Speaker Biographies

2024 Speakers

Steven Michael Carr

Steven Michael CarrHaving told stories for The Moth, Double-Edged Stories, We Still Like You, USA Today's Storytellers Project, and Louisville Fringe Fest, Steven Michael Carr founded SMC Story Coaching, which he uses to help nonprofits, businesses, and thought leaders tell compelling stories. He also produces two storytelling shows, Tales from the Jukebox and Come Out Lou. When he isn’t working as the Development & Operations Director for IDEAS xLab, he may be jogging through Old Louisville with his beloved pitbulls, Mercy Mae Marlene and Kiley Vangeline Grace, deejaying for Louisville Silent Disco, or enjoying a cold beverage with his husband David at Old Louisville Brewery.

Watch Steven Michael Carr on YouTube 

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DeWana Hadder

DeWana HadderA dynamic and energetic thought leader from Louisville, KY, DeWana Hadder has spent 17 years in the nonprofit sector. She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in education sciences with a concentration in educational policy studies and evaluation at the University of Kentucky. DeWana uses her life experiences as testimonials showing that regardless of situation or circumstance, every person can become who they want to be. She enjoys spending her spare time volunteering, traveling, and investing in family and friends.

Watch DeWana Hadder on YouTube 

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Michael Kopp

Michael KoppMichael Kopp is an assistant professor of art at Bellarmine University and the founding director of The Social Practice Lab. With the mission to narrow the health equity gap, this nonprofit organization serves as a host for collaborative projects addressing the intersection of public health and public art. Community-engaged work has been the cornerstone of Michael’s artistic practice, through which he strives to move the artist from the studio and into positions of community leadership. Employing the conceptual framework of glitch theory, Michael analyzes the politics and processes of HIV transmission through the production of contemporary queer visual and social practice art. He has presented his research at The Ohio State University and Indiana University and exhibited internationally at the Millepiani Gallery in Rome, Italy in 2019.

Watch Michael Kopp on YouTube 

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Jim Loring

Jim LoringJim Loring has completed more than 70 international assignments and worked for numerous aid organizations, including Care International World Vision UK, Save the Children and Tearfund, where he served as chief photographer and photographic editor. In 1997, Jim began teaching at the Surrey Institute of Art & Design in the UK and later became program director for photography at North Georgia Technical College. He is an award-winning humanitarian photographer and has used his journeys to Malawi, Afghanistan, and Lebanon to document struggles of refugees, the human cost of climate change, the work of HIV/AIDS programs, and the positive impact of education projects.

Watch Jim Loring on YouTube 

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Clay Marshall

Clay MarshallClay Marshall earned a degree in community entrepreneurship from the University of Louisville in 2007 and worked for Commonwealth Theatre from 2002 to 2019 as a teacher, technical assistant, and eventually, technical director. Clay met his partner Cherie Lanier in 2015, and they dreamed of using dance to teach people to radically accept the strengths and weaknesses of themselves and others, balancing self-care with making meaning. This dream became the mission of Bourbon Tango, a social dance studio for teaching living and evolving dance styles that allow people to embody music. Clay and Cherie plan to grow Bourbon Tango into a social dance cafe, a space for people to enjoy music, movement, and one other 7 days a week.

Watch Clay Marshall on YouTube 

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Zoey Parker

Zoey ParkerAlthough she is studying criminal justice at Bellarmine University, Zoey Parker promises her grandfather taught her nearly everything she knows, and she is always thankful for his guidance. From film and photography to bluegrass music, Zoey loves expressing herself through many forms of art. She has been playing bluegrass music since the age of 7, sharpening her skills on the banjo ever since. Zoey’s confidence as a musician grew throughout her years in high school from attending Thursday night jam sessions at a local coffee shop with her grandfather and his friends.

