We would like to invite you to the second Chaz and Roger Ebert Symposium at the University of Illinois campus in Urbana-Champaign, on September 27th. Inclusion and diversity in cinema and media will be the focus. This is an event jointly sponsored by the College of Media and its dean, Tracy Sulkin. The symposium, named in part for my late husband, the film critic, Roger Ebert, will feature academics, journalists, advertising executives, and cinema and media experts addressing the present and future of diversity in film, journalism, advertising and communication. Roger’s vision of movies as a tool for generating empathy among those of different genders, races, ages, classes or other circumstances was our starting point. Fostering empathy “is the most noble thing that good movies can do,” he has said. And this topic is an expansion of that idea. It is my firm belief that inclusion and diversity affects not only how we see the world, but how we begin to heal it. And so this symposium follows our first event from last year entitled, "Empathy for the Universe." We are so fortunate to have a very gifted panel of guests from across multiple disciplines.
The keynote speaker will be Dr. Stacy L. Smith, founder and director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California, a global think tank studying inequality in entertainment. Smith’s research has examined inclusion connected with gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability across film, TV, digital platforms, the music industry and film criticism. LA Weekly named Smith the most influential person in Los Angeles in 2015 and The Hollywood Reporter named her one of 50 Agents of Change in 2019. She discussed her research on women and girls in film in a 2016 TED Talk.
The symposium, titled "Creating an Inclusive Media and Cinema Ecosystem," opens at 9 a.m. at the I-Hotel, 1900 S. First Street, Champaign. The all-day event is free and open to the public, though registration is highly encouraged to reserve a spot for selected panel discussions.
In addition to Dr. Smith we are fortunate to have Dr. Nate Kohn, Gordon Quinn, Samantha Sheppard, Allyson Nadia Field, Adrianne Smith, Lincoln Stephens, Julie Turnock, Cáel Keegan, Brian Johnson, Dr. Janice Marie Collins, Abrar Al-Heeti, Ben Holden, Jason Chambers, Shazzia Khan, Ericka Riggs, and other guests to be named later. (See the bios below).
We are also sponsoring a Virtual Reality experience to help put you in the shoes of another for a visceral empathic journey. Registration begins September 6, sign up here.
Chaz Ebert, host and event organizer
Chaz Ebert is the CEO of Ebert Digital LLC, which publishes the movie review site, RogerEbert.com. She also produces television and movies at Ebert Productions, and heads the Ebertfest Film Festival now in its 20th year, where she gives the Ebert Humanitarian Award to filmmakers who exhibit an unusually compassionate view of the world. Her civic interests include programs to help break the glass ceiling for women and people of color, and to provide education and arts for women, children and families. Through the Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation she provides grants to support projects with strong social justice themes and mentors emerging writers, filmmakers, and technologists with a global view toward encouraging empathy, kindness, compassion and forgiveness. As an attorney she was named Lawyer of the Year by the Constitutional Rights Foundation, is a life-trustee of the Art Institute, and serves on the boards of the Abraham Lincoln Library Foundation, the Lyric Opera, the Shirley Ryan Ability Center and After School Matters. She is also a member of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, the Chicago Film Critics Association and the African-American Film Critics Association.
Nate Kohn, host and event organizer
Dr. Nate Kohn is professor at the University of Georgia, Associate Director of the George Foster Peabody Awards, festival director of Roger Ebert's Film Festival, director of the University of Georgia MFA program in screenwriting and award-winning producer. Dr. Kohn produced Zulu Dawn starring Burt Lancaster and Peter O’Toole; the independent feature "Somebodies," which premiered at Sundance (2006); "Rain," the Bahamas’ first indigenous feature which premiered at Toronto (2007) and on Showtime (2010); the feature film "Bottleworld" (2010); he was Executive Producer on the BET television series "Somebodies" (2008); he was Producer on the feature length documentary "Bayou Maharajah" that premiered at the SXSW Festival (2013); he produced the Emmy Award-winning short documentary "Ebertfest 2012"; and he was Executive Producer on The 73rd, 74th and 75th Annual Peabody Awards Specials for PivotTV/Participant Media (2014, 2015 and 2016). He has served on juries and mentored screenwriters at the Atlanta, Hawaii, Kerala, and Bahamas International Film Festivals. He is the author of numerous scholarly articles and of the book Pursuing Hollywood: Seduction, Obsession, Dread (AltaMira Press, 2006).
