In the fall of 2005, Luis Ortega visited his high school to speak to a group of students about his journey as an immigrant student and the many barriers he had to overcome to get to college at the University of Washington. He didn’t have any plans to ever return to speak at a school again, but after this first presentation more invitations followed. Ten years later, after speaking at over 1,000 schools, colleges, and community events across the nation, Luis is now widely known as a powerful storyteller, advocate, and social entrepreneur, who speaks and presents on the topics of counter narratives, the power of empathy, and story-based strategy.
Luis is the founder of Storytellers for Change, where he works motivating and preparing youth, educators, and community leaders from communities across the world to share their stories for positive change. Luis also works as a leadership consultant and facilitator for a variety of organizations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the University of Washington’s Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center, and SAYA, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing access to clean water for indigenous communities in the state of Chiapas and Guerrero in Mexico.
Over the years, Luis has learned that there are few things as powerful as our ability to connect with other people through our stories. Whether Luis is speaking in front of a large audience or sitting right across from you having a conversation, his gift for storytelling will invite you to share your story for change with great courage, but most importantly, to listen softly to the stories of others. The greatest thing we can do for another person is to listen with our hearts so we can tell them: your story matters.
As Associate Dean, Academic Programs for Washington State University’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, Dr. Kimberlee Kidwell has guided the college’s efforts to revamp classes to better serve students and to improve the learning environment. Dr. Kidwell also excels in the classroom where she’s developed and taught one of the most popular classes at WSU, Human Development 205; Developing effective Communication and Life Skills. Using hands-on experience, the course focuses on awareness of self and others, interpersonal communication and leadership. In addition, Dr. Kidwell also served as WSU‘s spring wheat breeder for 15 years, developing more than a 20 wheat varieties for Washington state farmers. Dr. Kidwell has been recognized with numerous honors and awards for her contributions to research, teaching, and leadership. Dr. Kidwell holds Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as two bachelor’s degrees in Genetics and Development and Agriculture Sciences from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is the founding Director of the Center for Transformational Learning and Leadership.