Watch Zoey Parker on YouTube 


Gin Spaulding

Gin SpauldingAn author, educator, and speaker, Gin Noon Spaulding specializes in helping families and organizations understand the challenges faced by children with sensory issues. Gin's mission is to promote true acceptance and inclusion for all children, regardless of their differences. After completing a Bachelor of Arts in education at Austin Peay State University, Gin began teaching in Louisville, KY before earning a Master of Education in educational counseling from the University of Louisville. Eventually retiring from teaching allowed Gin to focus on her writing career, and she serves as a volunteer for Salvation Army, Blankets of Hope by Maleah and Friends, and Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

Watch Gin Spaulding on YouTube 

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2023 Speakers


Emmy Ammirati, Senior Lead Tutor, Writing, Smarthinking, Pearson Education

Emmy Ammirati has two unique children, a bachelor’s in art history, and a master’s in teaching with a concentration in learning disabilities. During her teaching and tutoring career, she has been fortunate enough to learn from students ages 2 through 80. For the last 12 years, she has enjoyed the nerd’s dream of working for Pearson Education--tutoring essential writing skills, monitoring writing tutor program quality, and helping develop new programming for special populations including elementary students and English Language Learners. A Columbo and Perry Mason enthusiast, she is also an avid home cook and baker who has accepted that pies are her nemesis. Her short-term goal is to have a pet pig because, as demonstrated by a series of studies from Purdue University, pigs are intelligent enough to learn to play video games.

I Think I Got My Degrees Just So I Can Raise My Children


Nwando Anyaoku, Chief Health Equity Officer, Providence Swedish Health Services

Dr. Nwando Anyaoku was born and raised in Nigeria, West Africa. She received her medical degree from the University of Nigeria and completed her residency training in pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey, serving as chief resident. Dr. Anyaoku holds a master’s in public health and a master’s in business administration. Currently, she is Vice President and the inaugural Chief Health Equity Officer for Swedish Health Services. Dr. Anyaoku has been at Swedish since 2016 in leadership over pediatrics and Medicaid strategy, and she served as the physician lead for health equity and community partnerships. She is also a board-certified pediatrician and professor of pediatrics.

Inviting Diverse Stories into Medicine

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Bridget Bard, Assistant Director of Louisville Melton

Bridget Bard holds a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in higher education administration. She is a growing presence in the Jewish community of Louisville through her work with Louisville Melton, a branch of the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning. While her work is centered around education, Bridget also enjoys creating abstract art, podcasting, and generally being a community builder, on and off the clock.

Here I Am: Rediscovering the First Female Rabbi



Von Barnes, Founder of Kentuckiana Backyard Farms

Urban Farmer Von Barnes moved to Louisville from Central Florida, where he had learned about growing root vegetables and native tropical fruits. While in Florida, he earned a bachelor’s in mass communication with a minor in marketing and electronic music. After spending a little over a decade in multimedia production at the University of Louisville, he turned his passion for gardening and husbandry into Kentuckiana Backyard Farms. His urban farm focuses on food production and distribution, wellness and education, and agritourism. Currently, he is on the Food in Neighborhoods Steering Committee and Jefferson County Ag Development Board. Additionally, Barnes works with Community Farm Alliance as producer and host of the “Blacker Berries” podcast series.

1000 Backyard Farmers: Growing a Legacy

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Gino Castillo, Educator and Clinician Percussionist, Composer, Singer

Gino Castillo, an Afro-Cuban jazz percussionist, leads and sings for the Cuban Cowboys, an international, rhythm-driven group based in Charleston, South Carolina. Their high-energy performances bring dancers and non-dancers to their feet. Also an educator and composer, Gino’s accolades include jazz artist of the year, City Paper Music Awards jazz artist of the year, and Independent Tone Awards. He holds an honorary degree in percussion teaching from the George Gershwin Conservatory, studied at Caturla Conservatory and Felix Varela Conservatory, and practiced under the renowned Oscarito Valdes. He has collaborated with international artists and performed with the Charleston Jazz Orchestra, the Charleston Smooth Jazz Orchestra, and the Lowcountry Latin Jazz Collective. Having taught at Berklee College of Music International Network, Centro de Percusion Latina, and George Gershwin Conservatory, he is one of the most respected Latin percussion masters in the field.

The Cuban Jazz Experience

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Laura Formentini, Author, Non-Profit Photographer, Activist

Laura Formentini holds a bachelor’s in archaeology and art history and has worked as an archaeologist in numerous European countries. Laura is an author, a non-profit photographer, and an activist for child welfare and the prevention of cruelty to animals. She has sponsored and worked with animal welfare organizations worldwide and created an animal sanctuary. As a tribute to her beloved son, who died by suicide in 2019, Laura is establishing a sanctuary for mothers who have lost children. She also promotes practicing love in action to not only improve our personal lives but also benefit the environment.