Dr. Stacy L. Smith, Keynote Speaker
Stacy L. Smith, Ph.D. is Founder & Director of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative (AII), the leading global think tank studying inequality in entertainment. Dr. Smith’s groundbreaking research examines inclusion (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity, the LGBT community, people with disabilities and mental health) across film, TV and digital platforms, the music industry, and film criticism. Beyond research, Dr. Smith crafts compelling and innovative solutions to entertainment inequality. Recently, in partnership with TIME’S UP, Tessa Thompson, and others, she launched the #4percentchallenge. She has authored over 100 articles, book chapters, and reports, and is covered regularly in popular press outlets including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CBS This Morning, NPR, and many others. LA Weekly named Dr. Smith the most influential person in Los Angeles in 2015. Dr. Smith serves on the Recording Academy Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion following the release of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s inaugural study on the music industry and is an Executive Committee Member of She Is The Music. LA Weekly named Dr. Smith the most influential person in Los Angeles in 2015. She appeared on Billboard’s 2018 Women in Music List and was deemed one of The Hollywood Reporter’s 50 Agents of Change in 2019.
Julie Turnock, Diversity in Film moderator
Julie Turnock is as Associate Professor and the Acting Department Head of Media and Cinema Studies at the University of Illinois.
She earned her Ph.D. in Media and Cinema Studies at the University of Chicago in 2008; an M.A. in Film and Television at the University of Amsterdam in 2001; an M.A. in Art History at Indiana University in 1998; and a B.S. in Modern Languages at Georgetown University in 1993.
Her course specialties include History of Cinema, Special Effects, Media Aesthetics and Introduction to Film Analysis.
Allyson Nadia Field, Diversity in Film panelist
Allyson Nadia Field is Associate Professor Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. Field’s scholarship investigates the functioning of race and representation in interdisciplinary contexts surrounding cinema. Her research focuses on African American film, both silent era cinema and more contemporary filmmaking practices, and is unified by two broad theoretical inquiries: how film and visual media shape perceptions of race and ethnicity, and how these media have been and can be mobilized to perpetuate or challenge social inequities. Her work is grounded in sustained archival research, integrating that material with concerns of film form, media theory, and broader cultural questions of representation. She is the author of Uplift Cinema: The Emergence of African American Film & The Possibility of Black Modernity (Duke University Press, 2015). Field is also, with Marsha Gordon, co-editor of Screening Race in American Nontheatrical Film (Duke University Press, 2019) and with Jan-Christopher Horak and Jacqueline Stewart, co-editor of L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema (University of California Press, 2015). Her current book project, tentatively titled Minstrelsy-Vaudeville-Cinema: American Popular Culture and Racialized Performance in Early Film, seeks to reframe American film history through the lens of racialized performance, tracing the development of tropes, themes, and practices from minstrelsy to the vaudeville stage and motion picture screen. In doing so, it attempts to make legible the functionings of minstrelsy’s forms within American cinema, understand its complex
negotiations of race in a rapidly changing social order, and explore moments of creative resistance to its
dehumanizing portrayals of African Americans. In support of this project, Field was named a 2019 Academy Film Scholar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Cáel M. Keegan, Diversity in Film panelist
Cáel M. Keegan is Assistant Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Integrative, Religious, and Intercultural Studies at Grand Valley State University. Keegan completed a doctorate in American Studies at the University of Buffalo. His research examines queer and transgender popular culture, with an emphasis on how media forms express queer/transgender sensation. Keegan is the author of the book Lana and Lilly Wachowski: Sensing Transgender (University of Illinois Press, 2018) and has also published articles in Genders, Queer Studies in Media and Popular Culture, Transgender Studies Quarterly, Mediekultur, Spectator, and the Journal of Homosexuality. He is regularly interviewed by the media on issues related LGBTQ politics, culture, and art: Keegan appears in the Vice Guide to Film’s episode on “New Trans Cinema” and recently introduced The Matrix for its 20th anniversary screening at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto. He also serves as Co-Chair of the Queer and Trans Caucus of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. His current book project, The Edge of the Real: Transgender Sensation and Its Forms, examines how transgender-authored popular culture has altered our common sense of “reality.”
