Keynotes and Featured

Through powerful presentations from prominent and emerging leaders, SXSWedu explores a diverse range of topics that impact the future of how we teach, learn and grow.

Keynotes kick off each day of programming, while featured sessions headline each hour of the conference day and the closing program completes the event with a single stage lineup of dynamic voices. Learn more about the speakers already confirmed for March by clicking on their photo or browse by session titles in the online schedule.

Keynotes and Closing Program

Dr. Christopher Emdin

Christopher Emdin

Associate Professor and Director, Teachers College, Columbia University

Monday, March 6 | 9:30am - 10:30am
Austin Convention Center, Ballroom D
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Christopher Emdin is an Associate Professor of Science Education and Director of Science Education in the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University. He also serves as Associate Director of the Institute For Urban and Minority Education at the college.

Dr. Emdin is a social critic, public intellectual and science advocate whose commentary on issues of race, culture, inequality and education have appeared in dozens of influential periodicals including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post and most recently his New York Time Best Seller, For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood..and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education.

Sara Goldrick-Rab

Sara Goldrick-Rab

Professor of Higher Education Policy & Sociology, Temple University

Tuesday, March 7 | 9:30am - 10:30am
Austin Convention Center, Ballroom D
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Sara Goldrick-Rab is Professor of Higher Education Policy & Sociology at Temple University, and Founder of the Wisconsin HOPE Lab. Her research examines the intended and unintended consequences of the college-for-all movement in the United States.

She is the recipient of the William T. Grant Foundation’s Faculty Scholars Award and the American Educational Research Association’s Early Career Award. In September 2016, the University of Chicago published her latest book, Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream.

Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss

Author, Entrepreneur, and Angel Investor

In conversation with
Charles Best, Founder & CEO,

Wednesday, March 8 | 9:30am - 10:30am
Austin Convention Center, Ballroom D
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Tim Ferriss has been listed as one of Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Business People,” one of Forbes’s “Names You Need to Know,” and one of Fortune’s “40 under 40.” He is an early-stage technology investor/advisor (Uber, Facebook, Shopify, Duolingo, Alibaba, and 50+ others) and the author of three #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers: The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body, and The 4-Hour Chef. The Observer and other media have called Tim “the Oprah of audio” due to the influence of The Tim Ferriss Show podcast, which has exceeded 100 million downloads and was selected for "Best of iTunes" in 2015. His latest book is Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers.

Brené Brown photo by Danny Clark

Brené Brown

Founder and CEO, Brave Leaders Inc

Thursday, March 9 | 12:30pm - 1:00pm
Austin Convention Center, Ballroom D
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Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston where she holds the Huffington Brené Brown Endowed Chair at The Graduate College of Social Work.

She has spent the past fifteen years studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy and is the author of three #1 New York Times bestsellers – The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, and Rising Strong.

Her TED talk – The Power of Vulnerability – is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world with over 25 million views.

Brené is the Founder and CEO of BRAVE LEADERS INC – a platform that brings her latest research on leadership development and culture change to teams, leaders, entrepreneurs, change makers, and culture shifters. Brené lives in Houston, Texas with her husband, Steve, and their children Ellen and Charlie.

Sarah Elizabeth Lewis photo by Kwesi Abbensetts

Sarah Elizabeth Lewis

Assistant Professor of History of Art and Architecture and African American Studies, Harvard University

Thursday, March 9 | 1:00pm - 1:30pm
Austin Convention Center, Ballroom D
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Sarah Lewis is a bestselling author, curator, and an Assistant Professor at Harvard University.

Lewis’s most recent book is The Los Angeles Times bestseller, The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery (Simon & Schuster), a layered, story-driven investigation of how innovation, discovery, and the creative process are all spurred on by advantages gleaned from improbable foundations. The work has been translated into 7 languages to date. Her essays on race, contemporary art and culture have been published in many journals as well as The New York Times, The New Yorker, Artforum, Art in America and in publications for the Smithsonian, The Museum of Modern Art, and Rizzoli. Her upcoming book is under contract with Harvard University Press.

