Keynote Speakers

March 15th & 16th


“Systems Thinking and the Mission to Mars”

Rocket scientists are hard at work trying to get the first humans to Mars– but these engineers and innovators are not the only ones who play a role in this mission. Today’s educators have the unique opportunity to teach and influence the space explorers of tomorrow!

The goal is to send the first humans to Mars within the next ten years. One of YOUR students could be in this group. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial we develop systems thinkers who will think boldly, critically and creatively to benefit planet earth and the rest of the galaxy.

University of Arizona Systems Engineering Professor and SpaceX Engineer, Ricardo Valerdi, will discuss how the Habits and tools of systems thinking play a crucial role in the mission to Mars. Get an up close and personal account of what it’s like to work at SpaceX, an overview of the system created by one of the greatest innovators of our generation, Elon Musk, and an explanation of how rocket scientists are using the Habits of systems thinking to expand the future of humanity.

Ricardo Valerdi

Associate Professor in the Systems & Industrial Engineering Department

University of Arizona and Former SpaceX Engineer

Ricardo Valerdi is an Associate Professor in the Systems & Industrial Engineering Department at the University of Arizona and the Director of the Sports Management Program in the Eller College of Management.  His research focuses on cost estimation, test & evaluation, cybersecurity, and sports analytics.  He teaches courses in cost estimation, systems engineering, the science of baseball, and sports analytics.

He is also founder and Chief Scientist of the Science of Sport, and a consultant to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, San Diego Padres, Colorado Rockies, Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves, Texas Rangers, LA Galaxy, and Orlando Magic.  His work has been featured on ESPN, Fox Sports Arizona, and in The LA Times.  In collaboration with faculty in the UA College of Medicine, he developed the first-ever concussion simulator for football for the NCAA [video].

Dr. Valerdi is also the PAC-12 Faculty Athletics Representative for the University of Arizona and as of the Spring of 2018, he will be a visiting professor at West Point.

“Empowering Students on Community Issues Through Systems Thinking & System Dynamics”


College students from Saint Louis, MO explain how the spike in racial tension and police brutality in Ferguson sparked student leaders throughout the region to come together to discuss important community and global issues. Hear how they then brought together community stakeholders to listen to student voices on race, gun violence, and youth homelessness at youth summits held at the Social System Design Lab at Washington University in Saint Louis, George Warren Brown School of Social Work.

Michael Savage


Franklin and Marshall College

Michael Savage is a college sophomore, guitarist, and cellist studying at Franklin and Marshall College with a focus on Public Policy and Philosophy. He is considering pursuing Business (MBA) and Social Work (MSW) graduate degrees, hoping to leverage various sorts of advocacy for new ideas that address inequities with solutions through business philanthropy or strategies involving models.

He is involved with the LEDA Career Institute, works at the Office of Admissions at his college, and is a recipient of the Princeton University Prize in Race Relations. Beyond this, he emerged from Ritenour High School’s Social Justice Club as a founding member to engage in the pilot 2015 Race Summit and 2016 Gun Summit at Washington University in Saint Louis. This opportunity allowed him to return as a mentor intern for the 2017 Summit on Youth Homelessness. This complements his work with Camp Snowball, where he has participated in Portland and Sacramento. He is now moving on to help facilitate F&M’s College Prep 7.0 and is excited to work with national high school juniors.

Dianne Lam


Harris-Stowe State University

Dianne Lam is a lifelong learner of systems thinking and system dynamics. As a program assistant at the Social System Design Lab at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in Saint Louis, she receives the opportunity to deeply understand system insights and change her ways of thinking. She works as part of a team to learn about and master systems thinking/system dynamics activities, develop/maintain relationships, plan/coordinate for annual youth summits, and serve as a mentor. Dianne graduated from Ritenour High School, class of 2016, and is currently pursuing a higher education at Harris-Stowe State University, majoring in Secondary Education with an emphasis on Math.

