CNN journalist, "CSI: NY" actor to give keynote speeches at UNT Equity & Diversity Conference Feb. 25-26

Soledad O
Host of the In America documentary unit on CNN.
Hill Harper
Portrays coroner Dr. Sheldon Hawkes on CBS" CSI: NY.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- Soledad O'Brien, host of the In America documentary unit on CNN and former host of CNN's morning newscast American Morning, and Hill Harper, who portrays coroner Dr. Sheldon Hawkes on CBS' CSI: NY, will be among the keynote speakers at the University of North Texas' 11th Equity & Diversity Conference Feb. 25-26 (Friday and Saturday).

The conference, which has a theme of "Celebrating the Big I.D.E.A.: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access," is aimed at students, educators and professionals who are committed to equity and diversity in the workforce and in higher education. More than 300 have already registered for the conference, which will include sessions exploring mentoring, equal pay, black masculinity, communication skills for student leaders, the teaching of social justice and veterans' transition to civilian student life, among other topics.

O'Brien will give the first keynote address of the conference, Diversity: On TV: Behind the Scenes and in our Lives, at 10 a.m. Feb. 25.

After beginning her career with the NBC affiliates WBZ-TV in Boston and KRON-TV in San Francisco, she joined MSNBC in 1996. During her tenure at MSNBC, she was the co-anchor of Weekend Today and contributed reports to The Today Show and weekend editions of NBC Nightly News.

O'Brien became the co-anchor of American Morning in 2003, staying in that position for almost four years. She has worked as a correspondent for CNN: Special Investigations Unit and was the anchor of a CNN special, Black in America.  The program documented the successes, struggles and complex issues faced by black men, women and families forty years after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. Installments for the show included an investigation into James Earl Ray, King's assassin, who had already spent a year on the run as an escaped convict before seeking out King in Memphis in 1968; and the various experiences of black women and families, including single parenthood, racial disparities between students and the devastating toll of HIV/AIDS.

Most recently, O'Brien completed Latino in America, which aired in 2009; and Adopting Haiti, which focuses on a team of volunteers' struggle to evacuate 135 Haitian orphans after the January 2010 earthquake and bring them to the U.S.
Harper will close the conference with his keynote address, Building a Diverse Foundation for Your Life, at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 26 (Saturday).

In addition to his acting career, Harper is the author of the motivational books Letters to a Young Sister and Letters to a Young Brother, which draw on his own humbling life lessons that he learned before graduating magna cum laude from Brown University and earning a law degree and a master of public administration degree from Harvard University. He attended Harvard at the same time as President Barack Obama and befriended him.

Harper's most recent book is The Conversation, published in 2009. He is a volunteer with Big Brothers/Big Sisters in Los Angeles and regularly speaks to public school students about the value of education. Harper received the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series in 2008, 2009 and 2010 for his role on CSI: NY.

Other keynote speakers for the Equity and Diversity Conference are:

  • Activist Tim Wise, the author of Between Barack and a Hard Place: Challenging Racism, Privilege and Denial in the Age of Obama, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son and Affirmative Action: Racial Preference in Black and White. Wise, who will speak at 3:30 p.m. Feb. 25 (Friday), trains teachers and professionals in corporations, entertainment, the government, the military and the media on methods for dismantling racism in their institutions.
  • Dr. Evelyn Hu-Dehart, director of Brown University's Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America. Hu-Dehart has published three books on the Yaqui Indians of Northern Mexico and Arizona and numerous scholarly articles on her current research on the Asian Diaspora in Latin America and the Caribbean. She has also written about the politics of multiculturalism. Hu-Dehart will speak at 9 a.m. Feb. 26 (Saturday).

The conference will take place in the Silver Eagle Suite of UNT's University Union, which is located one block west of Welch and West Prairie streets. Participants should register by Feb. 24 (Thursday) to receive a reduced registration rate, but onsite registration will be available on Feb. 25 (Friday). For complete registration information, go to the Equity&Diversity Conference website. For more information about the conference, contact UNT's Multicultural Center at 940-565-2711.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108