National Convention Keynote Speakers & Guests

Our keynote speakers are heavy-hitters in sports, business, politics, and more. Each one shares the same energy and passion as our members, and you'll leave their talks inspired! We host an opening keynote at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, October 14; a morning keynote at 8:45 a.m. on Monday, October 15; a morning keynote at 8:45 a.m. on Tuesday, October 16; and keynotes during our two celebratory award luncheons on Monday and Tuesday.

Diana Nyad, Award of Distinction honoree: The Courage to Fail

Author, journalist, motivational speaker, and long-distance swimmer
Sunday, October 14, 4:30-5:30 p.m.
Presented by Daktronics

Twenty-five million people worldwide rooted for Diana Nyad as she approached the Florida shore, at long last achieving her 35-year-old dream of becoming the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida.

Diana is not one to quit. On her fifth attempt, speaking the words "Never Ever Give Up" to the wildly cheering crowd on a Key West beach on September 2, 2013, Diana may have been dazed and physically spent, but she showed the world what persistence and belief can manifest. Diana stroked the amazing 110.86 miles in 52 hours, 54 minutes, 18 seconds. A worldwide response of inspiration came flooding toward Diana, from personal messages from President Obama and Hillary Clinton to literally millions of people who felt their own lives lifted with Diana's "Find a Way" philosophy.

Daring to reach for the stars, this swim beginning to seem impossible (after her four attempts over 35 years and other strong swimmers trying and failing since 1950), Diana has motivated the world at large to be bold, to live fearlessly, to chase one’s dreams with unwavering commitment.

The second statement the victorious 64-year-old made on that Key West beach? “You’re never too old to chase your dreams.” And her third statement on that historic day: "It looks a solitary sport, but it’s a TEAM." Courage, bold vision, and the ability to articulate her life philosophies have propelled Diana through an inspiring life.

A prominent sports journalist, filing for National Public Radio, ABC’s Wide World of Sports, The New York Times, the Huffington Post and others, Diana has carved her place as one of our compelling storytellers.

Her memoir, Find a Way, is now in bookstores and available on She has written three other books and speaks French and Spanish fluently. Diana has also earned the reputation of a uniquely entertaining and inspiring public speaker and has taken her one-woman stage show “ONWARD!” to a theatrical performance.

Diana’s Cuba swim head handler and best friend Bonnie Stoll, are on a mission called EverWalk, to lead us walking along the epic outdoor corridors of America. Diana and Bonnie intend to turn us into a nation of millions of walkers.

Jennifer Palmieri: A Woman’s Power: What Leading Today Looks Like

Author and former White House Director of Communications and Director of Communications for the Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign
Monday, October 15, 8:45-10 a.m.; book signing to follow from 10-10:30 a.m.
Presented by Eastman

Jennifer Palmieri is the author ofThe New York Times bestselling book Dear Madam President and one of the most accomplished political and communications strategists in America today. Jennifer served as head of communications for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and White House communications director under President Barack Obama. She was also White House deputy press secretary for President Bill Clinton and national press secretary for the Democratic Party. She has been a frequent contributor to The Washington Post, TIME magazine, and other national print outlets, and is a frequent guest commentator on MSNBC news shows.

Ibtihaj Muhammad

U.S. Olympian and first Muslim-American woman medalist
Monday, October 15, 12-1:20 p.m. (featured speaker during the Nike Lifetime Achievement Awards Luncheon)
Presented by Nike

Ibtihaj Muhammad, an American sabre fencer, is a 2016 Olympic medalist, 5-time Senior World medalist and World Champion in the sport of fencing. In August 2016, she became the first American woman to compete in the Olympics in hijab and is also the first Muslim woman to win an Olympic medal for the United States. Ibtihaj is a 3-time All American from Duke University, with a dual degree in International Relations and African Studies. In 2014, Ibtihaj launched her own clothing company, Louella, which aims to bring affordable modest fashion to the United States market. This summer, Mattel will release their first hijabi Barbie doll, modeled in Ibtihaj’s likeness, as part of Barbie’s “Shero” line of dolls. Ibtihaj’s memoir, PROUD: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream, will also be released in July.

Ibtihaj is a sports ambassador with the U.S. Department of State’s Empowering Women and Girls through Sport Initiative, and works closely with organizations like Athletes for Impact and the Special Olympics. Named to Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential list, Ibtihaj is an important figure in a larger global discussion on equality and the importance of sport. Her voice continues to unite both the sports and non-sports world.

LaChina Robinson

ESPN basketball analyst
Monday, October 15, 12-1:20 p.m. (emcee of Nike Lifetime Achievement Awards Luncheon)
Presented by Nike

LaChina Robinson, college basketball and WNBA analyst and reporter for ESPN, takes the lessons she’s learned on the court to the game of life: she successfully transitioned from a star athlete to a respected broadcaster in a male-dominated field. Today, Robinson is passionate about helping others make and build their own successes.

A sought-after keynote speaker, moderator and host, Robinson has been featured in Black Enterprise Magazine, recognized with the 2009 Atlanta Dream Women of Inspiration Award and previously named the H.A.U.T.E Power Woman of the Month. After establishing herself as a dominant voice in basketball analysis and broadcasting, Robinson followed her passion and founded her own company in 2008: Stretch Beyond. Stretch Beyond mentors and empowers student-athletes to be intentional in developing their career, character and community brand. To further Stretch Beyond’s mission of empowerment, Robinson frequently serves as a facilitator, moderator, curriculum builder and host for a number of professional and non-profit organizations.

