Here are some of the notable people who will be at the festival. Click on a speakers image to learn more.
Village of Shorewood
Trustee | Village of Shorewood
In addition to her elected position with the village, Davida Amenta is an independent government consultant for fiscal matters and is the co-author of a 2015 Public Policy Forum report on fire department consolidation.
Urban League of Greater Madison
President and CEO | Urban League of Greater Madison
Dr. Ruben Anthony has been the leader of the Urban League of Greater Madison since 2015. He spent much of his career with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, where he was its chief operations officer from 2003 to 2010.
Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago
Director | Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago
David Axelrod is probably best known as the chief strategist for Barack Obama’s two presidential campaigns, but he has been a longtime political consultant and analyst. He is currently the host of The Axe Files, a podcast featuring key political players from across the country.
Communications Director | Media Trackers
In addition to his work at Media Trackers, which critiques the mainstream media, Jerry Bader has had a long career in talk radio, hosting a show from a conservative point of view that aired on stations in Green Bay, Wausau and Sheboygan for more than a decade until early 2018.
Chief Correspondent | Washington Post
Dan Balz is chief correspondent for the Washington Post, covering national politics. He has worked at the post since 1978, authored or co-authored three books and won numerous awards, including the John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism in 2017.
Reporter | Cap Times
Abigail Becker primarily covers city and county government for the Cap Times and has spent time following a class of police recruits, looking into county jail inmates in crisis and asking questions about local government policy. She won a 2017 Milwaukee Press Club Gold award for her investigation into a failing apartment complex in Madison. She is also one of three co-hosts on The Madsplainers, a Cap Times podcast explaining local government and Madison civic life.
CEO | Father Figure
A La Follette High School alum, Andrew Bentley is a former Google employee who recently founded Father Figure, a lifestyle brand for new dads that he pitched on ABC’s Shark Tank.
Oneida Nation Cannery
Processing Educator | Oneida Nation Cannery
Jamie Betters is an enrolled member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and has been working on food sovereignty initiatives for the past 16 years. She is a certified food processor and educator specializing in the processing of heirloom white corn at the Oneida Nation Cannery.
Chief Diversity Officer | UW Health
Shiva Bidar is UW Health’s chief diversity officer and she also represents near west side District 5 on the Madison City Council.
Chef | UW-Madison
Yusuf Bin-Rella is an expert in African and African-American cuisine and is the co-founder of the Trade Roots Culinary Collective.
Inclusion and Engagement Coordinator | Wisconsin Athletics
Sheridan Blanford leads the assessment of Division of Intercollegiate Athletics programming regarding diversity issues and uses those assessments to develop strategies to foster an inclusive culture for student-athletes, coaches, administrators and the broader campus community.
YMCA, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Project Manager | YMCA, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Zach Bohannon was a member of the Badger men’s basketball team for three years and was captain of the 2014 Final Four squad.
Center for Media and Democracy
Reporter | Center for Media and Democracy
Mary Bottari helped launch CMD’s award-winning investigation of the American Legislative Exchange Council. She also spearheaded the organization’s work on the 2008 Wall Street meltdown.
State Representative, D-Milwaukee | Wisconsin Assembly
State Rep. David Bowen represents District 10 in the Wisconsin Assembly and is a member of its committees on corrections as well as children and families.
Greater Madison Area Chamber of Commerce
President | Greater Madison Area Chamber of Commerce
Zach Brandon has led the chamber since 2012. In the past, he has served as state’s deputy secretary of commerce and also the director of the Wisconsin Angel Network.
City of Middleton
Mayor | City of Middleton
Gurdip Brar, Ph.D., is a retired Agracetus senior research scientist who has been the mayor of Middleton since 2017. Prior to that, he served on the City Council, starting in 2008.
Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing and Productivity
Executive Director and CEO | Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing and Productivity
Since 2011, Buckley Brinkman has led the WCMP, which represents small and medium-sized Wisconsin manufacturers.
THE WOODS Productions
Interviewer and filmmaker | THE WOODS Productions
A Madison native, Audrey Buchanan is an interviewer and filmmaker whose work in the visual arts and community-building centers on uplifting cultural stories that connect people.