Gordon Quinn, Diversity in Film panelist
Gordon Quinn, Artistic Director and founding member of Kartemquin Films, has been making documentaries for 50 years. In his first film Home for Life, heralded as "an extraordinarily moving documentary" by Roger Ebert, he established the direction of his life and career; storytelling that examines the broader culture through the unfolding lives of real people.
Gordon’s documentaries include "Taylor Chain," "The Last Pullman Car," "Golub," "Hoop Dreams," "Vietnam," "Long Time Coming," "Stevie" and "The New Americans." Recently, he directed "Prisoner of Her Past," "A Good Man" and "‘63 Boycott" which was shortlisted for the Oscar. He was EP on "The Interrupters," "The Trials of Muhammad Ali," "The Homestretch," "Life Itself," "America To Me" and Oscar nominated films, "Abacus: Small Enough to Jail," "Edith and Eddie," and "Minding the Gap."
A longtime activist for public and community media, Gordon was integral to the creation of ITVS and the Documentary Filmmakers Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use. Quinn has collaborated with generations of diverse filmmakers whose films have won numerous awards and impacted millions of viewers.
Samantha N. Sheppard, Diversity in Film panelist
Samantha N. Sheppard is the Mary Armstrong Meduski ’80 Assistant Professor in the Department of Performing and Media Arts at Cornell University. She writes extensively on issues of race, gender, and representation in cinema and media. She is the author of the forthcoming book Sporting Blackness: Race, Embodiment, and Critical Muscle Memory on Screen (University of California Press, 2020). She is coeditor of the anthologies From Madea to Media Mogul: Theorizing Tyler Perry (University Press of Mississippi, 2016) and Sporting Realities: Critical Readings on the Sports Documentary (University of Nebraska Press, 2020). She has published essays in Film Quarterly, Cinema Journal, Journal of Sport History, Journal of Sport and Social Issues, and Black Camera: An International Journal and the anthologies L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema (University of California Press, 2015) and Race and the Revolutionary Impulse in The Spook Who Sat by the Door (Indiana University Press, 2018). She has also written for The Atlantic and Los Angeles Review of Books.
Brian Johnson, Diversity in Journalism moderator
Brian Johnson started his journalism career as a staff photojournalist at The News-Gazette in Champaign and has been teaching at the University since 1988. Johnson's work has been published in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, USA Today, Newsday and others.
Johnson was the editor of the book, C-U in Seven Plus, A Week (Plus a little bit more) in the Life of Champaign-Urbana. He has won prizes in the Horizon Interactive awards, National Press Photographers Association Pictures of the Year and the Telly Awards. His multimedia project "This Bond" won Best Faculty Creative Project from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Visual Communication Division. His current work uses photojournalism as a methodology to document the unseen in the seen.
Johnson has received more than 60 national, regional and state awards for his photojournalism, multimedia and videos. Johnson has received recognition for his teaching including being selected as a Vice Chancellor's Teaching Scholar and as Faculty Member of the Year from the University of Illinois Dads Association. He was twice the head of the Visual Communications Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and was vice president of the Illinois Press Photographers Association. He has served the department of journalism at the University as director of graduate studies, associate department head and as department head.
