Plenary Speakers

Plenary Address with Representative Robin Kelly: Congresswoman and Political Scientist

Thursday, September 30, at 10:00 a.m. (Virtual)

Congresswoman Robin Kelly

Congresswoman Robin Kelly has dedicated her career to public service as an advocate for Illinois families. Since being elected to serve the 2nd Congressional District in 2013, she has worked to expand economic opportunity, community wellness, and public safety across the state, championing numerous initiatives to generate job growth, reduce health disparities, and end gun violence.

Congresswoman Kelly is Vice Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (the main policy-writing body of the House) and serves on the Health, Energy, and Consumer Protection and Commerce subcommittees. Her Energy and Commerce work is focused on expanding access to healthcare, consumer protection for American families and economic development.

Additionally, she is a Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and serves on the national security and civil rights and civil liberties subcommittees. She also represents the Midwest (Region IV) on the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which sets the policy direction of the Democratic Caucus, and serves as a member of the House Democracy Partnership.

A staunch champion of common sense gun reforms and responsible community policing, Representative Kelly is a Co-Chair of the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Taskforce and is the author of The 2014 Kelly Report on Gun Violence in America, the first-ever Congressional analysis of the nation’s gun violence epidemic that offers a blueprint for ending the crisis.

Committed to improving the health and wellness of vulnerable communities across the country, the Congresswoman serves as the Vice Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust, and Co-Chairs the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls. She also Co-Chairs the House Democratic Policy Group and House Tech Accountability Caucus.

Prior to her election to Congress, Kelly was a member of the Illinois House of Representatives, served as Chief Administrative Officer of Cook County (the second largest county in the United States) and was Chief of Staff to Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias – becoming the first African American woman to serve as Chief of Staff to an elected constitutional statewide officeholder.

The daughter of a small business owner and postal worker, Congresswoman Kelly moved to Illinois to attend Bradley University in Peoria, where she earned her B.A. in psychology and an M.A. in counseling. She later received a Ph.D. in political science from Northern Illinois University. She lives in Matteson with her husband, Dr. Nathaniel Horn, and has two adult children, Kelly and Ryan. Read more here

Plenary Address: Running an Election During a Pandemic

Friday, October 1, 2021 at 12:00 p.m. (WSCC, Ballroom 6C & Livestreaming)

Commissioner Thomas Hicks

Thomas Hicks was nominated by President Barack H. Obama and confirmed by unanimous consent by the United States Senate on December 16, 2014 to serve on the United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC). He has served twice as chairman of the commission and will assume the position of vice chair later this month. He serves as the designated federal officer for the Board of Advisors. 

Commissioner Hicks has focused his efforts on voter access. Under his leadership, the EAC developed a pocket-sized voter card in both Braille and large print that serves as a guide for voters with disabilities.  

From 2003 to 2014, Commissioner Hicks served as a senior elections counsel and minority elections counsel on the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on House Administration. From 2001 to 2003, he was a senior lobbyist and policy analyst for Common Cause. From 1993 to 2001 he served in the Clinton administration in the Office of Congressional Relations for the Office of Personnel Management.  

Commissioner Hicks received his J.D. from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law and his B.A. in Government from Clark University (MA). He also studied at the University of London and the University of Adelaide. Read more here.

Plenary Address: Appreciating and Leveraging the Diversity of Political Science

Saturday. October 2, 2021 at 12:00 p.m. (WSCC, Ballroom 6C & Livestreaming)

Professor Scott E. Page

Scott E. Page’s research focuses on the function of diversity in complex social systems, the potential for collective intelligence, and the design of institutions for meeting the challenges of a complex world.

A recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a fellowship at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, Scott was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011, and in 2019, he was awarded a Distinguished University Professorship from the University of Michigan, the university’s highest academic honor.

He is the author of more than ninety research papers and five books covering a variety of fields including game theory, economics, political theory, formal political science, sociology, psychology, philosophy, physics, public health, geography, computer science, and management.  Along with five other scholars, he has recently created a new academic journal of collective intelligence.

His fifth book, The Model Thinker: What You Need to Know to Make Data Work for You, was published by Basic Books in November 2018, and has been an Amazon Best Seller in more than ten categories and is being translated into five languages.  His previous books include, the Axios award winning, The Diversity [Bonus] – How Great Teams Pay Off in the Knowledge Economy, published in September 2017 with Princeton University Press and the Mellon Foundation, The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies (2008), and Complex Adaptive Social Systems (2009).

Scott has filmed two video series for The Great Courses and his online course Model Thinking has attracted over a million participants. A frequent public speaker, Scott has presented to the CIA, NASA, Bloomberg, Google, Boeing, the IMF, Genentech, Gilead, and AT Kearney.  Scott has also been a featured speaker at The New York Times New Work Summit, Google Re:Work, The World Economic Forum – Davos, and The Aspen Ideas Festival.  Scott has consulted with the Federal Reserve System, the White House office of Personnel, Yahoo! Ford, DARPA, Procter and Gamble, BlackRock, and AB InBev. 

A native of Yankee Springs, Michigan, Scott holds a BA in mathematics from The University of Michigan, and MA from The University of Wisconsin, and an MS and PhD in managerial economics and decision sciences from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University. Scott lives in Ann Arbor, MI, with his wife, University of Michigan political science professor Jenna Bednar.  They have two sons, Orrie (20) and Cooper (18), who attend college at MIT and the School of the Art Institute.  All four Bednar-Pages benefit from the supervisory companionship of two large dogs, Oda, a Great Pyrenees and Hildy, a Bernese-Pyrenees. Read more here.