One City Schools
CEO and Founder | One City Schools
Kaleem Caire is a highly respected nonprofit business and community leader. He has 20 years of senior executive experience and 23 years of experience in K-12 education/reform.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Reporter | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
A Milwaukee native, James Causey has been a journalist since 1987, when he was a reporter at the Milwaukee Sentinel. At the merged Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Causey has been a reporter, editor and columnist. In 2008, he was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.
Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County
President/CEO| Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County
Before Jessica Cavazos took over the reins at the Latino Chamber of Dane County in 2016, she was the president of the Eleva Group, worked as a congressional liaison for U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore and served as Secretary and a board member of the National Association of Hispanic Federal Executives Midwest Region and coordinator for the Central Region’s Federal Diversity Committee.
Reporter | Cap Times
Lindsay Christians covers food and arts for The Capital Times. She joined the staff in 2008 after graduating with an MA in Theatre Research from UW-Madison. She runs a student critics program with Overture Center for the Arts, hosts a food and drink podcast called The Corner Table and is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.
President and CEO | Exact Sciences
Since Conroy joined the company in 2009, Madison-based Exact Sciences has grown to 1,000 employees thanks to its signature product, Cologuard, used to detect early-stage colon cancer.
Intertribal Agriculture Council
Technical Assistance Specialist | Intertribal Agriculture Council
Dan Cornelius, a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, is the Intertribal Agriculture Council’s technical assistance specialist for the Great Lakes Region, helping tribes in the region with food and agricultural issues. He also works for the University of Wisconsin Law School’s Great Lakes Indigenous Law Center on the development of producer cooperatives, supply chain analysis, and legal and policy aspects of food and agriculture.
City Editor | Cap Times
Katie Dean became city editor of the Cap Times in 2013. She joined the Cap Times in 2007 as a reporter, then co-launched and edited the paper’s arts and culture publication, 77 Square.
State of Wisconsin
Former Governor | State of Wisconsin
Jim Doyle was Wisconsin’s 44th governor, serving from 2003 to 2011 and was also the state’s attorney general from 1991 to 2003. He is currently of counsel in the law office of Foley & Lardner.
Associate Director | COWS
Laura Dresser is a labor economist and expert on low-wage work and workforce development systems. She is the associate director of COWS, a national think tank based at UW-Madison that seeks solutions to social problems. She is also a clinical assistant professor in the School of Social Work at UW-Madison.
City of Wauwatosa
Mayor | City of Wauwatosa
Kathy Ehley is the 16th mayor of Wauwatosa, currently serving her second term. Before that, she served for five years as the executive director of the Village of Wauwatosa Business Improvement District.
Capitol Bureau Chief | WKOW-TV
Emilee Fannon joined WKOW in 2018 as its’ Capitol Bureau Chief from Springfield, Illinois, where she was a statehouse reporter for three years. Her highlights while covering Illinois politics included the rise and fall of the longest budget impasse in modern day history as well as an historic school funding reform.
Wisconsin Coalition of Virtual School Families
Founding Director | Wisconsin Coalition of Virtual School Families
When her children’s public school was threatened with closure, Rose Fernandez led a successful effort to get bipartisan support for legislation that changed Wisconsin law to allow online teaching in our public schools. She went on to work on a national level in parent advocacy for diverse school options.
Reporter | Cap Times
Katelyn Ferral is The Cap Times’ public affairs and investigative reporter. She joined the paper in 2015 and previously covered the energy industry for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.
Assistant Professor | UW-Madison
Brigitte Fielder works in the university’s Comparative Literature Department. Her research and teaching areas include children’s literature, 19th-century U.S. literature, African American literature, and the study of race, gender, and sexuality.
Professor Emeritus | UW-Madison
Norman Fost is professor emeritus of pediatrics and bioethics at the university and chaired the committees that led to the first guidelines on human embryonic stem cell research.
Marquette University Law School Poll
Director | Marquette University Law School Poll
The poll, which Franklin leads in addition to serving as a professor of law and public policy at the university, is the most widely followed effort of its kind in Wisconsin, monitoring trends in politics and other matters of public policy.