Dr. Janice Marie Collins, Diversity in Journalism panelist
Dr. Janice Marie Collins is an assistant professor in the Journalism Department. She is an award-winning journalist, documentarian, digital publisher, researcher and scholar with more than 20 years of experience in the journalism industry and 16 years of teaching experience on the university level. Before coming to Illinois, she earned multiple Emmy, Best of Gannett, Associated Press, NABJ, and AABJ awards for writing, producing, reporting, cinematography, and editing while working in the top-ten market and network. She has also won numerous awards for her work in student broadcasting at Hampton University and Eastern Illinois University.
Her research, teaching, creative endeavors and public engagements intersect at the demarginalization of individuals, learning spaces, media content and organizational structures. Her television broadcast program and web-series, “A Taste of Gullah,” won Best Documentary at the International Garifuna Film Festival in Venice, California and her most recent autoethnography series “Journey to My Mother’s Land: Extending the Gate’s Effect into Africa,” was picked up by the largest broadcast platform in Africa, the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), and aired digitally to the U.K., U.S., Canada and all of Africa. Prominent anti-racism activist and educator, Jane Elliott, described her first book publication, 250 Years and Still a Slave: Breaking Free with Active Centralized Empowerment, as “a Great read!” and “should be required reading for every teacher in the classroom.” Her second book, Active Centralized Empowerment (A.C.E.): Teaching without Borders, now under contract, introduces a critical pedagogy for inclusion and empowerment that she has been developing for over 14 years. She is also completing a multimedia/online article on her recent trip back to Sierra Leone, West Africa, Accra, Ghana and Abuja, Nigeria, where she spoke with children survivors of the Boko Haram attack who now live in an IDP camp.
Janice was awarded the Baskett Mosse National Faculty Development Award, and won second place
in national competition for “Best in Digital” for her website of inclusion-Hearmyvoiceonline.com (AEJMC
2017), first place in the Top Faculty Paper Competition at the National BEA Conference as, both, coauthor, and sole author of quantitative studies for two consecutive years, is a Kopenhaver Fellow and President of the African International Documentary Festival Foundation based out of Abuja, Nigeria and Champaign, Illinois. As an invited professional facilitator at the UnLeash2019 Global Innovation Lab in Shenzhen, China, she will guide a team of storytellers to produce stories to help meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Janice teaches broadcast and multimedia courses as well as a specialized cross-disciplines course on leadership, inclusion and demarginalization for digital publication and was inducted into the ACC Women’s Basketball Legends Hall of Fame for Wake Forest University.
Abrar Al-Heeti, Diversity in Journalism panelist
Abrar Al-Heeti is a staff reporter for CNET's culture team. Born and raised in Champaign, she graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor's and master's degree in journalism. While in school, she worked for The Daily Illini and the Center for Power Optimization of Electro-Thermal Systems, and was an intern at Illinois Public Media and The News-Gazette.
In her current role at CNET, Abrar covers everything from breaking news to Silicon Valley culture to social media trends. She works in San Francisco.
Ben Holden, Diversity in Journalism panelist
Ben Holden teaches media law and news reporting in the Department of Journalism at the University of Illinois/Urbana-Champaign College of Media and is a visiting faculty member at the National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada. He was formerly an associate professor and director of the Reynolds National Center for Courts & Media at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). The Center is an affiliate of the National Judicial College on the UNR campus. Mr. Holdens media consulting work includes assignments in the former Yugoslavia (Kosovo) on behalf of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the U.S. State Department to aid judges, journalists, and public information officers in developing professional press coverage of the courts. Previously, he practiced law at the Bay Area media law firm Cooper, White & Cooper and was Editor-in-Chief of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer in Columbus, Ga., a McClatchy newspaper. He spent his daily news reporting career at The Wall Street Journal, where he was eventually the Journals national utilities correspondent.
Jason Chambers, Diversity in Advertising moderator
Chambers’ research background and course offerings are all historically based. He currently teaches a section of an advertising history course, as well as a course on the foundations of advertising. He also has crafted a course that examines the use of race and ethnicity in advertising.
