Keynote Speakers

Michael Thomas

Michael Thomas is a native Texan and a graduate of Southern Methodist University with degrees in philosophy and religious studies. In 2006, after graduating from SMU, Thomas began his non-profit career with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) in Corpus Christi, Texas, as a program coordinator and was directly involved with over 1.5 million dollars in fundraising during his time with the organization. He later relocated within the MDA to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he continued working in special events and fundraising.

Thomas moved on to work with the non-profit organization Opportunity Village, an organization dedicated to vocational training for adults with disabilities in the Southern Nevada area. He worked for two years as a special events manager and program development manager for the organization. In April of 2010, Thomas joined My Possibilities as the organization's executive director. In the past four years, the organization has grown from serving 30 families each week to over 250 families. It is considered a leader and benchmark for continued education for adults with cognitive disabilities.

Thomas has many plans to spread the My Possibilities mission throughout Plano and the entire Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex as he believes, "It is essential that people in our community know that our Hipsters are very capable of making a difference, and they have every intention of doing so. The next step is just giving them the chance."

Executive Director, My Possibilities

Britt Berrett

Dr. Britt Berrett is a proud alumnus of the University of Texas at Dallas. Completing his PhD from the School of Economics, Political and Policy Sciences, he has been committed to the study of leadership and strategic outcomes. He completed his graduate work at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and earned a bachelor's degree in finance from Brigham Young University.

Berrett has served on numerous boards of directors including the DFW Hospital Council, the Health Industry Council and many other not-for-profit organizations that are committed to improving the health of individuals in the communities he serves. Prior to joining UTD, he was the President of Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas where he oversaw the operations of one of the largest hospitals in north Texas. He also was the president and chief executive officer of Medical City and Medical City Children's Hospitals. Currently, Berrett serves as the program director of the soon to be announced undergraduate program of health administration in Jindal School of Management.

Most recently, Berrett published a New York Times best-selling work on leadership in healthcare organizations. His commitment to the field of building teams and embracing the uniqueness of individuals has been inspiring.

Clinical Professor, Jindal SOM,
UT Dallas

Panel Speakers

Randy Batiste

Randy Batiste has had a long career in social services. After completing his B.A. in Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, Randy began his career in vocational rehabilitation. He was recruited to Dallas to develop a supported employment program for people with epilepsy. Randy worked as a vocational rehabilitation counselor and case manager for the Texas Rehabilitation Commission, now known as the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, for thirteen years.

Based on his knowledge and personal experience with adjustment to disability, Randy detoured into medical equipment sales, where he served as the mobility and assistive technology expert for a local area medical equipment company. He retained an intrinsic desire to serve others and returned to vocational rehabilitation and completed a master's degree in Rehabilitation Counseling at the University of North Texas. As a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, Randy continued to work with consumers with disabilities and victims of domestic violence.

In 2005, Randy entered higher education as an assistant director of the Office of Disability Accommodation at the University of North Texas. He currently serves as a disability services advisor at Collin College while he completes a doctorate in Applied Technology and Performance Improvement.

Student Advisor, Collin College

Monica Powell

Dr. Monica S. Powell is the Associate Dean of Graduate Programs for the Naveen Jindal School of Management at UT Dallas. Powell joined the Jindal School of Management in 2007 after 22 years of executive, management and operational experience in higher education institutions in North Texas. Her experience includes directing executive, full-time and professional MBA programs. She has been responsible for recruiting, administration, student services, curriculum management, assessment and alumni. Powell also has corporate experience recruiting undergraduate and graduate students into a global financial services firm. In her role as the associate dean, Powell is responsible for nearly 4000 graduate students in 15 academic degree programs as well as the school's Career Management Center and recruiting department. Powell teaches both undergraduate and graduate students.

Powell has a bachelor's and master's degree in communications from the University of Alabama and a PhD in higher education with a minor in communications from the University of North Texas.

Associate Dean, UT Dallas

Shelley D. Lane

Dr. Shelley D. Lane is the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Associate Professor of Communication in the School of Arts and Humanities. Lane is responsible for the administration of the A&H undergraduate program, including oversight of both lower- and upper-division instructional units. She represents the School of Arts and Humanities as a member of the UT Dallas Council on Undergraduate Education, Teaching Effectiveness Committee, Core Curriculum Committee, and University Scholarship Committee.

