Speaker Series

Thought leaders and pioneers of industry intimately reflect.

As part of our endeavor in continued education, we invite interesting people to share their creative journeys — triumphs and tribulations. Staff gathers a few times each month to immerse in interactive sessions that reveal the winding paths these luminaries have walked towards success.

, Speaker Series

Joshua Kaufman

Holocaust Survivor

Joshua was born in Hungary in 1928 and survived World War II, liberated by the Americans from Dachau Concentration Camp. Kaufman rebuilt his life in Israel and served in the IDF during the wars of 1956, 1967, and 1973. He now lives with his family in LA and works as your friendly neighborhood plumber. He has been honored by the History Channel, the White House, and countless other orgs, and recently received a standing ovation from the United States Congress at the SOTU.

Ronny Turiaf

NBA Player

Ronny Turiaf is a retired professional basketball player who played 10 seasons in the NBA. Turiaf graduated from Gonzaga University and was drafted in 2005 by the Los Angeles Lakers, winning an NBA championship with the team in 2012. He also played for the Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, Washington Wizards, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Clippers and Minnesota Timberwolves.

Casey Rotter

Co-Founder & Managing Director, UNICEF NextGen

UNICEF is on a mission to provide food and emergency healthcare to children in developing countries. With many Millennials passionate about volunteering, Casey Rotter founded UNICEF Next Generation with Jenna Bush Hager to provide young adults with the opportunity to make meaningful impact on a global scale.

Justin Willman

Magician, Television Personality

From hosting Cupcake Wars on the Food Network, to starring in his own hit Netflix series Magic for Humans, The LA Times calls Justin Willman “a new breed of magician… who’s making magic cool again for grown-ups.”

Carolyn Blashek

Founder, Operation Gratitude

Carolyn Blashek is a one woman inspiration machine, and living proof that big things have small beginnings. Blashek started Operation Gratitude in her living room after the devastating events of 9/11, in order to gather and deliver supplies, letters and gifts to U.S. soldiers serving overseas and first responders serving domestically.

Vanessa Van Edwards

Behavioral Scientist

Vanessa Van Edwards is the founder of Science of People, and the national best-selling author of Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People. She is recognized for her science-based coaching, and research of interpersonal communication.  Vanessa is well known for her popular TED talk and been a leading corporate lecturer at Google, Facebook and Microsoft. In addition to her frequent appearances across CNN, BBC, CBS, USA Today and the Today Show, Vanessa is a spokesperson for Dove, American Express, Clean and Clear and Symantec.

Ken Harbaugh

Founder of The Mission Continues, President of Team Rubicon

Ken Harbaugh has lived a life of service, first as a pilot in the United States Navy and then representing Ohio during the 2018 election as the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Congress. Harbaugh also founded The Mission Continues, and as President of Team Rubicon Global, provided broad scale disaster relief by strategically mobilizing veterans to continue their service.

Elan Lee

Game Designer

Elan Lee launched his career as a character designer at Industrial Light and Magic and worked his way up to become the Lead Game Designer for Microsoft. Designing games for PC and Xbox, he was one of the pioneers to design Alternate Reality Games (ARG) like Halo 2. In 2015, Lee co-created the card game Exploding Kittens, which was funded by 219,382 backers on Kickstarter and has become one of the most-backed Kickstarter campaigns in history.

Jedidiah Jenkins


Jedidiah quit his day job, grabbed a bike and rode it down towards the Southernmost tip of South America.  Then he wrote a book about it called To Shake the Sleeping Self, in which he shares his 10,000 mile bicycle trip from Oregon to Patagonia and the experiences along the way.

Valerie von Sobel

Philantropist, Interior Designer

Valerie von Sobel fled Hungary in 1956 during the Communist era and settled in Toronto. Wanting to pursue her acting career, she flew to Los Angeles to fulfill her role in the movie “Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation” with Jimmy Stewart. Von Sobel is currently known for her artful interior design, philanthropic work, and eccentric style that has been profiled internationally, including in the best-selling book, Advanced Style: Older and Wiser.

Ashley Bezamat

Founder, Dom Vetro

Ashley Bezamat designs the perfect pair of glasses for each of his customers. This Angeleno spent years in Italy, learning from elite Italian designers to craft the most exquisite handmade artisanal glasses to fit clients’ custom needs. His shop is now in LA, where he services the who’s who of high end clientele.

Ro Diamond

Partner, SDB Partners

Ro Diamond has been a talent agent for over 40 years, discovering and building the careers of some of TV and film’s biggest stars. She moved to Los Angeles in 1974 to concentrate on television and film after mastering her craft in theater, and has thrived running a boutique agency during a time of considerable consolidation.

Arthur Samuel Joseph

Best Selling Author

Formerly a USC professor, Arthur Joseph is the author of Vocal Awareness, which is described as the art of communication. Joseph is recognized as one of the top communication strategists in the world, training Oscar winners, celebrities, and sports icons such as Angelina Jolie, Arnold Schwarzenegger and “Magic” Johnson.

Ashley Crowder


Ashley Crowder graduated from USC with a Masters in Engineering and was featured as one of USC’s leading engineering CEOs of 2016. Crowder co-founded VNTANA, an Augmented Reality platform specializing in interactive holograms used by some of the biggest brands in the world such as Microsoft, Nike, Nickelodeon and Disney.

Gary Wexler


Gary Wexler is a professor at USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism. In his book Sorry Millennials We’re Not Dead Yet: The Boomer Rebellion, Wexler addresses the issues Baby Boomers face in a Millennial-driven world and how creative collaboration between the two generations can reinvent the future.

Benny Forer

Deputy District Attorney, Professor

Professor Benny Forer teaches and lectures at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering. Forer is a Deputy District Attorney and a veteran prosecutor working on cases ranging from narcotics offenses, to gang murders, to sexual abuse.

Carlos Eric Lopez

Fashion Photographer

Carlos is an acclaimed photographer, working with celebrities and directing campaigns for brands like H&M, Vogue and Architectural Digest. Lopez works with some of the biggest names in entertainment and fashion, including Natalie Portman, Kris Jenner, Terrel Owens and Nicole Richie.