She’s served as a moderator for the WNBA Draft Rookie Orientation Program, NABJ Conferences (National Association of Black Journalists) and at the “A Step Up’ Assistant Coaches Symposium for 5 of the last 6 years. Robinson has been an integral part of several NCAA development and leadership forums, including: the NCAA Leadership Institute for Ethnic Minority Females, from which she graduated in 2007; several NCAA Regional Leadership Conferences; NCAA National Student- Athlete Development Conference; and presided over the WBCA (Women’s Basketball Coaches Association) and NCAA “So You Want to be a Coach” program.

Over the course of her broadcasting career, Robinson has celebrated many triumphs. During the 2014- 15 season, Robinson was an analyst on ESPN2’s women’s college basketball Sunday telecasts, and she made her sixth consecutive appearance as a game analyst during ESPN’s coverage of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship first and second rounds. The 2015 national tournament marked Robinson’s third year as a reporter in the regional round: since 2012 she has served as a reporter covering the Women’s Final Four for espnW and

In 2013, Robinson made her debut as the primary analyst for Fox Sports 1’s Big East Women’s Basketball package. Robinson has covered the WNBA Draft for ESPN and espnW, as well  as serving as a reporter for ESPN during the WNBA Playoffs.

In addition, Robinson has served as a social media correspondent during the NBA Playoffs, NBA Draft and a reporter at select NBA Media Days.

Mark Emmert

President, NCAA
Tuesday, October 16, 8:45 a.m.-10:45 a.m. (featured guest speaker at the Women Leaders Business Session & Celebration of Advancement)

Mark Emmert became the fifth president of the NCAA in October 2010. As president he has championed greater support for student-athlete wellness and academic success. His commitment to the academic success of athletes is also reflected in newly heightened academic standards for initial eligibility. Additionally, he ushered a new governance structure in Division I.

Before the NCAA, Emmert was president of his alma mater, the University of Washington, beginning in 2004, and is also president emeritus at the school. During his tenure, the university rose to its standing as second among all public and private institutions in research funding, with $1.3 billion in annual grants and contracts. The university also completed a $2.6 billion fundraising campaign under his leadership.

Emmert has served in many capacities throughout his higher education career. His administrative appointments include chancellor of Louisiana State University (1999-2004), provost and chancellor of the University of Connecticut (1995-1999), provost and vice president for academic affairs at Montana State University-Bozeman (1992-1995) and associate vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Colorado, Boulder (1985-1992). Emmert is also a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Emmert graduated from Washington with a degree in political science and has both a master’s degree and Ph.D. in public administration from Syracuse University. Emmert holds an honorary doctorate of humanities degree from Monmouth University and an honorary doctorate of laws degree from Molloy College. Emmert and his wife DeLaine have two adult children and three grandchildren.

Katrice Albert

Executive Vice President of Inclusion and Human Resources at the NCAA
Tuesday, October 16, 8:45 a.m.-10:45 a.m. (featured guest on the Women Leaders Podcast, LIVE! at the Women Leaders Business Session & Celebration of Advancement)

Katrice A. Albert is the NCAA’s executive vice president of inclusion and human resources. In this role, she leads efforts to enhance diversity, inclusion, leadership development, and education and community engagement. Additionally, she is responsible for leading national office employee relations, performance management, professional development, and compensation and benefits programs. Before joining the NCAA, she served in executive capacities with the University of Minnesota System from 2013 to 2017, and at Louisiana State University from 2005 to 2013. She led diversity, inclusion and equity strategies in both positions.

Albert frequently writes, speaks and consults on issues of intercultural competence, educational and workforce diversity, gender and dynamics of power, the complexities of diverse populations, educational access, community-university partnerships, corporate social responsibility, and the application of psychological knowledge to ethnic minorities and other underserved populations. Also, she serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship, and her works have been published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology and the Journal of Counseling and Development. Albert also is the co-editor of two volumes: “Trayvon Martin, Race, and American Justice: Writing Wrong” and “Racial Battle Fatigue in Higher Education: Exposing the Myth of Post-Racial America.”

Albert earned a doctoral degree in counseling psychology at Auburn University and completed her clinical internship at the Center for Multicultural Training in Psychology at Boston Medical Center. She holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology from The University of Southern Mississippi and graduated magna cum laude from Xavier University of Louisiana with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Maria Taylor

Analyst, host, and reporter for ESPN
Tuesday, October 16, 12:30-2:15 p.m. (emcee for the Jostens Administrator of the Year Awards Luncheon)

Maria Taylor is in her sixth season as an analyst, host, and reporter for ESPN. In 2017, Taylor became the first black female to co-host College GameDay Built by The Home Depot. Taylor was also tabbed as the sideline reporter for ABC Saturday Night Football and patrolled the sidelines for the 2018 College Football Playoff and National Championship Game. She previously served as the first female host of SEC Network’s traveling college football show SEC Nation, alongside analysts Tim Tebow, Marcus Spears and Paul Finebaum. In addition to her football duties, Taylor is a host of Big Monday and NCAA Women’s Final Four and National Championship coverage. Prior to her role on SEC Nation, she helped launch the SEC Network as one of 3 studio hosts and worked as the SEC Primetime Saturday Night college football reporter with commentators Brent Musburger and Jesse Palmer.

Prior to 2012, Taylor was a reporter and host for IMG College at the University of Georgia. She also appeared on various Comcast Sports South studio shows.

In 2015, Maria co-founded a non-profit organization called The Winning Edge Leadership Academy. The mission of the Winning Edge is develop the next generation of women and minority leaders in sports business by providing mentors, financial and cognitive resources. Since 2015, the academy has developed more than 40 students and young professional to become the next generation of leaders in sports business.

Taylor attended the University of Georgia where she played volleyball and basketball. She was named to the All-SEC volleyball team three times and was also a member of the USA A2 National Volleyball team. She graduated from Georgia in 2009 with a degree in broadcast news and returned to pursue her Master of Business Administration which she completed in May of 2013. She is a native of Alpharetta, Georgia.