Lane participated in the creation of the emerging media and communication (EMAC) major, the communication minor, and the communication concentration within the arts and performance major. She was also involved in the development of the Certificate in Critical Communication Skills (C3), which is designed for students who desire to advance their oral and written communication ability. In addition, Lane was instrumental in the development of the new UT Dallas required core course, "COMM 1311 - Survey of Oral and Technology-Based Communication."

Lane is the author of Interpersonal Communication: Competence and Contexts (2nd ed.) and lead author of Communication in a Civil Society, both published by Pearson Education. She also authored a memoir, A Stirling Diary: An Intercultural Story of Communication, Connection and Coming-of-Age. Lane is currently writing a scholarly book about civil communication, tentatively titled Everyday (In)civility: A Communication Perspective. She is a Minnie Stevens Piper Professor, which is a Texas-based higher education distinguished teaching award.

Lane received her bachelor's degree in communication studies from the University of California-Los Angeles and her master's and doctorate degrees in communication arts and sciences from the University of Southern California.

Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education, UT Dallas

Desmond Blair

Desmond Blair is an IT Project Manager at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. He attended the University of Texas at Dallas from 2003 - 2009. Blair graduated in May 2007 with his bachelor of fine arts degree in arts and technology. After working as a graphic designer and teacher, he decided to pursue his master of fine arts degree in arts and technology and graduated in 2009 at the age of 23. He continued teaching as a Lecturer for the University of Texas at Dallas. Soon after graduation, Blair began working with Dr. Zielke on the First Person Cultural Trainer and Baylor Glimpse projects as a project manager.

During his years working for UT Dallas, Blair was recognized as Fox 4's Hometown Hero in 2010, featured in a Channel 11 news story in 2011, and in 2013 was featured in a national news story by ABC's Jason Whitley. Blair has also been recognized in other online and print publications for his talents as an artist. He remains active in the Dallas arts community and has been featured in several shows between 2011 and 2013. He recently received a request to host his first solo art show in January 2015. Blair seeks to continue growing as a project manager and traditional artist in hopes of starting a non-profit aimed at raising awareness and helping those born with "disabilities".

UTD Alumnus

IT Project Manager, Scottish Rite Hospital

Cedric Jones

Cedric Jones, a life-long resident of Dallas, Texas, graduated from David W. Carter High School in 2002. As a Corporal in The United States Marine Corp, Jones served two tours of duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom and was awarded an honorable discharge in 2006. Jones then attended the University of North Texas where he received a bachelor's degree in sociology. He is currently completing a master's degree in applied sociology from the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences at UT Dallas.

With a first-hand understanding of how war can affect an individual, Jones joined the Center for BrainHealth to give back and help others who have also served in the military. As part of the center's veteran outreach initiative, Jones is a point of contact for John Hart, M.D.'s on-going Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury studies, which help connect fellow military service members and law enforcement to Center-developed high performance brain training and magnetic stimulation therapy.

The veteran community is of great concern to Jones, especially as it pertains to the mental health of those who have sacrificed so much for their country. When the opportunity arises, Jones assists fellow military service personnel obtain much-needed resources. He also speaks about his experiences as well as the center's life-changing impact. He hopes to spread awareness about Post Traumatic Stress and promote the Center for BrainHealth as an advocate and resource for veterans to learn new strategies for when the battle ends.

Veteran Recruitment Coordinator, Center for BrainHealth, UT Dallas

Neva Fairchild

Neva Fairchild has been the National Independent Living Associate for the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) since 2008. She works at the AFB Center on Vision Loss in Dallas, Texas, where she is responsible for Esther's Place, an 1800 square foot demonstration model apartment equipped with over 500 products to help people with vision loss learn how they can live as independently as possible.

Fairchild began her college education at Texas A&M University. She completed both her bachelor's degree in rehabilitation science in 1988 and her master's degree in rehabilitation counseling psychology in 1992 at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

Fairchild worked for the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services Division for Blind Services (formerly Texas Commission for the Blind) as a vocational rehabilitation counselor for 5 years and as an employment assistance specialist for 10 years. She also worked for the Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind as a vocational evaluator prior to completing her master's degree. She has more than 20 years of professional experience in the field of vision loss and a lifetime of experience living with low vision.