Walker’s Point Center for the Arts
Executive Director | Walker’s Point Center for the Arts
Marcela “Xela” Garcia is a Xicana artist, innovator and cultural warrior who was born in Guadalajara and raised on Milwaukee’s South Side.
Marquette University Law School
Distinguished Fellow in Law and Public Policy | Marquette University Law School
Mike Gousha serves as a distinguished fellow in law and public policy at Marquette University Law School. An award-winning journalist, he is also a political analyst for WISN-TV in Milwaukee and the host of the Sunday morning program “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” which airs on ABC affiliates statewide.
Jennifer Uphoff Gray
Artistic Director | Forward Theater
Gray’s directing credits at the Madison theater company include “4000 Miles,” “Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play” and “Silent Sky.”
CEO | AltusLearn
AltusLearn is a platform that helps health care professionals track license and compliance requirements. A Madison native, Guerra serves the community as the board chair for Madison’s Community Development Authority, which oversees 1,800 public housing units.
Smarter Than You Trivia
Co-Founder | Smarter Than You Trivia
Paul Guse runs one of Madison’s favorite private trivia companies — Smarter Than You Trivia. He’s worked and lived in Madison for over 20 years, is a proud Badger, and is really looking forward … wait, Mike Gousha is going to be here at Idea Fest? Awesome.
R&D Division Manager | Epic
Seth Hain leads Epic’s analytics and machine learning research and development. This includes business intelligence tools, data warehousing software and a foundational platform for deploying machine learning across Epic applications.
City of Appleton
Mayor | City of Appleton
Tim Hanna is currently serving his sixth term as mayor of Appleton and is also the president of the Wisconsin League of Municipalities.
State Representative, D-Oshkosh | Wisconsin Assembly
Rep. Hintz was elected to the Assembly in 2006 and became the chamber’s minority leader in 2017.
Senior Vice President | Exact Sciences
As senior vice president at Exact Sciences, Ana Hooker oversees all laboratory operations for the biotech company.
University of Missouri – St. Louis
Professor | University of Missouri – St. Louis
Beth Huebner is a professor in the university’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice and is a UW-Madison alum.
Dylan Bizhikiins Jennings
Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission
Director of Public Information | Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission
In addition to his work at the commission, which manages treaty-protected natural resources, Jennings is a Tribal Council member for the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe.
State Senator, D-Milwaukee | Wisconsin Senate
LaTonya Johnson was elected to the assembly in 2012 and 2014, and elected to the senate in 2016. She is a member the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board, the Milwaukee Child Welfare Partnership Council and the Wisconsin Center District Board.
United Way of Greater Cincinnati
CEO | United Way of Greater Cincinnati
Before starting work in Cincinnati this year, Michael Johnson was the CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County for eight years.
Senator, R-Wisconsin | U.S. Senate
Ronald Harold Johnson is the senior U.S. senator from Wisconsin and a member of the Republican Party. Prior to his election to the Senate in 2010, he was chief executive officer of PACUR LLC, a polyester and plastics manufacturer.
News Editor| Cap Times
Jason Joyce has been the Cap Times news editor since 2013. Before that, he led the digital media efforts at Madison’s Isthmus.
Midwest Environmental Advocates
Staff Attorney | Midwest Environmental Advocates
Tressie Kamp’s practice concentrations at Midwest Environmental Advocates include agricultural law and policy as well as wetlands and Clean Water Act enforcement. MEA is a nonprofit environmental law center that works for healthy water, air, land and government.
Young Mie Kim
Professor | UW-Madison
Young Mie Kim works in the university’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where she studies media and politics in the digital age.
State of Wisconsin
Former Lieutenant Governor | State of Wisconsin
Barbara Lawton was Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor 2003 to 2011, the first woman to serve in that post. In office, she was chair of the National Lieutenant Governors Association, and her women’s economic development initiative, Wisconsin Women = Prosperity, became a model. She now serves on the advisory boards for the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service and the Millennial Action Project. She is also a trustee for Lawrence University, her alma mater.
Reporter | Cap Times
Erik Lorenzsonn is the Cap Times’ tech and culture reporter, and also its podcast producer. He joined the team in 2016 after having served as an online editor for Wisconsin Public Radio.
