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John Wessinger

John Wessinger, author of Ride the Wave, helps organizations and business leaders embrace changing markets and explore strategic risk through workshops, executive and team retreats, keynote speaking and published writing.

He believes that in order to find success in changing and disruptive business conditions, leaders need to embrace change, adopt a mindset driven by skill progression and use risk as a compass to reach new levels of success.

John is the founder of PLAN | MARKET | SELL and has previously worked for global organizations in the retail and healthcare industries supporting the marketing and sales of billion dollar brands.

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Zaylore Stout

Zaylore Stout is an attorney, community organizer and author. Originally from Southern California, he received his B.A. in International Business Management then his J.D. from the University of St. Thomas School of Law. He founded Zaylore Stout & Associates in 2012, a law firm handling sexual harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination, and wage & hour matters.

Stout was an inaugural recipient of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal’s Business of Pride Award in 2018, serves on the board for RECLAIM and Quorum, and won a 2017 Lavender Magazine Community Leadership Award. He led the charge for the passage of a Gender Inclusion Policy in the St. Louis Park school district making it the first suburb in the state to do so.

Stout authored Our Gay History in 50 States, an LGBTQIA+ educational book highlighting significant people, places, and events on a state-by-state basis.

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Laura Packer

Laura Packer knows that the best way to the truth is through a good story. Whether folktale or true, epic or flash, her spoken and written stories captivate audiences. She is committed to helping others find their voice, tell their story, and change the world. Laura is the 2018 MN Grand Slam Champion and Best in Fringe KC 2018, among others. She holds a degree in folklore and mythology and is the author of From Audience to Zeal: The ABCs of Finding, Crafting, and Telling a Great Story. Packer has coached, told, taught, ranted, raved, consulted, and considered storytelling around the world.

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Bukola Oriola

Bukola Oriola is an international public and motivational speaker, bestselling author, mentor, advocate, entrepreneur, consultant, and member of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking – appointed by President Barack Obama in December 2015, and reappointed by President Trump in 2018. Oriola is an award-winning journalist and a survivor of labor trafficking and domestic violence.

Depicting her experiences in two memoirs, she has dedicated her life to helping others by sharing her story and offering practical solutions to service providers and community members on how to help victims of human trafficking and domestic violence. Her work has reached millions around the world. Oriola is the founder of The Enitan Story, a Minnesota based nonprofit organization with a mission to advocate for victims and empower survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence.

She is the CEO of Bukola Oriola Group, LLC, formerly known as Bukola Braiding & Beauty Supply, LLC. She is an entrepreneur who uses her skills to help others become entrepreneurs through book publishing and small business startups.

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Natalie Fowler

Once a practicing attorney, Natalie Fowler is an author, a freelance editor (for FATE Magazine), paranormal investigator (for Ghost Stories Ink) and a psychic medium. Fascinated by good ghost stories from a very young age, now she writes her own stories inspired by her work as a ghost hunter and psychic medium. An avid researcher and self-proclaimed history nerd, Fowler’s works are also influenced by the dark depths of history.

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Marilène Phipps

Marilène Phipps was born and grew up in Haiti. She held fellowships at the Guggenheim Foundation, Harvard’s Bunting Institute, the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research, and the Center for the Study of World Religions. The Company of Heaven: Stories from Haiti, won the 2010 Iowa Short fiction Award. Her poetry won the 1993 Grolier prize, and her collection, Crossroads and Unholy Water, won the Crab Orchard Poetry Prize. Her new book, Unseen Worlds, literary nonfiction, is published by Calumet Editions. She has contributed to American anthologies and collections such as The Best American Short Stories; Haiti Noir: The Classics; The Beacon Best; Ploughshares; River Styx; Callaloo; and Harvard Divinity Bulletin, and she edited Jack Kerouac: Collected Poems for The Library of America. Phipps is the recipient of the NAACP’s Award of Excellence for outstanding commitment in advancing the culture and causes for communities of color.

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Marie Zhuikov

Marie Zhuikov is a storyteller and poet from Duluth. Her two eco-mystic romance novels, Eye of the Wolf and Plover Landing, are set in northern Minnesota. Plover Landing was nominated for a Northeastern Minnesota Book Award. Her most recent work is Going Coastal: An Anthology of Lake Superior Short Stories, which she edited and co-authored. It earned an honorable mention in the Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards.

Zhuikov’s poems have appeared in several anthologies and community projects, and she is past chair of Lake Superior Writers, a nonprofit arts group in Duluth. Zhuikov has a BA in science journalism and an MA in public health journalism. When not writing fiction, she writes nonfiction as a science communicator for the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Program. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers.

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Richard Thieme

Richard Thieme is an author/professional speaker who addresses challenges posed by new technologies, how to redesign ourselves to meet these challenges, and creativity in response to radical change. His speaking addresses “the human in the machine,” technology-related security and intelligence issues as they come home to our humanity. He has published hundreds of articles, dozens of short stories, five books, and delivered hundreds of speeches.

A novel, FOAM, was published in 2015 and A Richard Thieme Reader, fiction and non-fiction, in 2016. His column, “Islands in the Clickstream,” was distributed to thousands in sixty countries before collection as a book in 2004. When a friend at NSA said, “The only way you can tell the truth is through fiction,” he returned to writing fiction and Mind Games, a collection of 19 stories about anomalies, infosec, and professional intelligence, was published in 2010.

Many speeches address technology-related security and intelligence issues. He spoke in 2018 at Def Con for the 23rd straight year. He has keynoted conferences around the world and clients range from GE, Microsoft, Medtronic, and Johnson Controls to the NSA, FBI, US Dept of the Treasury. Los Alamos Lab, and the US Secret Service.

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Sammi Jones

Sammi Jones got her start in roller derby in 2010 when she joined the Fargo Moorhead Derby Girls. She quickly fell in love with the sport and has been skating the flat track ever since. Jones earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Minnesota State University Moorhead and has written for a variety of publications. She currently resides in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area where she works as an editor for a trade magazine and skates for North Star Roller Derby.

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Duchess Harris

Professor Harris was a Mellon Mays Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. She graduated in 1991 with a degree in American History. Six years later, she earned a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Minnesota. She did postdoctoral fellowships at the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota Law School and at the Womanist Studies Consortium at the University of Georgia.

In 1998, Harris joined the faculty at Macalester College. She became the first Chair of the American Studies Department in 2003 and was granted tenure in 2004. In 2007 she decided that attending law school would allow her to expand the scope of her scholarship even further. In 2008, she was the only law student in the country chosen to be an Associate Editor for Litigation News, the American Bar Association Section’s quarterly flagship publication. In 2009, she won a $96,000 fellowship from the Bush Leadership Program, which encourages their recipients to create positive change in their communities. In 2010, she became the first Editor-in-Chief of Law Raza Journal, an interactive on-line race and the law journal.

She earned a Juris Doctorate in January 2011, and has an expertise in Civil Rights Law. In 2015, The Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers chose her to receive “The Profiles in Courage Award.” She is currently a member of Governor Tim Walz’s Board of Public Defense.

She is also the proud curator of the Duchess Harris Collection, which has more than 65 books written for 3-12 graders. Macalester College President, Brian C. Rosenberg interviewed her about her title on the #MeToo Movement.

Professor Harris is a scholar of Contemporary African American History and Political Theory. Her academic books include, Racially Writing the Republic: Racists, Race Rebels, and Transformations of American Identity (2009), Black Feminist Politics from Kennedy to Clinton (2009), Black Feminist Politics from Kennedy to Obama (2011), and Black Feminist Politics from Kennedy to Trump, which was released in 2018.

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