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Distinguished Speaker Series

UNCP Campus Engagement and Leadership is pleased to present the Distinguished Speaker Series. The Series is designed to enhance the environment of the University and local community by engaging thought-provoking speakers in discussions on various topics of cultural, political and social importance. Previous speakers include: Bill Nye the Science Guy, Maya Angelou, Cornel West, Gabby Douglas, and Diane Guerrero.

Purchase tickets from the Givens Performing Arts Center. 

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Meet, Greet and Network

The Career Center is hosting a meet, greet and networking sessions for each distinguished speaker. They will be hosted the day of each speaker, from 5-5:30 p.m., in the Career Center Collaboration Lab in the University Center. Light refreshments will be served. 

Current Distinguished Speakers

Jesse Cole headshot

Jesse Cole is the founder of Fans First Entertainment, Owner of Savannah Bananas and author of Find Your Yellow Tux. He has have welcomed more than 1 million fans to his ballpark and the Bananas have grown to more than 1 million social media followers.  He’s been featured on MSNBC, CNN, CBS, ESPN, and once at his three-year-old son’s show and tell. Cole will kick off the 2021-22 Distinguished Speaker Series at 7 pm, on October 12, 2021 at Givens Performing Arts Center.



Tommy Orange is the author of There There, a multi-generational, relentlessly paced story about a side of America few of us have ever seen: the lives of urban Native Americans. One of The New York Times' top books of 2018 and a Pulitzer Prize finalist, There There shows us violence and recovery, hope and loss, identity and power, dislocation and communion, and the beauty and despair woven into the history of a nation and its people. Orange talks about his craft, the writing process, Native American history and culture, often in dynamic and frank in-conversation programs. Orange also wrote a piece for GQ Magazine about Indigenous film star, Wes Studi. He will appear at 7 p.m. on November 16, 2021, at GPAC.


Bakari Sellers is an attorney, political commentator, and politician. He served in the South Carolina House of Representatives for the 90th District from 2006-2014. Sellers represented South Carolina's 90th district in the lower house of the state legislature from 2006 to 2014, becoming the youngest African American elected official in the country at age 22. He vacated his seat in the South Carolina House of Representatives to run for Lieutenant Governor in 2014 but lost to Henry McMaster. He was succeeded in the House by Justin T. Bamberg. Sellers is currently a political analyst on CNN. Bakari’s niece is a soccer player at UNCP. Sellers will speak at 7 p.m. on February 28, 2022, at GPAC.


Dr. Megan Ranney is a practicing emergency physician, researcher, and advocate for innovative approaches to health. Her work focuses on the intersection between digital health, violence prevention, and population health.  She is the Associate Dean of Strategy and Innovation for the School of Public Health, as well as founding Director of the Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health. She is co-founder and Senior Strategic Advisor to the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine (AFFIRM) at the Aspen Institute, which creates practical, scalable, and immediate health-based solutions to reduce all forms of firearm-related injuries in the United States. She will speak at 7 p.m. on March 7, 2022, at the Thomas Hall Upchurch Auditorium.


Angeline Boulley, an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, is a storyteller who writes about her Ojibwe community. Her debut and best-selling novel, Firekeeper's Daughter, is a groundbreaking thriller about a Native teen who must root out the corruption in her community. Soon to be adapted at Netflix for TV with President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama's production company, Higher Ground. Most recently, she was the Director for the Office of Indian Education (OIE) at the U.S. Department of Education. Previously, she was her tribe’s Education Director/Assistant Executive Director and served on the Board of Regents at Bay Mills Community College. She will speak at 7 p.m. on March 28, 2022, at the Thomas Hall Upchurch Auditorium.

Previous Distinguished Speakers

More speakers announced soon.