Love in Action

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Brittany Gentry, DSW, LCSW, Co-Clinical Director of the Trauma Informed Counseling Center  (TICC) and Founder of Trauma Education & Advocacy (TEA)

Dr. Brittany Gentry is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Dr. Gentry obtained her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate in social work and is currently the Co-Clinical Director at the Trauma-Informed Counseling Center and founder of the Trauma, Education & Advocacy Corporation, a non-profit agency in Lexington, Kentucky. Over the last 10 years, Dr. Gentry has provided therapeutic services for children, adolescents, and families in various therapeutic settings (in-home, outpatient, and school-based). Despite her experience with various populations, Dr. Gentry’s true passion is working with adolescents involved in the juvenile justice system. Within the last two years, Dr. Gentry conducted workshops and presentations focused on correlations between prolonged trauma exposure and juvenile delinquency and the importance of utilizing culturally competent, trauma-informed approaches.

The Untold Narratives of Labeled Youth

Her Website    

2022 Speakers

Dave Clark

David Clark, Saxophonist and Speaker

Dave Clark is the Director of Jazz Studies at Bellarmine University. Besides teaching an array of classes, Dave directs Bellarmine's Nouveau Gumbo ensemble. Having earned a bachelor’s degree in music education and a master’s in jazz performance, Dave is currently a doctoral student in Bellarmine’s School of Education and is the Executive Director of the Louisville Jazz Initiative, a diverse, inter-generational coalition of musicians and educators committed to the authentic teaching and performing of jazz, seeking to preserve the connection between the music and its cultural and historical contexts. Together, the Initiative highlights the inherent value in individual experience and expression, empowering its participants to advocate for social and racial justice.

Talk Title: Ugly Beauty: Jazz, Spirituality, and Courage


Lee F. Look, Firefighter, PhD

Lee Look is a company officer with St. Matthews Fire Department and a department director at Cedar Lake Lodge, a facility for people with intellectual disabilities. He spent the pandemic running Incident Management Teams, writing, and cooking.

Title Talk: From Cocktails to Turkey Stock

Samantha Perkins, Authorsamantha.perkins

Samantha Perkins is an author, speaker, wellness coach, and proud advocate for living alcohol free. Her first book, Alive AF: One Anxious Mom's Journey to Becoming Alcohol Free explored her relationship with alcohol and how she began to heal from lifelong anxiety through eliminating alcohol and embracing self-care.

Talk Title: Is Alcohol Really Helping Us Cope? 

Julian Thomas, Authorjulian.thomas

Julian Thomas is a multimodal artist from Kentucky and the author of the graphic novel epic Black Heart. When not creating or teaching writing courses for youth, Julian spends time immersed in community outreach and raising his daughter.

Talk Title: Panels and Perspective: Can Comics Create Change?

Jesse Walker, Co-owner and Head Coach, Rough Handsjesse.walker

Jesse Walker has been coaching martial arts and combat sports for 15 years. As the head coach at Rough Hands, Jesse’s focus is providing a conceptual and principle-based framework with the goal of making fighting and self-defense skills accessible to anyone who walks in the door.

Talk Title: The Fight for Inclusion: Getting Self-Defense and Combat Sports Education To Those Most In Need 

Dr. James Wilkersonjames.wilkerson

James Wilkerson is the Director of Equity and Diversity and Deputy Title IX Coordinator at Indiana University Southeast. He is the author of the best-selling book The Title IX Guy and was named Best Local Writer in the 2021 LEO Weekly’s Readers’ Choice Awards.

Talk Title: Now This: Men to the #MeToo Frontline

2021 Speakers

Dr. Kate Bulinski

Dr. Kate Bulinski, Associate Professor of Geosciences, Department of Environmental Studies, Bellarmine University

Kate Bulinski is an invertebrate paleontologist focusing on marine ecosystems from the Paleozoic Era and loves teaching her students, friends, and family (and really, anyone who will listen) about all things geological. She is also passionate about working toward a sustainable future for her four tiny kids: a four-year-old and 18-month-old triplets.