Chambers has presented his research into the African-American consumer market both nationally and internationally. His work has been published in books and journals in the United States, Asia and Europe. He has been invited to speak to gatherings of practitioners and academics throughout the United States, Canada and Asia. He also has appeared on The History Channel discussing advertising issues, and his opinions have been sought by a variety of periodicals including Forbes and Black Enterprise magazines. Chambers also has served as a consultant on advertising history programs appearing on the BBC. In addition, he has consulted with national nonprofit organizations and Fortune 100 companies, as well as advertising agencies on matters of diversity, stereotyping and various consumer issues.
The University of Pennsylvania Press published his first book, “Madison Avenue and the Color Line: African Americans in the Advertising Industry,” in early 2008. This penetrating work examines the employment and entrepreneurial experiences of blacks in the advertising industry and their fight to diversify both the industry and advertisements.
Shazzia Khan, Diversity in Advertising panelist
Shazzia has been with years with Havas Health and You for 15 years, she was named Global Chief of Staff of the organization in 2015. In this role she oversees all of HR, training and development and corporate social responsibility efforts worldwide. Additionally, she partners with the company’s Global CEO on special projects and initiatives.
She earned her BBA from Hofstra University, continued her education at New York University, and began working her way up through the ranks of the New York advertising world right out of college. Before joining Havas Health and You—and the Talent Management realm—in 2004, she worked with top advertising agencies on the account management side, honing her chops on a number of big brands, notably Maxwell House Coffee (Ogilvy & Mather), Snapple (Deutsch), and Jockey International (Grey). During this time, she also acquired extensive new product development and global launch experience.
Shazzia also volunteers for the Developments in Literacy (DIL) organization, which builds schools for girls in rural areas in Pakistan, and is a Board member for the NAACP.
Ericka Riggs, Diversity in Advertising panelist
Ericka Riggs’ natural state of mind is curious—her desire to see and explore the world stems from her childhood spent as a corporate gypsy. Ericka’s family steadily moved every three to four years, moving across the country, from Texas to New York, she attended well over five primary schools and two high schools, graduating high school in Paoli, PA., these experiences expanded Ericka’s views and understandings of the world, and she applies that adventurous mindset to her life whenever possible.
In her professional life, Ericka is equal parts architect and entrepreneur, continuously taking on roles that require lots of legwork and building of programs from scratch. In September of 2016, Ericka joined the AD Club of NY, presently she is the Foundation and Inclusion Director—a role in which she is actively advocating, managing and developing talent pipeline programs, diversity-outreach efforts, and culturally inclusive experiences for the advertising, marketing, and media community.
Adrianne Smith, Diversity in Advertising panelist
Adrianne is the Founder and Visionary of the Can: Diversity Collective, a non-profit organization created to provide access and exposure to young people of color and under-represented communities to global thought leadership conferences on advertising, marketing, creativity, economics, innovation and technology. In 2017, she launched the first iteration of the Diversity Collective, the Cannes Can: Diversity Collective (CC:DC) which provides rising stars in the advertising and creative industry the opportunity to attend and participate in the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. In 2019, she made history by creating the first stand-alone Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Beach in the festival’s 66 years of existence. Cannes Lions is where the best creative work in the world is judged to the highest standards.
With more than 20+ years of industry and advocacy experience, including her work as the Executive Director of the Center for Excellence in Advertising at Howard University, Adrianne has helped many individuals achieve their personal career goals and organizations achieve their strategic corporate goals. Her training and development programs were the catalyst for the success of several advertising executives. Graduates trained in her program have received numerous awards and accolades including Cannes Lion awards.
Adrianne’s career has been primarily based on making the invisible visible by creating opportunities for under-represented communities. She has created and produced both documentaries and television programs as well as participated on the launch team for a digital sub-television network. In addition to her advocacy work, Adrianne is the founder of Vision Corps Media Group (VCMG), a media incubation company developed to create new content for current and emerging media outlets.