Roberto Hernandez Center
Interim Director | Roberto Hernandez Center
Maldonado directs the center, which supports Latinx students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and also conducts outreach to the larger Latinx community in southeastern Wisconsin.
Anne Marie Malecha
Senior Vice President and Partner | Dezenhall Resources
A Wisconsin native, Anne Marie Malecha directs the firm’s client services and public affairs, crisis communications and advocacy strategy for a wide range of companies, trade associations and nonprofit organizations.
Associate Editor | Washington Post
A Madison native, Maraniss won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential bid. He is the author of multiple books, including “They Marched into Sunlight,” and “When Pride Still Mattered” about Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi.
Fox Valley Technical College
Vice President | Fox Valley Technical College
Since 2010, Chris Matheny has overseen academic administration of the college, including its instruction in manufacturing, transportation, construction and agriculture.
University of Wisconsin Athletic Board
Chair | University of Wisconsin Athletic Board
In addition to his position on the board, Peter Miller is a professor in the university’s Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis Department and also a former captain of Notre Dame’s men’s college basketball team.
James Edward Mills
James Edward Mills is a freelance journalist who specializes in telling stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving, and practices of sustainable living. He is the author of the new book “The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors.”
Dane County Circuit Court
Judge | Dane County Circuit Court
Everett Mitchell was elected to the court in 2016 and also serves as pastor of Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church. Before his election to the court, he was the director of community relations for UW-Madison and earlier an assistant Dane County district attorney.
Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin
President | Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin
In addition to leading the statewide firefighters union for the past seven years, Mitchell is a lieutenant in the Madison Fire Department and was also a candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 2018 gubernatorial race.
Professor | UW-Madison
Bill Murphy is the Harvey D. Spangler professor of biomedical engineering, a professor in the Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, and director of the Forward BIO Institute. He has published more than 170 scientific manuscripts, filed 47 patents, and co-founded multiple start-up companies.
Race to Equity Project
Director | Race to Equity Project
Before working with Race to Equity, Erica Nelson practiced public interest law for three years in New York City, representing low-income families involved in the child welfare system in Manhattan Family Court.
Managing Director | Outrider Foundation
The Madison-based Outrider Foundation advances science-based literacy about global risks to humanity, and Tia Nelson manages the foundation’s efforts around climate change. Earlier she spent 17 years with The Nature Conservancy and was the first director of the Global Climate Change Initiative. For this work, she received the EPA’s Climate Protection Award in 2000.
Voces de la Frontera
Executive Director | Voces de la Frontera
Neumann-Ortiz is the founding executive director of Voces, an immigrant workers center with chapters in Milwaukee and Racine that is a voice for immigration reform.
Associate Editor | Cap Times
In addition to his work at the Cap Times, John Nichols is the author of several books about politics and the media, including “Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse.” He writes about electoral politics and public policy for The Nation magazine.
President | Badger Institute
Prior to leading the Badger Institute (formerly the Wisconsin Public Policy Research Institute), Mike Nichols spent almost 20 years as an award-winning reporter and columnist for newspapers in Illinois and for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, where he often wrote about Wisconsin policy, politics and people.
Communications coordinator | Houston Astros
A Madison native and UW-Madison alum, Alexandra Noboa-Chehade is the communications coordinator for the Houston Astros and previously worked for the St. Louis Cardinals as the team’s international communications specialist and Spanish translator.
Chief Creative Officer | Filament Games
Dan Norton specializes in crafting educational game design documents and storyboards that originate from learning objectives.
Karen Olivo won a Tony Award for her portrayal of Anita in “West Side Story” on Broadway and played the part of Angelica Schuyler Church in the Chicago production of “Hamilton”.
Reporter | Cap Times
Jessie Opoien joined the Cap Times in 2013 and covers state government and politics.
U.S. House of Representatives
U.S. Representative, D-Wisconsin | U.S. House of Representatives
Mark Pocan represents Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes Madison. First elected to that post in 2012, he also serves as co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus.
Associate Professor | UW-Madison
Kevin Ponto works in the University’s Design Studies Department and at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, where his specializes in the study of virtual reality.
Gloria Castillo Posada
Sustainable Communities Initiative Director | Sustain Dane
With Sustain Dane, a nonprofit dedicated to making Dane County environmentally sustainable, Gloria Castillo Posada leads community outreach efforts.