Watch now: Lessons from Earth Crises in Deep Time

Israel Cuenca

Israel Cuenca, MBA, MM, Latin Music Awards Kentucky President

Founder of the Latin Music Awards Kentucky, Israel is a community leader, digital marketing professional, media contributor and musician. He has served on board of directors and led non-profits. Israel holds a bachelor’s in communications and music, a master’s in music and a master’s business administration. Currently, he is finishing a master’s in digital media at Bellarmine.

Watch now: Did the COVID-19 Pandemic Kill the Music Scene as We Know It?

Mariela Dabbah

Mariela Dabbah, Founder & CEO, Red Shoe Movement

Mariela is a renowned international speaker, award-winning author, and thought leader in the areas of leadership, diversity, equity and inclusion.

Watch now: How Long Until the Gender Inequity Vaccine?

Dr. Michael LaRocco

Dr. Michael LaRocco, Digital Media Professor, Bellarmine University

Besides serving as a professor, Michael is a filmmaker and musician. He has an intense obsession with heavy metal music, both personally and professionally.

Watch now: Extreme Healing: The Catharsis of Heavy Metal

Joshua McCorkle

Joshua McCorkle, Senior, Bellarmine University

Joshua is in his final year at Bellarmine, studying music with an emphasis in jazz studies and political science. He is a member of the Bellarmine University Honors Program and a participant in several student jazz ensembles.

Watch now: How Music Can Bring Unity

Anne Pearson

Anne Pearson, Junior, Bellarmine University

Anne is majoring in clinical psychology and political science and minoring in criminal justice studies. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking and engaging in bipartisan discussion with industry executives through the National Millennial Community. 

Watch now: Thomas Merton, BLM, and White Passivity

Eric J. Satterly

Eric J. Satterly, PE, Bellarmine University

Eric Satterly is an Information Technology evangelist experienced in leading and aligning IT efforts with institutional direction. He has a varied work background ranging from entrepreneurial, start-up environments to highly structured, corporate operations. Throughout his career, he has been successful in developing, communicating and implementing Information Technology strategies.

Watch now: Bias, Artificial Intelligence, and the Number 8

Angus Williams

Angus Williams, PT

Based in Louisville, Angus Williams is an Australian dad, physical therapist, educator and community advocate. He is also honored to be the founder and executive director of The Earhart Club.

Watch now: Community: The Power of Language

2020 Speakers

Headshot of Faizan Ahmed

Faizan Ahmed

Faizan Ahmed is a first-year medical student at the University of Louisville who recently accomplished a commitment to do 1200 pull-ups for charity.

Headshot of Arielle Clark

Arielle Clark

Arielle Clark (she, her, hers) is a black, queer, polyamorous, Louisville native with a passion for topics that directly affect her identities. An aspiring entrepreneur, Clark is working to open a safe, sober space for LGBTQ people in Louisville at her business venture, Sis Got Tea.

Claire Friday Headshot

Claire Friday

Claire Friday’s background is in arts administration and production. During 2019, she served as Interim General Manager for the Louisville Orchestra. Now residing in Las Vegas, Nevada, Friday produces special events and consults for live entertainment productions. She is also a speaker and writer and is active in the performing arts community.

Headshot of Ruth Haines

Ruth Haines

Through working with prisoners, ex-offenders, homeless people and the impoverished, Ruth Haines has realized the value of all people, especially those who are often considered as unworthy or invisible.

Headshot of Craig Johnson

Craig Johnson

Craig Johnson is a professional communicator and storyteller based in Louisville, KY. He thrives when finding fantastic stories and telling them in ways that inspire action. In his storytelling, Johnson proclaims the greatest challenges and biggest failures of stories to show they are the most compelling parts.

Head shot of Kate Johnson

Kate Johnson

An associate professor of philosophy, Kate Johnson specializes in moral philosophy. From her experiences with infertility, she has found revelation about the nature of hope and is now writing a book about hope as a distinctive kind of moral virtue.