She is the guest editor of Aperture magazine’s issue dedicated to the theme of “Vision & Justice,” the topic of her first course at Harvard University and the related exhibition at the Harvard Art Museums (August 2016 – January 2017). Lewis is a frequent speakers at many universities and conferences such as TEDGlobal, SXSW, PopTech, ASCD and for a wide range of organizations from the Aspen Institute to the Getty to The Federal Reserve Bank.

She received her bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, an M. Phil from Oxford University, and her Ph.D. from Yale University. Before joining the faculty at Harvard, she held curatorial positions at The Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Tate Modern, London. She also served as a Critic at Yale University School of Art. She is a Trustee of Creative Time, The CUNY Graduate Center, the Brearley School, and the Andy Warhol Foundation of the Visual Arts.

Roberto Rivera

Roberto Rivera

President and Lead Change Agent, Good Life Alliance / 7 Mindsets

Thursday, March 9 | 1:30pm - 2:00pm
Austin Convention Center, Ballroom D
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Roberto received his undergraduate degree at UW-Madison where he created his own major entitled “Social Change, Youth Culture and the Arts.” He received his Masters at UIC in Youth Development with a focus on Social Justice, Urban Education, and Hip-hop. He is a Co-Founder of the Good Life Organization, an organization that publishes multi-media educational tools and trains educators, youth workers, and parents in connecting positive youth development to community development.

Roberto is dedicated to making the movement of SEL available to both students and community members and is helping to construct a national alliance of organizations demonstrating best practice of SEL and Social Justice. He is a published author, international speaker, and hiphop enthusiast. Roberto is also a husband, father and social entrepreneur.


Amanda Wahlstedt Amanda Wahlstedt

Andrew Brennen Andrew Brennen
Student Voice

Andrew Smith LewisAndrew Smith Lewis

Ben GurewitzBen Gurewitz
Diverse Learners Coalition

Carmen FarinaChancellor Carmen Farina
NYC Department of Education

Charles Best

Daniel R. PorterfieldDaniel R. Porterfield
Franklin & Marshall College

Elliott WitneyElliott Witney
Spring Branch ISD

Gregg BehrGregg Behr
The Grable Foundation

Illah NourbakhshIllah Nourbakhsh
Carnegie Mellon University

Jahana Hayes, 2016 National Teacher of the YearJahana Hayes
National Teacher of the Year

Jane MeseckJane Meseck
Microsoft Corporation

Jane WernerJane Werner
Children's Museum of Pittsburgh

Jessica O. MatthewsJessica O. Matthews
Uncharted Play

Juan CabreraSuperintendent Juan Cabrera
El Paso School District

Jodi NelsonJodi Nelson
International Rescue Committee

John MaedaJohn Maeda

Joseph W PolisiJoseph W Polisi
The Juilliard School

Kathleen McCartneyKathleen McCartney
Smith College

Kathryn Mayo-HudsonKathryn Mayo-Hudson
Turnaround Arts

Laura Weidman PowersLaura Weidman Powers

Leila ToplicLeila Toplic

Melissa IngberMelissa Ingber
Aspen Institute Stevens Initiative

Michelle JohnsonMichelle Johnson
US Air Force Academy

Michael ShinnMichael Shinn
The Juilliard School

 Mike_KlebaMike Kleba
North Shore Sr High School

Molly McMahonMolly McMahon

Rachel GoslinsRachel Goslins
Smithsonian Institution

Ross SzaboRoss Szabo
Human Power Project

Ryan OHaraRyan O'Hara
Oyster Bay-East Norwich Central School District

Sean DecaturSean Decatur
Kenyon College

Ursulina RamirezUrsulina Ramirez
NYC Department of Education

Valerie LewisValerie Lewis
Discovery High School

Z Mike WangZ Mike Wang
Minerva Schools at KGI

William McRavenChancellor William McRaven
The University of Texas System

Zaakir Tameez Zaakir Tameez
Houston ISD Student Congress

Zinab AdisaZinab Adisa
Pittsburgh CAPA