A former editor at Isthmus, Dean Robbins’ children’s books include “Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass,” “Miss Paul and the President: The Creative Campaign for Women’s Right to Vote” and “Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing.”
CUNA Mutual Group
Vice President | CUNA Mutual Group
Angela Russell has led the company’s diversity and equity efforts since 2015. Earlier this year, she was chosen by Black Enterprise magazine as one of the top executives in that field nationwide.
Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Librarian | Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Megan Schliesman’s work at CCBC in UW-Madison’s School of Education includes co-authoring the annual CCBC Choices publication since 1993. She also manages the CCBC’s Intellectual Freedom Information Services.
News Anchor| WTMJ-TV
Shannon Sims is a news anchor at WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee and also the president of the Wisconsin Black Media Association.
School of Education, Edgewood College
Dean | School of Education, Edgewood College
In addition to leading Edgewood’s School of Education, Tim Slekar has published in top educational research journals including Teacher Education Quarterly, Theory and Research in Social Education, and the Journal of Thought. He also hosts a podcast called “BustED Pencils: Fully Leaded Education Talk.”
City of Madison
Mayor | City of Madison
Paul Soglin is Madison’s longest serving mayor with three separate stints — 1973 to 1979, 1989 to 1997 and 2011 to the present.
Founder and Head Chef | Abaaso
Kristina Stanley, a member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, is the founder of Abaaso LLC, an all-vegan venture offering community classes wholesale sales and catering, and eventually an all-vegan deli. “Abaaso” is an Ojibwe word that means “warms in the sun.”
Wisconsin Technology Council
President | Wisconsin Technology Council
Tom Still leads the council, which is a nonprofit, bipartisan science and technology policy advisory board for the governor and the Legislature. Among other groups, Still serves on the Governor’s Council on Workforce Investment and the UW System Business Council.
Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty
Executive Vice President | Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty
CJ Szafir’s work at WILL includes litigation relating to school districts violating Act 10 and promoting school choice for children with special needs. Before joining WILL, Szafir was a policy advisor to State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald in the Wisconsin Legislature.
State Representative, D-Madison | Wisconsin Assembly
Chris Taylor is the representative for Assembly District 76, which is centered on Madison’s isthmus. She is also the ranking Assembly Democratic member of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee.
Features Editor | Cap Times
Rob Thomas is the Cap Times’ features editor, film critic and the author of the popular “Yeah, I Ate That” column.
Founder and Editor | Timmerman Report
Luke Timmerman is a UW-Madison alum and biotechnology journalist who founded the Timmerman Report in 2015. He summited Mount Everest in May 2018 and raised $339,000 for cancer research in the process.
Associate Professor | UW-Madison
Catalina Toma works in the university’s Department of Communication Arts, where she studies relationships in the age of social media.
Science Writer | UW-Madison
Kelly Tyrrell has been a scientist and a journalist and now she is a science writer at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She covers everything from atmospheric science to zoology.
Norma Gallegos Valles
Latino Academy of Workforce Development
Co-Director | Latino Academy of Workforce Development
In addition to her work at the Latino Academy, where she connects people to living wage employment and career pathways, Norma Gallegos Valles co-hosts a show at La Movida Radio and writes for Voz Latina.
Associate Professor | UW-Madison
Michael Wagner works in the university’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. His areas of research include perceptions of media bias.
CEO | Intuition Productions
As a DJ, Martinez White is a southern Wisconsin favorite, known for his unique, intergenerational blend of hip-hop and soul. He is also an inspirational speaker.
Assistant Professor | UW-Madison
Monica White works in the university’s Department of Community and Environmental Sociology. Her research engages communities of color and grassroots organizations that are involved in the development of sustainable community food systems.
Wisconsin Education Association Council
Vice President | WEAC
Peggy Wirtz-Olsen was elected vice president of the statewide teachers union in 2016. Prior to that, she was an English teacher at Marshfield High School.
Editor Emeritus | Cap Times
Editor Emeritus Dave Zweifel has been with The Capital Times since he graduated from UW-Madison in 1962, serving as the paper’s editor in chief from 1983 to 2008.