Lincoln Stephens, Diversity in Advertising panelist
Lincoln Stephens is a former Advertising Account Management Executive (TracyLocke, Martin Retail, Carol H Williams Advertising, TPN, and Moroch) turned education advocate and social entrepreneur. In his professional career, Stephenshas worked with top brands such as Frito Lay, Quaker, Pepsi, Cadillac, Hummer, Chevrolet, Western Union, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Lexus and Moet Hennessy USA.
In November 2008, he decided to quit his job to pursue his passion for mentorship and co-founded a non profit organization called the Marcus Graham Project. The organization which is focused on bringing more diversity to the advertising industry through mentorship, exposure and career development, has been featured in Advertising Age, Black Enterprise Magazine, Savoy Magazine, and on CNN and NBC.
Additionally, Lincoln has been acclaimed as one of Advertising Age's top 40 marketing leaders under 40, Ebony Magazine's top entrepreneurs under 34, the Dallas Business Journal's Minority Business Leader Award, AT&T Game Changer, Adweek Rising Star Brand and honored with the University of Missouri School of Journalism's Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in the Media Industry.
Gregory Nava, National Hispanic Heritage Month special guest
Writer/producer/director Gregory Nava has been nominated for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, an Emmy, and a Writer’s Guild Award. His films have been selected for and honored at many film festivals, including, Cannes, Sundance, Berlin, Telluride, San Sebastian, Edinburgh, Chicago, and Montreal. Nava became an internationally renowned filmmaker with his Academy Award nominated film "El Norte" for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay as well as a Writer’s Guild of America Award nomination.
Critic Roger Ebert called "El Norte," which addresses the plight of illegal immigrants, “'The Grapes of Wrath' of our time.” "El Norte" was named an “American Classic” and designated for special preservation by The Library of Congress. Nava continued directing a string of ground-breaking Latino films, directing and co-writing the multi-generational saga "My Family/Mi Familia," which starred Jennifer Lopez in her first film role. Nava went on to write and direct the box-office hit "Selena" based on the true-life story of the singing superstar and created the definitive breakout role for Jennifer Lopez, earning her a Golden Globe nomination. Nava then followed with directing the musical biopic "Why Do Fools Fall In Love" starring Halle Berry.
Nava co-wrote the screenplay for the Academy Award nominated film "Frida," starring Selma Hayek. Nava then wrote, directed and produced the political thriller "Bordertown" starring Jennifer Lopez and Antonio Banderas. "Bordertown" was nominated for the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and won the “Artist for Amnesty” award from Amnesty International. In television Nava has been nominated for both the Emmy and Golden Globe as the Creator and Executive Producer of "American Family," the first dramatic Latino series in the history of broadcast television. Nava received his Emmy and Golden Globe nominations in the "Outstanding Mini-series" category.
Currently Nava is slated to direct "Gates of Eden" a sweeping epic of the current situation on the border. Nava also has in development "The Magnificent Mendez" – the inspirational story of Rafael Mendez who rose from poverty in Mexico to become the world’s greatest trumpet player. In addition to his Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe nominations Nava has received five Imagen awards – three Alma awards – the Hispanic Heritage Award for the Arts at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC – The National Hispanic Heritage Foundation Raul Julia Award for Excellence – the Latino Spirit Award from the State of California and Lifetime Achievement Awards from both the National Council of La Raza and the Imagen Foundation.
Laura Rodríguez, National Hispanic Heritage Month special guest
Laura Rodríguez is a bilingual multimedia journalist and producer for HOY, Chicago Tribune’s Spanish-language newspaper. For almost four years, Rodríguez has focused on exposing the often untold and compelling stories of the Latino community in the Chicago area and beyond.
Her work ranges from human interest pieces, entertainment, to some politics and breaking stories. Laura aims to write pieces that transcend language, race, age, and gender barriers. She was awarded a Chicago Tribune Beck Award for outstanding professional performance for HOY in 2018.
Born and raised in Guanajuato, Mexico and a Depaul graduate, Laura is a mariachi fanatic and a country music lover. She writes more than she cooks and enjoys a glass of rosé most Thursdays evenings.
For more information, visit the official site of the University of Illinois.