Keynote and Featured Speakers


2018 Keynote Speaker:  Dr. Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University and she has been a pioneer in improving the handling and welfare of farm animals.


She was born in Boston, Massachusetts.  Temple’s achievements are remarkable because she was an autistic child.  At age two she had no speech and all the signs of severe autism. Many hours of speech therapy, and intensive teaching enabled Temple to learn speech.  As a teenager, life was hard with constant teasing.  Mentoring by her high school science teacher and her aunt on her ranch in Arizona motivated Temple to study and pursue a career as a scientist and livestock equipment designer.


Dr. Temple Grandin obtained her B.A. at Franklin Pierce College in 1970. In 1974 she was employed as Livestock Editor for the Arizona Farmer Ranchman and also worked for Corral Industries on equipment design. In 1975 she earned her M.S. in Animal Science at Arizona State University for her work on the behavior of cattle in different squeeze chutes. Dr. Grandin was awarded her Ph.D in Animal Science from the University of Illinois in 1989 and is currently a Professor at Colorado State University.


I have done extensive work on the design of handling facilities. Half the cattle in the U.S. and Canada are handled in equipment I have designed for meat plants. Other professional activities include developing animal welfare guidelines for the meat industry and consulting with companies on animal welfare.


Following her Ph.D. research on the effect of environmental enrichment on the behavior of pigs, she has published several hundred industry publications, book chapters and technical papers on animal handling plus 73 refereed journal articles in addition to 12 books.  She currently is a professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University where she continues her research while teaching courses on livestock handling and facility design.  Her book, Animals in Translation was a New York Times best seller and her book Livestock Handling an Transport, now has a fourth edition which was published in 2014. Other popular books authored by Dr. Grandin are Thinking in Pictures, Emergence Labeled Autistic, Animals Make us Human, Improving Animal Welfare: A Practical Approach, The Way I See It, and The Autistic Brain.  She also has a popular TED Talk.


Dr. Grandin has received numerous awards including the Meritorious Achievement Award from the Livestock Conservation Institute, named a Distinguished Alumni at Franklin Pierce College and received an honorary doctorate from McGill University, University of Illinois, Texas A&M, Carnegie Mellon University, and Duke University. She has also won prestigious industry awards including the Richard L. Knowlton Award from Meat Marketing and Technology Magazine and the Industry Advancement Award from the American Meat Institute and the Beef Top 40 industry leaders and the Lifetime Achievement Award from The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. In 2011, Temple was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. In 2015 she was given the Distinguished Service Award by the American Farm Bureau Federation and Meritorious Award from the OIE. HBO has premiered a movie about Temple’s early life and career with the livestock industry. The movie received seven Emmy awards, a Golden Globe, and a Peabody Award. In 2016, Temple was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Dr. Grandin is a past member of the board of directors of the Autism Society of America.  She lectures to parents and teachers throughout the U.S. on her experiences with autism. Articles and interviews have appeared in the New York Times, People, Time, National Public Radio, 20/20, The View, and the BBC. She was also honored in Time Magazines 2010 “The 100 Most Influential People in the World.” Dr. Grandin now resides in Fort Collins, Colorado. 

2018 Keynote Speaker:  Akilah S. Richards

I wrote my first book a year after I had Marley, our first daughter. Marley, now 13, inspired me to leave my career as a paralegal about to start law school and pursue what I loved—writing. Less than two years later, our second daughter, Sage-Niambi, nudged me to publish my first book, Execumama: A Pocket Guide for the Twenty-something Mommy on the Move.

In that book, I interviewed 12 women who struggled with the same jarring questions that motherhood brought to me: How can I be there for my child while building a career and finding time to honor my own needs? Is work-life balance a myth? Was it even possible? And if so, at what cost?

I started blogging about those questions, and some possible answers, and a couple years later, I was featured in a major magazine (Essence Mag, May 2009 issue). I started working with a few brands, wrote and self-published a few more books, started doing public speaking at small events, and eventually went into life coaching, working with women looking to make shift from day jobs they hated to entrepreneurship doing work they loved.

That work—both in my own life and in helping my clients—taught me a lot about how our unresolved feelings, our backstories, and in many cases, our childhood experiences could serve as tools to power us up in adulthood, or hold us back from taking charge of our own lives.

The work transitioned from a focus on managing and naming emotions, to exploring and expressing the things that define us, and the things that have the most powerful influence over our choices. I took to calling that liberation practice radical self-expression.

Over the past six years that work has looked like participating in my own liberation, and that of my children, with their father by embracing Self-Directed Education in the form of Unschooling. 

Unschooling isn’t just about education and children, it’s about how adults and children live together, and how adults and children get to be themselves while they learn, grow, and define themselves. We trust children, and our daughters are teaching us how to live with children in ways that help raise free people. People who change the world, instead of just fitting into it. 


In essence, I’m a storyteller and an agitator who believes in non-coercive, liberatory living and learning. My goal is to help more people embrace confident autonomy, children especially, and we believe this goal is already changing the world for the better.

2018 Featured Speakers:  TBA