Laverne Cox

photo of laverne coxEmmy-nominated actress, television producer, transgender advocate

December 2, 2014
7 p.m.
Wright State Nutter Center

Co-sponsored with WSU Allies

Laverne Cox is a critically acclaimed actress who currently appears in the Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black, playing the groundbreaking role of Sophia Burset, an incarcerated African American transgender woman. She is the first trans woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream scripted television show and was the first trans actress to be nominated for an Emmy award, for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series.

She is a recipient of the Dorian Rising Star Award. Time magazine listed Sophia Burset No. 4 on its most influential fictional characters of 2013.

In addition to her critically acclaimed work as an actress, Cox is in demand as a speaker, encouraging others to move beyond gender expectations and live more authentically. Her insights have been featured on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NPR, HLN, VH1, Fox News Latino, and other national TV and radio networks.

In 2013, she won Best Supporting Actress at the Massachusetts Independent Film Festival for her work in the praised film Musical Chairs, directed by Susan Seidelman (Desperately Seeking Susan). Cox’s other acting credits include Law and Order, Law and Order: SVU, HBO’s Bored to Death, and the independent films Carla and The Exhibitionists. She also has roles in the forthcoming films 36 Saints and Grand Street.

Cox is the first trans woman of color to produce and star in her own television show, VH1’s TRANSForm Me, which was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award. She is also the first trans woman of color to appear on an American reality television program, VH1’s I Wanna Work for Diddy, for which she accepted the GLAAD Award for Outstanding Reality Program. Cox was named one of Out magazine’s “Out 100,” one of the country’s top 50 trans icons by The Huffington Post, and one of Metro Source magazine’s “55 People We Love.” Her critical writings have appeared in The Advocate and The Huffington Post. A graduate of Marymount Manhattan College, Cox holds a degree in fine arts.

Steve Wozniak

photo of Steve Wozniak

Apple co-founder, designer of the Apple I and Apple II

February 4, 2015
7 p.m.
Wright State Nutter Center

Co-sponsored with Honors Institute

Steve Wozniak, a Silicon Valley icon and philanthropist for three decades, helped shape the computing industry with his design of Apple’s first line of products—the Apple I and II, which influenced the popular Macintosh.

Wozniak and Steve Jobs founded Apple Computer Inc. in 1976 with Wozniak's Apple I personal computer. The following year, Wozniak introduced his Apple II personal computer, featuring a central processing unit, a keyboard, color graphics, and a floppy disk drive. The Apple II was integral in launching the personal computer industry.

Wozniak returned to the University of California–Berkeley in 1981 and finished his degree in electrical engineering and computer science. He was awarded the 1985 National Medal of Technology by the President of the United States for his achievements at Apple Computer, the highest honor bestowed on America’s leading innovators.

In 2000, Wozniak was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame and was awarded the prestigious Heinz Award for Technology, the Economy and Employment for “single-handedly designing the first personal computer and for then redirecting his lifelong passion for mathematics and electronics toward lighting the fires of excitement for education in grade school students and their teachers.”

After leaving Apple in 1985, Wozniak was involved in various business and philanthropic ventures, focusing primarily on computer capabilities in schools and stressing hands-on learning and encouraging creativity for students. Making significant investments of both his time and resources in education, he “adopted” the Los Gatos School District, providing students and teachers with hands-on teaching and donations of state-of-the-art technology equipment. He founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation and was the founding sponsor of the Tech Museum, Silicon Valley Ballet, and Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose.

Wozniak currently serves as chief scientist for Fusion-io. Norton Publishing released his New York Times bestselling autobiography, iWoz: From Computer Geek to Cult Icon in September 2006. Wozniak’s television appearances include reality show Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List and Season 8 of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.

Steve Baskis

photo of Steve BaskisSPC, U.S. Army-Ret., advocate for disability awareness through adventure exploration and adaptive recreation

April 16, 2015

5:30 p.m. Public Reception
E156 Student Union

7 p.m. Lecture
Apollo Room, Student Union

Co-sponsored with Veteran & Military Center and Office of Disability Services

Steve Baskis is a blind veteran, adventurer, speaker, and advocate for disability awareness through adventure exploration and adaptive recreation. Blindness instilled in Baskis a drive to test his own potential and push the boundaries of what disabled people are perceived capable of doing.

His desire to serve in the military, as his father and grandfather did, led Baskis to enlist in the U.S. Army. Just eight months into his first deployment, in 2008, a roadside bomb in Iraq left him permanently blinded.

One year later, Baskis climbed with the first U.S., Canada, and Mexico blind team to the top of the eighth tallest peak in North America. He later joined a group of disabled veterans to climb 20,000-foot Mount Lobuche in the Himalayas. That Soldiers to Summits trip was recorded for the documentary film High Ground.

Baskis has ascended to new heights every year and developed a love and passion for competitive sports and outdoor recreation. He has also:

  • Climbed or attempted to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, Russia’s Mount Elbrus, a Mexican volcano, a 14,000-foot Rocky Mountain peak, and Colorado’s Bastille Crack
  • Navigated whitewater rapids on the Yellowstone River
  • Trained with the U.S. Paralympic cycling team
  • Participated in:
    • Nordic skiing
    • Biathlons
    • Marathons
    • Triathlons
    • Scuba diving
    • Snowshoeing

Steve Baskis has challenged and shattered people’s perception of blindness through his advocacy as well as his example.

From grade school assemblies to corporate events, Baskis has given motivational and informative presentations to a wide range of organizations. He is excited to inspire and raise awareness through adventure and exploration.

Nairoby Otero

photo of Nairoby Otero"Solidarity in the Face of Divisive Sexist Attitudes"

Broadway actress, writer, producer, promoting solidarity among women

September 30, 2014

5:30 p.m. Public Reception
E156 Student Union

7 p.m. Lecture
Apollo Room, Student Union

Co-sponsored with Office of Latino Affairs

Nairoby Otero is an actress, writer, producer, speaker, and proud first-generation Cuban-American. She has been called “...an absolute delight…” by critics. Her work has been praised in various publications, including the New York Daily News.

The company she founded, YOLO! Productions, aims to enhance women’s visibility in theater. Otero will perform as Roberta in John Patrick Shanley’s Danny and the Deep Blue Sea this fall. She recently starred in The Coven as Mandy while balancing her company and a successful speaking career.

Otero’s speaking career began after she campaigned nationwide for Hillary Clinton, then John McCain in 2008. She witnessed firsthand the poor way both Clinton and Sarah Palin were treated by the media. This motivated her to speak out against sexism and hatred that discourage young women from achieving success.

While on the campaign trail, she thought of her girlfriends, her sister, her abuela, and her mother, who escaped from Cuba during the 1971 “Freedom Flights.” Otero grew up in a family where the women were both respected and in charge. Speaking on sisterhood is her way of making sure people, especially young women, know that respect for women isn’t a fantasy; it can be a vital reality.

Otero is the youngest board member of The New Agenda, a national organization that strives to improve the lives of women and girls by bringing about systemic change in the media, at the workplace, at school, and at home. Its work has been featured on Politico, CNBC, CNN, and NPR. Otero gained attention through The New Agenda’s blog, eliciting hundreds of emails and sharing on social media for her writing. 

Otero moved to New York City after high school to pursue a career in acting. She attended the prestigious Marymount Manhattan College, earning a degree in theatre performance.

The New Orleans native is well known for her solo show, 'Til Sunday, written and performed by Otero and directed by Michelle Tattenbaum. Otero has performed in ensemble theater and film from regional to off-Broadway’s own Cherry Lane Theatre.