Headshot of Daniel Leathers

Daniel Leathers

Daniel Leathers is a veteran speaker who uses his love of history to inspire his audiences. He believes the intimate stories of each person’s past yield valuable personal lessons for their futures in ways many would think unimaginable. 

Headshot of Justin Mog

Justin Mog

Most have been told that the key to happiness and success in America is a car key, but for Justin Mog, his youthful decision not to get a driver’s license became his first foray into liberatory counter-culturalism.

Head shot of Chris Roseland

Chris Roseland

Chris Roseland is a classical guitarist who has concertized around the world. Having played classical guitar since 2008, Roseland considers himself a lifelong student of music. His favorite activities are practicing guitar, teaching music and exercising.

Headshot of Todd Smith

Todd Smith

Todd C. Smith is an artist and educator focusing on humans’ collective impact on and connection to the environment. He has produced community-based, data-driven projects interpreting bike usage and sound, photography and video series exploring human movement through urban structures and green spaces and interactive sculptures varying in their use of found materials, analog technologies, and emerging digital media. 

2019 Speakers


Hoon Choi

Professor Choi is a Korean American scholar of theological ethics and World Christianity. He teaches, researches, and publishes on the relationship/intersection among race, gender and (Christian) theology. He has spoken at many professional conferences and community workshops on this topic. He was recently selected as a member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics.


Chasiti Gaines

Born and raised in Louisville, KY, Chasiti believes that by diversifying our storytelling and representation in media and communications—we transform the world and our future for the better. She has worked in marketing in the hospitality industry and at The Tempest, a global digital media company for diverse millennial women, as head of Audience Development and Engagement. Before starting her career in digital marketing, she obtained a Masters in Communication at Bellarmine University. During that time, she studied digital media and the effects of social media on promoting health behavior changes.

Andrea Helton

Andrea Helton

Andrea Helton is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist. Before settling in Louisville, Andrea completed her collegiate education at the University of California, Irvine where she studied health psychology, ran the university’s meditation club and worked as a research assistant. After, Andrea completed a master’s degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine at South Baylo University, where she graduated with honors and served as valedictorian. Today, Andrea and her husband co-own and operate AcuBalance, an acupuncture and integrative medicine clinic here in Louisville. Together, they bring healing and education to their community while working to build bridges between Integrative and Western Medicine to support the evolution of healthcare.


Kayla Martin

Kayla Martin is a senior at Bellarmine University and plans to attend graduate school for Theology abroad in the fall. She is a passionate student of both Theology and Political Science and focuses mainly on interfaith/ecumenical dialogue and world religions. Kayla aspires to be a Theology professor so that she can help others understand their neighbors better. Outside of her studies, she is a big fan of U2, works at a no-kill animal shelter and enjoys traveling.


Trenton Mattingly

Trenton Mattingly is currently the director of Nazareth Retreat Center, a non-profit based just outside of Bardstown, Kentucky. He holds a B.A. in English from Bellarmine University and an M.A. in Theology through the University of Notre Dame's McGrath Institute for Church Life. He is a regular contributor for Valiant Magazine, LifeTeen International and William H. Sadlier, Inc.


Josh Miller

Josh Miller is the co-founder and CEO of IDEAS xLab, where he and his team leverage the power of arts and culture to support community health transformation. He is an artist with a background in business, art administration and editorial production - and explores the world through photography (and a lot of running), documenting his journey through joshmiller.ventures. Josh is an advisor for the Derby Diversity & Business Summit, was selected for Louisville Business First's Forty under 40 in 2018 and serves as the co-chair of the Louisville Health Advisory Board's Communications Committee.


Nick Reinhart

Nick Reinhart, a 2015 graduate of Bellarmine University, lives in Evansville, Indiana. In 2017, Nick was diagnosed with kidney cancer. After the initial surgery to remove the cancer, complications arose resulting in seven operations in May 2017 and an eighth in December 2017. That diagnosis and its aftermath is the foundation of Nick's TEDx talk. He is adamant that his experience with cancer gave him far more than it took from him. He calls it the best learning opportunity he’s ever had.Nick grew up outside Indianapolis and went to school at Guerin Catholic. He is the son of Nick and Kim and has one brother, Nate.


