Keynote Speakers

Saturday Evening, July 28, 2018

Dr. Yajaira Sierra-Sastre is a materials scientist and educator with ten years of research experience in academic, federal, and private institutions.  Yajaira received her BS degree in chemistry and teacher’s certification from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez.  After college, she returned to her hometown Arroyo and taught chemistry at her former high school.  At the end of the academic year, Yajaira was awarded a summer research fellowship for teachers at Stanford University.  There she discovered her passion for nanotechnology and returned home to work at the NASA Research Center for Advanced Nanoscale Materials at the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras, where she investigated materials for space applications.  After gaining valuable research experience, Yajaira decided to pursue graduate studies at Cornell University and obtained a Ph.D. in nanomaterials chemistry in 2009.  As part of her doctoral thesis, Dr. Sierra-Sastre worked as a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory.  Upon graduation, she joined a nanotechnology start-up company where she developed coating processes for multinational clients in the military, environment, medical diagnostics, and textile sectors.

Yajaira is currently dedicated to developing her own social enterprise, which focuses on providing mentoring and professional development opportunities to students from socially disadvantaged communities in Puerto Rico.  She also collaborates on a variety of projects with the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network and the Cornell Nanoscale Facility, including the smallest national anthem ever written ‘La Borinqueña más pequeña’. Her work in nanotechnology, educational outreach, and her aspirations to become the first Puerto Rican female astronaut have been recently featured in televised, radio, and news media.  Her interests also include suborbital materials research, nanomaterials for the energy sector and technology commercialization in Latin America and Puerto Rico.  In her spare time, Yajaira enjoys Latin dance, theatre, outdoor activities, and international cuisine.

Watch the entire keynote by Dr. Yajaira Sierra-Sastre here.

Sunday Morning, July 29, 2018

Rev. Dr. Neichelle R. Guidry is a spiritual daughter of New Creation Christian Fellowship of San Antonio, Texas, where the Bishop David Michael Copeland and the Rev. Dr. Claudette Anderson Copeland are her pastors and where she was ordained to the ministry in 2010. She is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University (2007, BA, Lambda Pi Eta) and Yale Divinity School (2010, M.Div.), where she was the 2010 recipient of the Walcott Prize for Clear and Effective Public and Pulpit Speaking. She is also a graduate of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (2017), where she completed her Doctor of Philosophy in the area of Liturgical Studies with a concentration in Homiletics. Her dissertation is entitled, “Towards a Womanist Homiletical Theology for Subverting Rape Culture.” She currently serves as the Dean of the Chapel and the Director of the WISDOM Center at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia.

She is the creator of shepreaches, a virtual community and professional development organization that aspires to uplift African-American millennial women in ministry through theological reflection, fellowship, and liturgical curation. For six years, she served as the Associate Pastor to Young Adults and the Liaison to Worship and Arts Ministries in the Office of the Senior Pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ on the South side of Chicago, where the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, III is the Senior Pastor. She served as the 2016 Preacher/Pastor-In-Residence at the Black Theology and Leadership Institute at Princeton Theological Seminary. She was listed as one of “12 New Faces of Black Leadership” in TIME Magazine (January 2015). She was recognized for “quickly becoming one of her generation’s most powerful female faith leaders” on Ebony Magazine’s 2015 Power 100 list (December 2015), and one of “Ten Women of Faith Leading the Charge Ahead” by Sojourners (March 2017). Additionally, Rev. Dr. Neichelle and the work of shepreaches were featured in the New York Times (April 3, 2015). She is a contributor to What Would Jesus Ask?: Christian Leaders Reflect on His Questions of Faith(Time Books, 2015), and the author of Curating a World: Sermonic Words from a Young Woman Who Preaches (self-published, June 2016). She is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.

Watch the entire keynote by Rev. Dr. Neichelle R. Guidry here.