Keynote Speakers

Dr. Damon A. Williams is a visionary and inspirational leader, and also one of the nation’s recognized experts in strategic diversity leadership, youth development, corporate responsibility, educational achievement, social impact, and organizational change.

In 2017, he launched the National Inclusive Excellence Tour (, and broader campaign, to impact 5000 institutions, and empower 1 million leaders.

He is a global thought leader having worked with more than 1,000 colleges and universities, Fortune 100 companies, and foundations, as keynote speaker, strategist, educator, and social innovation leader.

Dr. Williams authored the best-selling, Strategic Diversity Leadership: Activating Change and Transformation In Higher Education (2013) and co-authored the first book ever written on the CDO role, The Chief Diversity Officer: Strategy, Structure, and Change Management (2013).

As the University of Michigan celebrates her 200-year anniversary, he was recently awarded the Bicentennial Leadership Award, a one-time honor given to 20 trailblazing alumni. He is also the 2017 recipient of the Western Reserve Academy – Waring Prize, the highest alumni award presented by the prestigious boarding school founded in 1826.

Disenchanted with his ability to truly expand the pipeline into higher education, he took on a new role to innovate a national movement. For four years, he served as senior vice president and chief education officer at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA), where he led the program strategy for one of the most ambitious social impact plans in the history of the non-profit world. Prior to this role, he was a senior executive at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a member of the faculty.


Aashir Nasim, PhD holds dual positions as Interim Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs and Director of the Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry & Innovation (iCubed). As Senior Vice Provost, he serves as chief administrator for the Office of Faculty Affairs and leads faculty development and success initiatives on academic, medical and international campuses.

As iCubed director, he is the responsible authority for new transdisciplinary academic and research programs that include more than 50 faculty and postdoctoral researchers across the university’s colleges and schools. Previously, he served as Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, Special Assistant to the Provost, and Chair of the Department of African American Studies. Dr. Nasim is a National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities Scholar and a VCU Massey Cancer Center member.

He has been acknowledged for his mentorship of faculty and for his work on institutional capacity-building grants to enhance the pipeline of minorities and women in health sciences and STEM. Dr. Nasim is a tenured professor in the College of Humanities and Sciences. He joined VCU in 2008 as a jointly appointed associate professor of Psychology and African American Studies.

One of three sons, along with his brother Frederick, McDavis was one of Joseph and Mabel McDavis' twin boys, and grew up in Dayton, Ohio, before beginning his academic career as an undergraduate at Ohio University and earning a B.A. He was a runner on the men's varsity track team. He later completed an M.A. degree at the University of Dayton and a Ph.D. degree at the University of Toledo, both in the field of higher education. He was a professor of education in the Department of Counselor Education at the University of Florida from 1974–1989 and an associate dean of the graduate school and minority programs at the same university from 1984–1989. He served as dean of the College of Education and professor of counselor education at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, from 1989–1994 and as director of the Arkansas Academy for Leadership Training and School-Based Management from 1992–1994. He was dean of the College of Education and professor of education at the University of Florida from 1994–1999.

McDavis subsequently served as provost and vice president for academic affairs and professor of education at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., from 1999–2004.

McDavis became the 20th president of The Ohio University on July 1, 2004. He is the first Ohioan of African ancestry and only the second alumnus to lead Ohio University as president. In 2005 he created Ohio University and Eight HBCUs and The Interlink Alliance consortium was launched in 2008.  He is a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity.

On March 10, 2016, McDavis announced his retirement, effective June 30, 2017. The university subsequently announced, on December 9, 2016, he would be stepping down earlier, on February 17, 2017, to accept a position as managing principal and chief executive officer of AGB Search.

Dr. Erin Burke Brown joined VCU’s Division of Community Engagement in 2008 as the coordinator of the AmeriCorps and America Reads Programs. In that role she recruited, trained, and supervised up to 80 members who served as tutors and mentors to elementary students reading below grade. In 2011, she became the assistant director of service-learning and then promoted to associate director of service-learning, supporting service-learning faculty, students and community partners in the development of quality courses that integrate meaningful service experiences into the academic curriculum. In 2015, Brown was named director of VCU ASPiRE, providing leadership and oversight for all operations of the program, its staff and curriculum.

In addition to her work with service-learning, Brown is a faculty fellow with the ASPiRE program and is an instructor with Richmond’s Nonprofit Learning Point, where she teaches workshops in volunteer management.

Brown has more than 10 years of experience working in community engagement. Prior to her current role, she worked at a local nonprofit with children of incarcerated parents. She also participated in the Teach for America program where she served as a 5th grade teacher in Baton Rouge, La. Brown’s research and teaching interests include service-learning, inclusion and diversity, community partnerships and university student development.