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Opening Plenary: Dr. Talithia Williams, Harvey Mudd College

Thursday, February 23, 8–9:15 a.m.

Dr. Talithia Williams takes sophisticated numerical concepts, including her specialty field big data, and makes them understandable and relatable to everyone. As illustrated in her popular TED Talk, "Own Your Body's Data," she demystifies the mathematical process in amusing and insightful ways, using statistics as a way of seeing the world in a new light and transforming our future through the bold new possibilities inherent in the STEM (science, technology, mathematics, and engineering) fields. As an associate professor of mathematics at Harvey Mudd College, she has made it her life's work to get people—students, parents, educators, and community members— more excited about the possibilities inherent in a STEM education.

Dr. Williams develops statistical models focusing on spatial and temporal data and has partnered with the World Health Organization to develop a cataract model used to predict the cataract surgical rate for developing countries. Her professional career includes research appointments at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the National Security Agency, and NASA.

She holds a Ph.D. in statistics from Rice University and earned two master’s degrees, one in mathematics from Howard University and one in statistics from Rice University.


Closing Plenary Panel: Education Policy with a New Administration and Stronger State Role

Friday, February 24, 11 am–noon

The November election came at a pivotal time for education policy—just as states were gearing up to implement the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Now, big questions remain, chief among them: How will the new presidential administration put its stamp on ESSA and federal education policy? ESSA had already shifted control of K-12 education back to the states, and now the new administration promises an even smaller role for the federal government. States will really be in the driver’s seat as they work to revamp their assessment and accountability systems to better prepare students for college and career. Hear from state leaders and education experts who are trying to navigate this new normal.

Moderator: Karen Lanning - Sr. Director, Federal Relations - The College Board - DC


  • Ashley Eden - Director of Strategic Initiatives - New Mexico Public Education Department - NM
  • Jeanene Barnett - Interim Deputy Superintendent of Assessment and Accountability - Oklahoma Department of Education - OK
  • Sharmila Mann - Director of the K-12 Institute - Education Commission of the States - CO
  • Robert Scott - Principal - Texas Star Alliance - TX