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2024 Conference Speakers

2024 Keynote Speaker
Gretchen Sorin, Ph.D.

 Gretchen Sorin is distinguished professor and director of the Cooperstown Graduate Program of the State University of New York Oneonta. She has curated innumerable exhibits - including with the Smithsonian, the Jewish Museum, and the New York State Historical Association - and lives in upstate New York. Dr. Sorin writes and lectures frequently on museum practice, diversity and inclusion, and African American history.  


Dr. Sorin is the author of Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights published by W.W. Norton/Liveright. Filmmaker Ric Burns and Steeplechase Films adapted this work in a documentary screened on PBS in 2020. Dr. Sorin co-wrote the documentary and acted as senior historian during the film's production.


​Gretchen Sorin's other books include Touring Historic Harlem, Four Walks in Northern Manhattan (with architectural historian Andrew Dolkart), In the Spirit of Martin: The Living Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, Through the Eyes of Others: African Americans and Identity in American Art, and Case Studies in Cultural Entrepreneurship: How to Create Relevant and Sustainable Institutions.

Mayor Kathy Sheehan
2024 City as Text Speaker


Mayor Kathy Sheehan is in her third term as Albany, New York’s 75th mayor.  Mayor Sheehan has dedicated her administration to creating a city of opportunity, leading with a commitment to equity and responsive government that includes diverse community voices.


Kathy served a four-year term as Albany’s Treasurer prior to being elected mayor, implementing changes to improve the City’s fiscal policies and overhauling the City’s parking ticket system.

Having grown up in a large family that valued hard work and community service, Kathy put herself through college, earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Bowling Green State University.


After a five-year career in communications, Kathy attended Albany Law School on an academic scholarship, graduating magna cum laude in 1994.

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Kathy and her husband Bob have a son and are committed community members, having served as board members for a number of community-based organizations.

Intersections of Technology & Thought
Paul Calarco, Jason D'Cruz, Cheryl Johnson, Leah Rico


Paul Calarco, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Sociology

Hudson Valley Community College


Dr. Paul E Calarco, Jr. is at heart a seeker of truth, truthfully a seeker of knowledge. He feels that this lifetime is the opportunity to pursue passion and love. He said: “I have found both and it is my responsibility to share the journey.” Paul is an avid reader of the masters and practicing Yogi. Paul’s other passion is music; he views music as the auditory synonym of the written word as they are both channels of, and ways to express emotion. You may also see him enjoying the sunrise or sunsets near a body of water communing with nature. One of the challenges of the modern man he notes is “finding the balance during the day, finding peace and calm after interacting with the busy, bustling energy traversing the concrete jungle.” A sociologist with a specialization in gender, Paul has dedicated the majority of his academic career to addressing inequality and through his true passion lecturing undergraduates, attempting to elicit social change through expanding their minds, unblocking their creativity and imagination, and making them sharper, more mindful citizens.

Jason D’Cruz, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Philosophy

SUNY Albany


I am an Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Philosophy Department at the University at Albany, State University of New York and the Principle Investigator for Trustworthy AI from a User Perspective, a project funded by a grant from the SUNY-IBM AI Research Alliance (2021-2023).  I’m also the Faculty Advisor for UAlbany’s vibrant Minorities and Philosophy Chapter and a member of VAMP, the interdisciplinary Mind Studies Association, and the Center for Technology and Government.


I work primarily in ethics and moral psychology on the topics of trust, promising, rationalization, and self-deception. My recent work appears in Philosophical Studies, Ethics, Philosophical Psychology, Ratio, the Journal of the American Philosophical Association, the Australasian Journal of Philosophy, and The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism.  I recently participated in a Chronicle of Higher Ed roundtable on AI and research.


Other accolades include serving as visiting scholar at the Centre de recherche en éthique (CRE) at Université de Montréal and teaching at the Harvard Writing Program and the Zhejiang University of Science and Technology.  I completed a BA from Yale in 2000 and a PhD from Brown in 2009.


Cheryl Johnson, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice

Hartwick College


Dr. Cheryl L. Johnson is an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Hartwick College. She researches why juveniles carry weapons, especially within schools. She looks at how low self-control, anxiety, depression, fear of crime, and personality traits impact weapon-carrying behavior. Dr. Johnson teaches undergraduate courses like Criminal Profiling and Quantitative Methods. Students love her assignments that allow for creativity with mediums like art projects, songwriting, and making podcasts. She cares that her students understand how to apply concepts. She helps them overcome obstacles toward achieving their own vision of success. Dr. Cheryl Johnson is open to speaking engagements about third culture, firearms, and mental health. She has a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati. She has an M.A. in Criminal Justice from Radford University. She graduated cum laude with a B.A. in Sociology. She plays oboe and lives in upstate New York.

Leah Rico, MFA

Assistant Professor of Graphic Media and Design

Russell Sage College


Leah Rico is an interdisciplinary artist and designer whose practice explores language as its subject matter. Leah uses sound installation, experimental audio, drawing, print and graphic work to examine the embodiment of voices as words and gestures, and language as a metaphor for worldly experience. Her latest body of artwork uses the experiential nature of sound in her audio installations to investigate the experience of spoken language. Leah believes that the field of design is not only concerned with function and form, but includes a responsibility for the production of feelings and experiences at a massive scale, and encourages young designers to explore new practices and methodologies to address current societal challenges.

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