Plenary Speakers' Bios

President's Panel

Jonathan Alger became James Madison University's 6th president in 2012. Prior to becoming president of JMU, he was senior vice president and general counsel at Rutgers University. He had previously served as assistant general counsel at the University of Michigan, counsel for the American Association of University Professors, and attorney-adviser in the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. A graduate of Swarthmore College and Harvard Law School, he is a nationally recognized scholar and speaker on higher education policy and law.

Dr. Eric Barron is Penn State's 18th president. Before his return to the University in 2014, he served as president of Florida State University, director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and dean of the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas. He started his administrative career at Penn State, serving as director of the Earth System Science Center and dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. He has a BS from Florida State and MS and PhD from the University of Miami. A noted climate scientist, Dr. Barron is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, American Meteorological Society, Geological Society of America, and American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Dr. Timothy Sands is the 16th president of Virginia Tech, starting his term in 2014. Before that, Dr. Sands was provost of Purdue University, and served as acting president during summer and fall 2012. Prior to becoming provost, he was director of Purdue's Birck Nanotechnology Center, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and on the research staff at Bell Communications Research. He earned a bachelor's degree in engineering physics and a master's and doctorate in materials science from the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Sands is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Materials Research Society, and the National Academy of Inventors.


Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski, president of UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) since 1992, is a consultant on science and math education to national agencies, universities, and school systems. He was recently named by President Obama to chair the newly created President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans. He also chaired the National Academies' committee that produced the recent report, Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by TIME (2012) and one of America's Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report (2008), he also received TIAA-CREF's Theodore M. Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence (2011), the Carnegie Corporation's Academic Leadership Award (2011), and the Heinz Award (2012) for contributions to improving the "Human Condition." UMBC has been recognized as a model for academic innovation and inclusive excellence by such publications as U.S. News, which for the past six years ranked UMBC the #1 "Up and Coming" university in the nation. Dr. Hrabowski graduated from Hampton Institute with highest honors in mathematics. He received his MA in mathematics and PhD in higher education administration and statistics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Dr. Timothy Eatman is an associate professor of higher education at Syracuse University. He is also co-director and director for Research for Imagining America, a national consortium of academic and community institutions designed to strengthen the public role and democratic purposes of the humanities, arts, and design. Imagining America is involved in a national research and policy project call the Tenure Team Initiative on Public Scholarship under Dr. Eatman's direction, which focuses on improving the rewards system in academe for faculty who practice engaged scholarship in the cultural disciplines. An educational sociologist, Dr. Eatman received his PhD in educational policy studies at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a master's degree in college student development at Howard University, and a bachelor's degree in early childhood development at Pace University. He is the recipient of the 2010 Early Career Research Award from the International Research Association for Service Learning and Community Engagement.

Dr. Susan Russell graduated in 2008 with a PhD in theatre studies from Florida State University, and in 1979 with a BA in theatre from St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, North Carolina. Between these educational pursuits, she experienced a 25-year career as a professional actor on- and off-Broadway, in regional theatre, and at opera companies across the country. As a professional playwright, her works Olympia (1998) and Present Perfect (1999) have been produced by the Emerging Artist Theatre in New York City and Lincoln Center; her play Severe Clear was a semifinalist in the 2006 O’Neill Theatre Center Playwriting Competition; and her 2009 play Ecoute: Pieces of Reynaldo Hahn toured 40 venues in the United States. In 2007, she created Cultural Conversations, a visual, theatre, and dance festival devoted to bringing students, faculty, local and global artists, and community members together to discuss issues of local and global diversity through art.

Russell is editor of the academic journal Cultural Conversations: Works in Progress/Writers in the Making. Her book Body Language: Cultural Conversations Reaching Out and Reaching In is the first in an ongoing series of texts designed to offer day-by-day templates for school systems on how to use playwriting, media, and public performance to explore issues that affect middle and high school students. She teaches playwriting, History of American Musical Theatre, Women in Theatre, and graduate literature and criticism seminars in ancient theatre. Russell was Penn State Laureate in 2014–15.