American Foundation for the Blind,

National Independent Living Associate

JoAnn Nunnelly

JoAnn Nunnelly has been working in the field of disability services within a post-secondary environment for more than 25 years. Her career began at the University of North Texas, and later she transferred to Texas Woman's University (TWU), both in Denton. Currently, Nunnelly is serving as the director of Disability Services at TWU while also teaching an American Sign Language class through the department of Communication Sciences.

Nunnelly has worked in rehabilitation facilities such as Goodwill Industries, Southwest Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and MH/MR. She earned her master's degree from Texas Tech University and has been a licensed professional counselor as well as a certified sign language interpreter.

Director of Students with Disabilities,
Texas Woman's University

Guest Speakers

Paul Watson

Paul Watson is one of the original volunteers for My Possibilities and was able to get several donations of services and materials for the remodeling of the center. Watson personally spent hundreds of hours painting and repairing all the walls, repairing plumbing, and installing the washer, dryer, dishwasher and disposal.

As a purchasing professional and department head for the University of Texas at Dallas, Watson states that he takes personal pride in upholding the University's ethics. He takes seriously his personal legal fiduciary duty as the procurement officer, especially his responsibility to represent the University and the public to ensure a fair use of taxpayer resources as well as to provide opportunities for small and minority vendors. Watson prides himself with his ability to provide excellent customer service and to get along with all kinds of people.

Watson and his wife Debbie are parents of a daughter with autism who attends My Possibilities.

Director of Procurement, UT Dallas

Arthur Gregg

Arthur L. Gregg is the assistant vice president for Multicultural Affairs and director of the Multicultural Center at The University of Texas at Dallas. In his current position, he is responsible for the Multicultural Center as well as campus wide diversity and cultural competency programs. Also, he advises various multicultural organizations, teaches in the Freshman Seminar program and serves on various committees on the UT Dallas campus. Gregg is a past recipient of several University awards such as: the C.A.R.E Award (Celebrate Achievement Reward Excellence), Student Life Advisor of the Year Award and Fraternity and Sorority Life Advisor of the Year Award. He is a past president of the Texas Association of Black Personnel in Higher Education and a graduate of Leadership Richardson. Gregg also serves as a lead facilitator for LeaderShape. He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Houston, and master's degree from Dallas Baptist University. Gregg is known for his presentations on topics ranging from leadership, Black male empowerment, Greek life and diversity.

Assistant VP for Diversity and Community Engagement

Susan Motley

Susan Motley is a supervising attorney at Disability Rights Texas (DRTX), a nonprofit protection and advocacy law firm that provides legal services in various civil cases to persons with disabilities, often on a pro bono basis. DRTX's attorneys and staff work to defend and expand the rights of people with disabilities across the state. Its vision is to ensure the full and equal participation of people with disabilities throughout society, regardless of where they live, work, play or go. Currently, she and her team handle mainly access-related cases involving housing, employment, access to public and private places, transportation, and voting. Motley considers her work a calling and is passionate about working towards a more just and inclusive society for all of us.

Motley has a bachelor's degree in political science from the College of Charleston and a law degree from the University of Texas at Austin. Before joining DRTX, Motley worked in private practice, representing people in workplace disputes. She is board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and has been listed several times in various "Texas Super Lawyer" and "Best Lawyers in America" lists.

Motley is native Texan and grew up in Irving, where she still lives with her family. When not working at DRTX or spending time with family, Motley enjoys serving her community on various professional and civic groups. She was also a member of the City of Irving Advisory Committee on Disabilities from 2010 to 2012.

Supervising Attorney,
Disability Rights Texas

Dawn Berglund

Dawn Berglund is a web software developer for Web Services, part of the Office of Communications at The University of Texas at Dallas. She has been with the department since 2012. In addition to keeping the campus map on the University site up to date and working on the content management system for publishing content, Berglund is the Web Accessibility Coordinator on campus. In this position, she helps incorporate web accessibility for sites hosted on the University servers.

Berglund graduated with a bachelor's degree in 2007 and a master's degree in history in 2011, both from UT Dallas. After her undergraduate degree, she worked with Enrollment Services before becoming a teaching assistant in the School of Arts and Humanities while working on her graduate degree. Around 2011, Berglund started freelancing in web development and moved to the professional arena after discovering a penchant for the field.

Web Software Developer, UT Dallas