2018 NASW National Conference Speakers

faces of keynote presenters Van Jones, Gretchen Rubin, Fridi Lajvardi, Elinore McCance-Katz and Kane Smego

The 2018 NASW National Conference will feature an exceptional cast of world-renowned speakers who are eager to engage, inform and inspire. 

We are excited that CNN commentator Van Jones will serve as our opening keynote speaker and New York Times best-selling author and podcaster, Gretchen Rubin, will be our closing keynote speaker.

Stay tuned for upcoming announcements about additional speakers.

Van Jones

Van Jones

Opening Keynote Presenter | Wednesday

Van Jones, a correspondent for CNN and a regular guest on political talk shows, is the Opening Keynote Presenter for NASW’s 2018 National Conference.

He is President & Founder of the nonprofit, Dream Corps — a justice incubator that houses: #cut50, #YesWeCode, #GreenForAll, and #LoveArmy — all with the overarching goal to create innovative solutions that "close prison doors and open doors of opportunity."  Van has also led a number of other social and environmental justice enterprises, including The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Color of Change.

A Yale-educated attorney, he has written three New York Times Bestsellers: The Green Collar Economy, the definitive book on green jobs; Rebuild the Dream, a roadmap for progressives; and most recently, Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together.

In 2009, Van worked as the green jobs advisor to the Obama White House. There, he helped run the inter-agency process that oversaw $80 billion in green energy recovery spending. He has earned many honors, including the World Economic Forum’s "Young Global Leader" designation, Rolling Stone’s 12 Leaders Who Get Things Done, Fast Company's 12 Most Creative Minds on Earth, a Webby Special Achievement Award and Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

Kane Smego

Kane Smego

Opening Presenter | Wednesday

Kane Smego, an Opening Presenter on Wednesday, is a spoken word and hip hop artist, a National Poetry Slam finalist, and co-founder of the youth arts and education nonprofit Sacrificial Poets. He also is an international touring artist, performing and teaching across the United States and in Europe, Africa, Central and South America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia.

In the summer of 2011, Kane helped create and lead the Poetic Portraits of a Revolution (PPR2011) project that traveled to Egypt and Tunisia to collect stories of the popular revolutions and adapted them to spoken word poems that were broadcast in an eight-week radio series on the National Public Radio affiliate WUNC. He is the primary author of the YouTh ink. Curriculum that uses poetry and hip hop to help youth and adults tell their own stories and challenges them to transform themselves and their communities through the use of the spoken and written word.

Fred Lajvardi

Fred Lajvardi

Keynote Presenter | Thursday

Fredi Lajvardi, Keynote Presenter on Thursday, is a nationally-recognized STEM educator who kindles your innate sense of ingenuity with his remarkable firsthand account of how he transformed a group of high school students into a national champion robotics team.

Fredi captivated the country when he led his team of disadvantaged teenagers in a university-level underwater robotics competition, where they defeated leading schools, including top-ranked MIT. Their story inspired the acclaimed documentary “Underwater Dreams” and was also adapted into the major motion picture “Spare Parts,” starring actor and comedian, George Lopez as Fredi. His award-winning Falcon Robotics team is featured in the 2017 film “Dream Big.” Honored with numerous awards for his spirited passion for teaching, Fredi continues to serve as a prominent advocate about the importance of STEM education nationwide.


Elinore F. McCance-Katz, MD, PhD

Keynote Presenter | Friday

Elinore F. McCance-Katz, MD, PhD, is the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and advises the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary on improving behavioral healthcare in America. She also leads the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) within HHS.

Dr. McCance-Katz is the first Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use. She obtained her PhD from Yale University with a specialty in Infectious Disease Epidemiology and is a graduate of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. She is board certified in General Psychiatry and in Addiction Psychiatry. She is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry with more than 25 years as a clinician, teacher, and clinical researcher. Most recently she served as the Chief Medical Officer for the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals and as the Chief Medical Officer for the Eleanor Slater Hospital system which is Rhode Island’s state resource for patients with the most serious mental illnesses and medical illnesses requiring long term, inpatient care.

Jennifer Fox

Jennifer Fox

Presenter | Friday

Jennifer Fox is an internationally acclaimed producer, director, writer and camerawoman. Her groundbreaking films include: “Beirut: The Last Home Movie” (Grand Prize Winner & Best Cinematography, Sundance Film Festival 1988; Frontline WGBH), the 10-hour “An American Love Story” (Berlin and Sundance Film Festivals 1999, Gracie Award 1999, Primetime PBS/BBC/ARTE), the six-part, “Flying Confessions of a Free Woman” (IDFA and Sundance Film Festivals 2008; Sundance Channel), and the feature “My Reincarnation” (Emmy Award nominated, IDFA and Hamptons Film Festivals; IDFA Audience Award 2010; Premiere POV 2012).

Fox has executive produced numerous award-winning films including: “Love & Diane”, “On the Ropes”, “She’s Lost Control” and “The Pathological Optimist.” Fox recently completed the fiction feature, “The Tale,” which she wrote, directed, and co-produced, with an outstanding all-star cast including: Laura Dern, Ellen Burstyn, Elizabeth Debicki, Jason Ritter and Common. “The Tale” premiered to critical acclaim at Sundance 2018 and is available on HBO. Fox teaches master classes and in Universities internationally. Her films have been shown in numerous retrospectives around the world.

Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin

Closing Keynote Presenter | Saturday

Gretchen Rubin, the Closing Keynote Presenter, is the author of several books, including the blockbuster New York Times bestsellers, "The Four Tendencies," "Better Than Before," "The Happiness Project,"  and "Happier at Home." She has an enormous readership, both in print and online, and her books have sold almost three million copies worldwide, in more than 30 languages.

In her popular weekly podcast, "Happier with Gretchen Rubin," she discusses happiness and good habits with her sister Elizabeth Craft. They have been called the “Click and Clack of podcasters.” Their podcast was named in iTunes’s lists of Best Podcasts of 2015 and was named in the Academy of Podcasters “Best Podcasts of 2016.” BuzzFeed listed Happier in "10 Life-Changing Things to Try in June." The New Yorker said, “Their voices remind you that life is a human project that we’re all experimenting with.” The podcast consistently ranks in the iTunes Top Charts. 

Fast Company named Gretchen Rubin to its list of Most Creative People in Business, and she’s a member of Oprah’s SuperSoul 100.

Shaping Tomorrow Together: 2018 NASW National Conference

We look forward to seeing you June 20-23 at the 2018 NASW National Conference.

Register today!


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The easy thing to do is always to divide people based on a problem; the hard thing to do is to unite people based on a solution. Van Jones

One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy.

One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself. Gretchen Rubin