of Minnesota, Sam’s Club, the University of Wisconsin, Wells Fargo, West Point Military Academy, and Yale University regularly seek out Dr. Jermaine’s expertise in the areas of leading inclusively, communicating courageously, and overcoming burnout in life, school, and work.

Geo Derice

Geo Derice is an author, a motivational speaker, an entrepreneur, and the founder of 20/20 Living Inc., which helps people maximize their potential by creating visions for better tomorrows that they can live in. His work has been featured in the Huffington Post and on BET and has also been acknowledged by the New York City Councilman’s office. He’s spoken all over the nation, from as far west as Washington State to as northeast as Vermont and many places in between. His work has led him to work with professional organizations such as the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and also behind the scenes with several multimillion dollar enterprises. When not speaking, he is helping others craft their expertise by becoming authors (he’s worked on 55 self-published books in just the past few years), and when he is done doing that, you can find him watching reruns of House Hunters with his wife, whom he still cannot believe actually married him.

Curtis Hill

Growing on the South Side of Chicago, Curtis found it easy to drift into a life of violence and crime. Curtis became one of the city’s most recognized drug dealers and gang members. His drug dealing created untold misery within the community while earning him over $150,000 per month. Curtis witnessed the murder of his best friend, Dwight. What followed was inspirational: he managed to become an educator-administrator and earn himself four degrees. Curtis brings all of this experience and passion to make sure that every single person who attends his program will never be the same.

Michiko Kealoha

Michiko is an ecstatic educator with an unmatchable energy. A multitasking maverick with a passion for the potential in people, poetry, and progress, this Bay Area native can’t pass up the opportunity to discover a new place or social justice case. The first in her family to go to college, Michiko will soon be Dr. Kealoha, completing her doctorate in the University of San Francisco’s international and multicultural education human rights program. She has committed 15 years of professional service to higher education communities in the four-year public, private, and community college system. She currently directs the Center for Student Life and Leadership Development at Cañada College and is also an instructor in the Education and Human Development Department.

Jonathan Kroll

Jonathan serves as a lecturer in the Professional Leadership Studies program at the University of Rhode Island. He is also the executive director and a lead trainer of the Leadership Trainer Certification Program—an immersive, intentional 60-hour hands-on train-the-trainer experience that infuses leadership theory, leadership practices, and facilitation skills to prepare individuals effectively train others in leadership. Jonathan has facilitated over 250 leadership development workshops and training program. He has earned a PhD in leadership from Fielding Graduate University.

Dar Mayweather

Dar Mayweather is a leadership studies faculty member at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and has more than a decade of diversity and inclusion teaching, consulting, and training experience. His professional journey began in corporate, then mental health, before ending up in higher education. He holds a BS in criminal justice, a MS in education and is currently pursuing a Doctorate in educational leadership at Eastern Michigan University. He received Eastern Michigan University’s Student Success and Engagement Award and the State of Michigan’s King Chavez Parks Future Faculty Fellow Award. Mayweather’s work focuses on Black student activism, inclusive leadership development, and equity in higher education. He credits a lot of his professional growth to the Social Justice Training Institute and the Intergroup Relations Department at the University of Michigan.

Raven Solomon

Raven Solomon is an entrepreneur, keynote inspirational speaker, and the president and founder of the Center for Next Generation Leadership and Professional Development, a Charlotte-based training and development startup focused on providing soft skill development to the future of the workplace. A proud graduate of North Carolina State University, Raven earned one of the highest academic achievements possible, graduating first of over 8,000 graduating students. After N.C. State, she joined Pepsi Co. and rapidly scaled the ranks. During her time at PepsiCo, Raven led diverse multigenerational teams of hundreds to staggering, sustainable results, but is most proud of the lasting impact left on people, evident after her departure in 2016. Today, Raven is on a mission to use her corporate leadership and business experience—along with her powerful personal story—to remove obstacles for young professionals and inspire communities across the world to overcome and thrive.

J. Thurman

A native of Chicago, J. Thurman uses his experience as an educator, author, power speaker, and coach to transforms the ideas of human relationships that ultimately lead to our success. He is a graduate of Southern University Agricultural & Mechanical College in Baton Rouge and lives in Atlanta.

Collegiate Empowerment

Collegiate Empowerment (CE) is a nonprofit, for-purpose, member-supported educational collaborative dedicated to helping college students, families, and higher-ed professionals get what they want and need. CE facilitates high-energy, interactive, engaging, and fun shows, seminars, conferences, and retreats from orientation to graduation. CE is a dynamic team on a mission to do great work for you and your students to make your job easier and help you look like a hero to the members of your campus community. If you hate lectures, you’ll love this!

Joe Urbanski

After graduating with the same question he got into college with (“What am I going to do with my life?”), Joe Urbanski went on a mission, studying every career book he could find, and ultimately joined the Collegiate Empowerment team. Now, he fulfills his calling to guide people in finding purpose and meaning in their lives. As the managing director and master facilitator, Joe engineers captivating seminars that the CE squad performs at more than 100 colleges and universities every year. For two decades, Joe has shared his electrifying facilitation during full-day trainings, weekend retreats, and multiyear leadership programs. He has designed and delivered more than 700 seminars for more than international 465,000 participants. Joe’s genius and passion for providing high-energy, engaging, and fun experiences is at the core of his appeal, while his entertaining style and simple approach make him a favorite with campus partners and at events across the country.

Jennifer Valtos

Jennifer is the proud mother of two daughters and serves as the director of training with the Center for Compassion, Integrity, and Secular Ethics. Jennifer has been working in higher education, specifically in the area of student affairs, for more than 25 years. With a broad background in all areas of student affairs, she has facilitated programs and trainings for students, staff, and faculty. Jennifer received her bachelor’s degree in history, political science, and secondary education and master’s degree in secondary school counseling. She received a postgraduate certificate in leadership and accountability and possesses an EdD in educational leadership and management. Her capstone project was titled “Bridging the Gap: Fostering Collaboration between Student Affairs and Academic Affairs.”

Khalyn Williams

Khalyn Williams is a fresh, go-getting spirit who found her purpose early. Wanting to create the utmost experience, she stepped out of her comfort zone, went on a self-discovery tour, and blossomed. She realized she had the power to create her own fingerprint in this world. What happened next? She traveled abroad to six European countries and won more than five scholarships. She featured and monetized her sorority’s brand through influencer work in commercial productions and brand content. She was recognized as Rookie & All-Star of the Year at her campus rec by solving problems through fitness professional development. And she met her mentor Odell Bizzell II at NCSL 2019, which led to The Student Success Network. Khalyn’s ultimate legacy is to inspire, impact, and influence.

Liska Wilson

Liska Wilson is a well-known leader and sought-after speaker in Upstate New York’s Capital Region. She is a published writer, business owner, and not-for-profit leader who believes in diversity, equity, and inclusion and lifting as she climbs. Her positive experiences of being mentored as a student and young professional led her to start a not-for-profit that creates mentorship-centered leadership development and training programs for collegiate women of color. Liska’s early experiences, coupled with her BS in marketing and management from Siena College, laid the foundation for her to do this work. In her personal life, Liska has been chosen, blessed, and humbled by two bold and witty young daughters who make her a proud #girlmom.