Allie Roberts

Allie Roberts is a 17-year-old student at Spencer County High School in Taylorsville, Kentucky. In her small amount of free time away from her AP classes at school, she enjoys being involved in the Kentucky YMCA Youth Association’s Youth and Government Programs, political campaigns, activism, childhood cancer advocacy and community service. Allie is also serving as a Constitutional Page for the 2019 Kentucky General Assembly in Frankfort. Allie dreams of going to college to study Communications and Political Science to one day become a Civil Rights Attorney and work to end gender-based discrimination.


Dr. Eric Roorda

Dr. Eric Roorda grew up in Michigan and Ohio, then fled South to The College of William and Mary to study History. Eric received his Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University, and studied in Florence, Italy, and in the Dominican Republic. He’s taught at the Hopkins Center in Nanjing, China; on a schooner in the Caribbean for Long Island University; Williams College; Ohio University; and for the last 22 years, Bellarmine College/University. He’s published six books, most recently Twain At Sea (JHU Press, 2018). He and his partner Dee Doyle have two daughters: a graduate of DePauw University, and a Senior at UK.


Caitlin Simpson

In 2015, Reverend Caitlin Simpson became the first openly gay clergy ordained with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Kentucky Region. Her training in trauma informed care and her role as an advocate shapes her ministry. She focuses on marginalized communities, specifically, survivors of violence and trafficking; LGBTQ+ adults/youth; children; and current/formerly incarcerated women. She is currently an Education and Social Change Ph.D. student at Bellarmine University, focusing on how intersectionality and trauma informed care can be utilized by church leaders to promote/sustain inclusion. Rev. Simpson is an associate minister for First Christian Church and adjunct faculty at Bellarmine in Louisville, Kentucky.


Dr. John Stemmer

Dr. John Stemmer is the Director of Library Services at Bellarmine University. He has more than 25 years of experience in academic and research libraries. He earned his Ph.D. in Higher Education from Ohio University and holds an MLS from Indiana University. Dr. Stemmer’s professional activities have included fostering collaboration among academic libraries by helping create the Federation of Kentucky Academic Libraries (FoKAL) consortium and serving in the the Kentucky Virtual Library and developing library assessment abilities to highlight academic libraries and their support for student learning. He is currently focusing on university archives and their development.


Dr. Michael G. Strawser

Dr. Michael G. Strawser is an assistant professor and Director of Graduate Programs for the School of Communication at Bellarmine University. He researches instructional and organizational communication as well as generational differences in both education and corporate contexts. Michael is also the owner/lead consultant of Legacy Communication Training and Consulting, L.L.C. 

John Walczak

walczakJohn Walczak came to the Louisville Zoo in 1985 to design and build the HerpAquarium. Named Director in 2004, Walczak led the successful $26 million Glacier Run Capital Campaign growing the Zoo’s attendance to a record 900,000 guests in 2012. He has served on local boards including the Partnership for Creative Economies, the Arts and Cultural Attractions Council and Indiana University Southeast. In addition, he has served in numerous leadership positions with the national Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Walczak is passionate about animal welfare and dedicated to inspiring young people to find creative ways to live in better balance with nature.


Thomas Wójcicki, Ph.D.

Professor Wójcicki (AKA “Dr. T”) is an assistant professor of exercise science in the School of Movement & Rehabilitation Sciences at Bellarmine University. His area of expertise lies within the field of behavioral kinesiology, where he employs a social cognitive framework to examine and promote physical activity behaviors across the lifespan. Dr. Wójcicki also serves as a local advocate for walking and walkable communities, with a particular focus on improving access and mobility to support sustainable neighborhoods and population health.


Mary Wurtz

Mary Wurtz is a third year student of Foreign Languages and International Studies and Theology at Bellarmine University. Mary is an aspiring Korea expert and is currently working on her undergraduate Honors Program thesis on illicit consumption of foreign media in North Korea. As a lifelong student of foreign languages, she is fluent in Spanish and has recently begun Japanese coursework at Bellarmine. Her goal is to gain proficiency in one language from all seven continents. In 2019, Mary was selected from a nationwide pool as one of 20 Emerging Leaders by Global Ties US, a national foreign exchange organization.