2017 Keynote Speaker

Dr. Magaly Spector 


Assistant to the Provost for Strategic Initiatives / Professor
University of Texas at Dallas

A noted technology innovator and leader and a passionate champion of diversity, Dr. Magaly Spector, one of the most visible Hispanic females in the fields of science and engineering in the United States, served from January 2008 to February 2014 in a newly created position of vice president for Diversity and Community Engagement at The University of Texas at Dallas. Presently, she is the Assistant to the Provost for Strategic Initiatives and Professor in Practice at UT Dallas.

From humble beginnings in Cuba, where her family was very poor, Dr. Spector pursued academics with extraordinary dedication. She graduated with the highest honors from high school and won the Cuban Scholar Chess Championship at the age of 15.

As a young mother with an infant daughter, she enrolled full-time as a student at Havana University, where she earned a License in Physics degree in 1977. She continued to hone her chess skills during that period, winning the university's chess championship every year during her undergraduate studies, eventually taking the national Cuban chess crown in 1979.

Dr. Spector came to the U.S. with her 8 years old daughter by boat in 1980 as a political refugee and worked at a factory while studying English at a local college in New Jersey. A year later, she was hired by Bell Labs as a senior technical associate. While at Bell Labs working full time with a 4 months old baby and a teenage daughter, she enrolled in the graduate program at Lehigh University, where she earned a master's of science in electrical engineering in 1985 and a PhD in physics in 1993.

In 2000, she enrolled in business studies at Harvard University Business School. Dr. Spector held increasingly responsible research and development positions at Bell Labs, AT&T / Lucent Technologies, including global manager for product quality and reliability. She was responsible for pioneering many new technologies that enabled high-speed internet, and optical and wireless networking communications, and she holds several patents on her work. She was selected to become a Bell Labs Fellow in 2004, one of the highest distinctions worldwide for a scientist.

For years, she was active in numerous diversity efforts at the Fortune 500 companies, including a mentoring program for Hispanic employees, educational outreach programs for women and minorities, and the corporate diversity committee, among others.

Dr. Spector has received numerous awards and honors for her achievements. In 2009 she was selected as a member of the Hispanic 100, a Dallas based organization of Hispanic women leaders. She was named to Hispanic Business magazine's list of Elite Women for 2005, Latina Style magazine’s 2004 list of greatest Hispanic achievers and Glamour magazine’s list of the most distinguished women of the new millennium in 2001. ; She was Reader's Digest's national Orgullo Hispano Award recipient in 2004, and she received the professional achievement award from the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Corporation in 2000. She also was one of nine women selected by the National Science Foundation to represent the U.S. on a mission to Mexico as a role model for extraordinary accomplishments by women in technology and business.


Fireside Chat 

Carl S. McNair 


Mr. Carl S. McNair is President and CEO of McNair Achievement Programs (MAP), LLC in Atlanta, Georgia. He is also an accomplished author, NASA Ambassador, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Program Educator.  For over twenty –five years, McNair Achievement Programs have developed and implemented successful STEM educational programs. 

Mr. McNair has appeared on CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS (A Story Corps Animation), and the African Television Networks. He was also a featured author and interviewed on NPR’s Tavis Smiley Show.  His best-selling book entitled, In the Spirit of Ronald E. McNair-Astronaut, is an inspirational biography written to encourage, empower and inspire today’s and future generations. 

Mr. McNair is also the Founder and President Emeritus of the Dr. Ronald E. McNair Foundation. The McNair Foundation was named in honor of his brother who died along with six of his astronaut colleagues aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986. The Foundation’s program inspires and encourages students to pursue careers in STEM and other related careers.

In 1986, Mr. McNair along with family members, educators and legislators on Capitol Hill advocated for the funding of the prestigious Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program (aka the McNair Scholars Program). Today, the McNair Scholars Programs resides at nearly 151 colleges and universities nationally including Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Since  inception, over 60,000 McNair Scholar alumni have participated in the McNair Scholars Program.  Over 5,000 McNair Scholars have earned doctorate degrees and many thousands more earned Masters and a substantial number of Professional (MD/JD) degrees.

He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Technology from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, North Carolina and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.


Workshop Presenter 

Dr. Vernetta K. Williams 
“Next Level Writing: Understanding Graduate School Writing Expectations”



Vernetta K. Williams, PhD, has a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a M.A. in English from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and a PhD in English from the University of South Florida. Dr. Williams has published a writing guide that outlines foundational skills needed for students to become confident scholars who can articulate research ideas critically, clearly and coherently; the book also mentors students in understanding graduate school culture and meeting faculty research –based writing expectations. Through workshops, webinars, individualized services and other writing support services, Dr. Williams has helped graduate students to acclimate to graduate school, become proficient writers, complete their theses/dissertations and publish in academic arenas.  



McNair Professional Staff Event 

Dr. Michael L. Jeffries
Special Assistant to the President for McNair Programs
Council for Opportunity in Education


Mr. Michael Jeffries served as Associate dean of students at the University of Illinois for twenty five years and retired in 2009 after providing leadership for TRiO programs and state support retention programs for 35 years. His department won the first Noel Levitz award for having an exemplary comprehensive retention model in 1990.  He was responsible for providing programmatic leadership and planning, financial management and personnel administration for the department of Minority Student Affairs (OMSA), which serves more than 4500 undergraduates enrolled in eight colleges and nearly 100 academic departments. In 2016, the college of Education at Illinois awarded Jeffries an honorary James Scholar. In the same year, he was named to the University's President's Council.

At Illinois, Jeffries served as director of McNair Scholars for nineteen years, Dir, of Student Support Services for Twenty five Years. He served as National Chair of McNair Programs from 1998 – 2000. More than 140 McNair Scholars served by Jeffries at the University of Illinois have received their doctorate degrees as of 2016. In 2002, as a member of COE'S first Educational Exchanged, Jeffries made presentations at the University Liverpool, at the Netherland's Ministry of Education and later at the European Access Network at Thessaloniki, Greece in 2006.

Dean Jeffries was honored in 2006 by the Board of Director at the 25th Anniversary Annual Conference in New York City by becoming the recipient of the prestigious Walter O’ Mason Award.  Jeffries was the founder of McNair National Conferences in 1992 at Delavan, Wisconsin and chaired the nation’s largest McNair Conference for seventeen years. Mr. Jeffries has served on several national and regional boards, including the GRE Board at ETS, COE, MAEOPP, MASFAA, Vice President of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, Vice-Chair of the Illinois Committee on Black Concerns in higher education, NASPA Regional Board, and others.  Dean Jeffries has been a TRiO trainer for various universities and the U.S. Department of Education for more than twenty-Five years. He has served as an educational consultant for many universities and agencies, including College Board and the USDE, Washington, Penn State, Idaho, MAEOPP, SAEOPP, and others.


Since retirement, he has joined the Council for Opportunity in Education as Special Assistant to the President for McNair Programs in 2009 and he has established an educational consultant company in 2008. He has served as an educational Program Trainer for UNLV since 2006.