Keynote Speakers


Michael J. Sorrell, Ed.D.

Dr. Michael J. Sorrell is the longest-serving President in the 149-year history of Paul Quinn College. During his 14 years of leadership, Paul Quinn has become a nationally regarded institution for its efforts to remake higher education in order to serve the needs of under-resourced students and their communities.

About Michael

Michael is one of the most decorated college presidents in America. Ranked with the likes of Tim Cook and Bill and Melinda Gates on Fortune’s 2018 list of the world’s greatest leaders, Michael Sorrell transformed struggling Paul Quinn College in Dallas into one of the most innovative colleges in America. An attorney and former White House staffer, Sorrell brought a bold new vision to Paul Quinn, focusing on academic rigor, experiential learning and entrepreneurship. He also pioneered what he named the “urban work college model,” based on Paul Quinn’s dramatic success. Inspiring, straight-talking, and with a compelling and hopeful story to tell, Sorrell received a standing ovation at SXSW Education for his dynamic delivery and groundbreaking approaches to reinventing the future of American higher education. The college was honored as HBCU of the Year, the HBCU Student Government Association of the Year and the HBCU Business Program of the Year and was named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. It also became one of only a handful of federally recognized work colleges, a key component of the school’s reality-based educational approach.

valerie alexander

Valerie Alexander

Valerie is a renowned expert on happiness & inclusion & a globally recognized speaker on the topics of happiness in the workplace, unconscious bias & the advancement of women. Her TED Talk, “How to Outsmart Your Own Unconscious Bias” has been viewed over half a million times & has been used as an instructional tool in classrooms & boardrooms around the world.

About Valerie

Valerie’s books include the Amazon #1 seller, Happiness as a Second Language and several more on happiness and success. Prior to this work, Valerie was a securities lawyer, an investment banker, a tech startup CEO, and a screenwriter and film director. She also writes Christmas movies for the Hallmark Channel, which she knows you secretly love, even though you’ll only admit to watching them with your mom. Valerie and her husband, writer-producer Rick Alexander, live in Los Angeles, CA, with their ill-mannered German Shepherd, Vegas, Baby! Please visit to learn more about her work.


Scott Abel

Named Leadership and Innovation Manager with oversight of the Texas Health and Human Services Leadership Development Program, Scott is a seasoned veteran of public service, having served in various state government leadership positions for more than twelve years. Scott speaks frequently on leadership, communication, innovation, & generational differences in the workplace.

About Scott

Scott has also provided leadership in the field of higher education and intercollegiate athletics as a senior administrator at various universities and with the National Collegiate Athletic Association, where he was the youngest-elected chairman of the organization’s prestigious Legislation Committee.

Scott has a bachelor’s degree and a law degree from Texas Wesleyan University, but is a rabid, life-long fan of the TCU Horned Frogs. He is the author of the supernatural suspense novel, Sunrise, and lives in the suburbs of Austin with his wife and two daughters - who assist him in his search for the perfect combination of chocolate and peanut butter.