Keynote Speaker

K. Renee Horton, PhD, Space Launch System Quality Engineer
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

color headshot of keynote speaker Dr. Horton

Horton is a compelling and international inspirational speaker who brings her epic personal story, expertise, and incredible personality to each of her award-winning presentations. She is an advocate for diversity and inclusion in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and works diligently in the community for STEM education and STEM outreach. Horton believes in changing the face of STEM. She is the founder of Unapologetically Being, Inc., a nonprofit for advocacy and mentoring in STEM.

She was named a 2019 Louisianian of the year featured in the Louisiana Life magazine. She is honored in a group of nine individuals who stand out in their professions, give back and represent what’s best about Louisiana.

She is a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana and is a graduate of Louisiana State University and with a Ph.D. in Material Science with a concentration in Physics from the University of Alabama, as the first African American to receive this degree. In her day job, she serves as a NASA Space Launch System (SLS) Quality Engineer at Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans. Throughout her academic career, Horton has received numerous accolades and awards including the Black Engineer of the Year Trailblazer Award in 2011.

In 2016, Horton was elected President of the National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP) as the second woman to hold the office. She has served the physics community abroad as a member of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) Women in Physics Working Group and currently serves on several advisory boards dedicated to a more diverse inclusion in physics. In 2017, she was elevated to a Fellow in the NSBP, which is the highest honor bestowed upon a member and in 2018 was inducted into Sigma Pi Sigma, the prestige honor society in physics.

She is the author of Dr. H Explores the Universe, a children’s series, Dr. H and her Friends, and Dr. H Explores the ABCs. Horton recently was named the Silver Anniversary Artie Literature Award winner for 2018, from New Orleans Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc, her published works. She is a proud member Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., as well as the proud mother of three and grandmother of two.

Plenary Speakers


color headshot of Jennifer Boykin

Boykin is president of Newport News Shipbuilding and executive vice president of Huntington Ingalls Industries in Newport News, Virginia. She is the first woman to serve as president of the Newport News shipyard and leads the operations of Newport News Shipbuilding, the largest industrial employer in Virginia. She has responsibility for more than 25,000 shipbuilders who design, build and maintain the world’s most complex ships: nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and nuclear-powered submarines. Boykin earned her bachelor’s degree in marine engineering from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) and her master’s degree in engineering management from The George Washington University. Boykin is committed to workforce development and is a strong advocate for STEM programs. Additionally, she is a founding member of First 10 Forward and of Old Dominion University’s Women’s Initiative Network, both aimed at empowering girls and women.

Rita Davis, JD, Counsel to the Honorable Ralph S. Northam, Governor
Commonwealth of Virginia

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After graduating from Washington and Lee University, Davis spent three and a half years as a police officer with the Lynchburg City Police Department. After graduating from the University Of Richmond School Of Law, she clerked for the Honorable Richard S. Arnold on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in Little Rock, Arkansas. Davis joined the Richmond Office of Hunton and Williams LLP, now known as Hunton Andrews Kurth, as a complex commercial litigator. She joined the Office of the Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia as Section Chief for Trials in the Civil Litigation Division. Davis was appointed as Counsel to the Honorable Ralph S. Northam in January of 2018.


Carmen Orozco-Acosta, PhD, Senior Advisor to the President
Community Change

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Orozco-Acosta is the Senior Advisor to the President at Community Change, an organization whose mission it is to build the power and capacity of low-income people, especially low-income people of color, to change the policies and institutions that affect their lives.  Prior to this role, she served as the Senior Policy Advisor for the U.S. Domestic Program at Oxfam America in Washington D.C., and in Congress on legislative teams, and for the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA). Orozco-Acosta’s passion for public service started from an early age, and ultimately, she went on to complete her Ph.D. at the University of Notre Dame in the Department of Political Science, where she specialized in race, ethnicity, and politics in the United States. A proud Colombian-Mexican-American, she has always been active in her community, and passionate about increasing the representation of underserved communities.


Kelli Palmer, PhD, Head, Global Inclusion & Diversity and Corporate Citizenship
CFA Institute

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Palmer is a strategist and business leader with expertise in ESG (environmental| social| governance); inclusion and diversity; philanthropy; people and systems management; and politics. Her talent for developing strategy and translating it into action have allowed her to serve organizations ranging from institutions of higher education to leading membership organizations and non-profit start-ups. In these roles, she improves business processes and operations; builds policies and procedures; creates and oversees high-talent and diverse teams; and aligns business goals with corporate citizenship opportunities.


Marjorie Powell, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO)

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Powell is the Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) for AARP, the world’s largest non-profit, nonpartisan membership organization, harnessing the power and passion of almost 2,300 staff members, 60,000 volunteers and numerous strategic partners. Powell joined AARP in 2018 and brought more than 25 years of senior management experience and proven record of success in Human Resources within the private non-profit industry and with complexly structured universities. Previously, Powell served as Vice President at National Public Radio (NPR). Prior to that appointment, Powell served as the CHRO and Associate Vice President at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.