ACPA MI 2018 Keynote Speakers


Opening Keynote: Transformational Leadership through the lens of Intersectionality: Using our Power to Create Change
Marlene Kowalski-Braun
This plenary will stretch the transformational leadership paradigm by centering inclusion and social justice. While transformational leadership requires working with others to achieve necessary change – transformational leadership, through the lens of intersectionality, ensures that underrepresented and marginalized voices are centered in the process of visioning necessary change. This session will talk about how to utilize this leadership framework on both an individual level and an organizational, systems level. In order to create just institutions that foster the success of ALL students, we must move from merely being concerned with diversity to elevating inclusion and equity, from serving as allies to acting as accomplices and from adapting existing systems to disrupting and creating anew. In short, we must think about the purpose and function of student affairs in higher education differently – motivating our courage and tenacity to meet the real and pressing needs of our students and our institutions.







Closing Keynote: Seeking Liberation in Higher Education (or Searching for Wakanda)
Craig Elliott
As we consider how to cultivate change on our campuses and in the profession, it is helpful to think about liberation–what it looks like, what it feels like, and how we might get there. ACPA has offered us a charge in the Strategic Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization, and it is up to us to create that liberated space and map out the pathways to it.

Speaker Bios

Marlene Kowalski-Braun began working in higher education in 1992, first in Housing and Residence Life as a hall director, apartment coordinator and assistant director.  In 2001, she became the inaugural director of the Women’s Center and in 2013 she moved into student affairs leadership as the Assistant Vice Provost in the Dean of Students Office, became the Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs and the Assistant Vice President for Inclusion and Equity and is currently the Associate Vice President for Inclusion and Student Support at Grand Valley State University.  Through all of her endeavors, her major higher education priorities have been student success, social justice work and community and civic engagement work.

Marlene is involved in a variety of higher education associations. Within the National Student Personnel Association (NASPA), she served on the Center for Women and is the past chair of the National Knowledge Community Chair for Women in Student Affairs (WISA). Outside of NASPA, she was the President of the Great Lakes Association of Housing Officers (GLACUHO), a member of the advisory council for Women’s Centers through the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA), was chosen to be a Higher Education Resource Services (HERS) women’s leadership participant where she had the privilege of learning in Denver and South Africa, served on the ATHENA International Board, and is a current board member, and was a past institutional representative, conference chair and state coordinator of the Michigan American Council on Education (ACE) Network for Women leaders in Higher Education.

Marlene’s personal service to community is built around creating more socially just spaces.  She served as a loaned executive for the Heart of West Michigan United Way as was chosen as Campaign Chair of the year and recently graduated from Leadership Grand Rapids where she was chosen to be a community trustee.  She is honored to serve on the boards of the Grandville Avenue Arts Academy (which serves the Latinx community), BLEND (an organization for young professionals of color), and Inforum (a women’s leadership organization).  She also spends time supporting the Boys and Girls Club and has a special affinity for the Seidman Center where her family has benefited greatly from deep connections to community.

Marlene has received professional honors including the Ball State University Outstanding Graduate Student in higher education, the Grand Valley State University Maxine Swanson Women’s Leadership and Commitment to Diversity awards, the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Outstanding Mid-Level Professional, has an award named after her through the NASPA IV-East called the Marlene Kowalski-Braun Service to Women in Student Affairs award and recently received the Presidential Appreciation Award at GVSU.

Marlene earned her bachelor’s degree at Central Michigan University, her master’s degree from Ball State University, and her Ph.D. from Western Michigan University.  She strives to be a practitioner/scholar and her most recent publication, written with a group of co-authors, is “Holding out for a Hero: Leadership Discourse in College and University Presidential Job Postings in a 20-Year Span”.  Outside of work, her favorite things to do include being a mom to two amazing teenagers and finding excuses to dance.


Craig Elliott, PhD serves as the Assistant Vice President of Enrollment and Student Services and Assistant Professor at Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, CA.

Craig has presented numerous programs at the local and national level on equity, inclusion, social justice, and leadership, and has served in a variety of leadership capacities. Notably, Craig has been elected to the Vice President position for 2018-2019, and will become President for 2019-2020. He previously served as President of the California College Personnel Association from 1999-2001, chaired the Inclusion Task Force for ACPA in 2002, served on the national convention planning teams (2002 and 2013), and serves on the foundation board. He has also served NAPSA, NCORE, and currently serves on the board for World Trust. He is a Social Justice Training Institute alumnus, serves on the faculty with Student SJTI, and is a Co-Lead facilitator for the LeaderShape Institute.

Craig is also a trainer, consultant, and speaker on diversity, leadership, and social justice with over fifteen years of experience. Craig’s research interests explore white caucus work, feminism and masculinity, the intersection of Transformative Learning and Social Justice work, inclusion and equity, institutional change, and dismantling white supremacy. Craig is part of the editorial collective for Rad Dad, a zine on feminist and social justice parenting, which has published three anthologies. He has also contributed chapters on feminism, fathering, co-authored an article on the transformative nature of medical missions, and an article on institutional barriers to inclusion and equity. He is currently writing a book on identity-conscious supervision in higher education.

Craig also serves in his local community in scouting, soccer, and has served on the board of the local food bank. He has been married over 20 years to Nicole and is father to Jackson and Thomas. He loves soccer, music, time with his family, and really good, strong coffee.

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