She is also a Camp Snowball facilitator on a core module named, “Find Your Voice, Take the Lead!” She strongly believes that youth should be given the correct skills to empower themselves to find their passion and confidence, as others have helped her do for herself. Dianne is very passionate about studying social justice issues and finding solutions to produce positive social and educational transformation. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, interior designing, working with youth, and spending time with her amazing family and friends.

Desiree Chrun


University of Missouri

Desiree Chrun is a sophomore at the University of Missouri located in Columbia, MO. She is currently double majoring in International Studies and Spanish with an emphasis in Latin America. Desiree has spent the past two summers interning at Washington University’s Social System Design Lab and is now a College Mentor for the Fellowship. She is also involved in a Systems Thinking week-long “camp” as a facilitator at Camp Snowball.

This work follows her initial roles within her high school’s Social Justice Club and Leadership Program. She was also an Ambassador for a St. Louis high school- based program, Gateway2Change, where she attended the National Coalition on School Diversity in Washington D.C. After university, she plans to join the Peace Corps and/or attend graduate school and gain a master’s degree in Social Work.

Trevor Hicks


Harris-Stowe State University

Trevor Hicks is a student at Harris-Stowe State University located in St. Louis, Missouri. Trevor is studying Secondary Education with a focus on Social Science. After getting his bachelor’s degree, he plans to get a dual master’s degree in Social Work and Education from Washington University in St. Louis. Trevor’s goal is to shift the educational paradigm and zero in on educating and empowering the whole student. Trevor is also program assistant at the Social System Design Lab in the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. At Washington University, Trevor works with a team to help develop students’ professional skills, further their understanding of system dynamics and systems thinking, and coordinate the annual Changing Systems Youth Summit. Trevor was exposed to systems thinking and system dynamics during his junior year in high school and has continually used these tools ever since. In his free time, Trevor enjoys traveling, giving back to his community, and spending time with friends and family.

“The Big Picture: Tackling Some of Our World’s Most Difficult Dilemmas Using Systems Thinking”


How are the Habits and tools of systems thinking used by the United States Army? What role does systems thinking play on the battlefield? Get an up close and personal account of this and more by LTC (Promotable) Hise Gibson, Aviation Officer for the U.S. Army. LTC(P) Gibson credits systems thinking for making important, fast-paced decisions during his operational tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. This presentation will also provide an overview of the structure of the Army as an organization, and how it is the ideal place for systems thinking to thrive.

In addition, LTC(P) Gibson will give an overview of the program he directs and the courses he teaches at the United States Military Academy at West Point in the Systems Engineering Department. Systems Thinking is a core component of his lessons to cadets, who use the Habits and tools of systems thinking to create plausible and implementable solutions to some of our world’s toughest challenges, specifically, reducing refugee radicalization.


LTC(P) Hise Gibson, M.S., D.B.A.

Aviation Officer/Academy Professor, Systems Engineering Department, United States Military Academy at West Point

United States Army

LTC(P) Hise Gibson is an Academy Professor for the Department of Systems Engineering at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Prior to this assignment, he was an Aviation Battalion Commander in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, NC. Hise holds a Doctorate of Business Administration from the Harvard Business School in Technology and Operations Management.

Hise is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in Aviation. As a flight platoon leader, he conducted aviation resupply missions on the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. As a Captain, he deployed with his aviation battalion from Hanau, Germany to Baghdad, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom where he was a UH60 Blackhawk Helicopter Company Commander. Following this assignment, he completed his M.S. in Operations Research from the Naval Postgraduate School, and was an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY. He was also an Operations Officer and Deputy Commander stationed in Ansbach, Germany, where he deployed his unit to Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

LTC(P) Gibson is the recipient of numerous Military Awards and Decorations, including: Bronze Star Medal (awarded on three occasions), Meritorious Service Medal (awarded on three occasions), Master Aviation Badge, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, and many others.