We have five inspiring and influential speakers lined up to enlighten you this summer. See below for background information on each speaker and to track their whereabouts.

Sheena S. Iyengar

S.T. Lee Professor of Business, Columbia Business School

speaking: July 26, 9 a.m.

Sheena S. Iyengar is the inaugural S.T. Lee professor of business in the Columbia Business School. She has taught on a wide variety of topics, including leadership, decision-making, creativity, innovation, and globalization.

Considered one of the world's leading experts on choice, Dr. Iyengar’s core research focuses on the psychology of choice and decision-making, addressing how humans face challenges in a world where they are inundated with options. Her book, The Art of Choosing, explores topics such as: why choice is powerful and where its power comes from, the ways in which people make choices, and the relationship between how we choose and who we are.

Dr. Iyengar has also turned her attention to tackling issues in the business world through the lenses of network analysis and diversity-inspired research. Dr. Iyengar’s work has been published in premier academic journals across such disciplines as economics, psychology, management, and marketing, she received the Presidential Early Career Award in 2002, and she has been voted among the Top 50 most influential business thinkers by Thinkers50 and rated one of the world's best B-School Professors by Poets and Quants.

Her book, The Art of Choosing, received one of the six Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Books of the Year 2010 awards and was ranked third on the Amazon.com Best Business and Investing Books of 2010. Her research is regularly cited in the popular media, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, and BBC. Dr. Iyengar has also appeared on television programs like the Today Show, the Daily Show, and Fareed Zakaria’s GPS on CNN. Her TED Talks have collectively received almost four million views and her research continues to inform markets, businesses, and people all over the world.

Dr. Iyengar knows firsthand how the power of choice can transform lives. When she was three years old, she was diagnosed with a rare form of retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited disease of retinal degeneration. By 6th grade, she had lost the ability to read, and by 11th grade, she had lost her sight entirely and could only perceive light. Dr. Iyengar was told by her high school guidance counselor that she shouldn’t bother applying to college. Not only did she choose to go to college, she graduated from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania with a B.S. in economics and a B.A. in psychology. She then earned her Ph.D. in social psychology from Stanford University and joined the Columbia faculty in 1998.

Sheena’s parents immigrated to New York from Delhi, India by way of Toronto, Canada, where she was born. Sheena currently lives in New York with her son.

Special skills:

Writing, research, teaching, safe-cracking


Super high


Far above average


Iyengar has a double 0 number, giving her license to have the last word in any conversation.

Special skills:

Writing, research, samurai sword-fighting


Way, way up there


Sky high


Kaufman has a double 0 number, giving him the right to command a room with his voice.

Scott Barry Kaufman

Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute

Speaking: July 27, 9 a.m.

Can intelligence be viewed in terms that reflect difference rather than difficulty? Scientific director of The Imagination Institute and author of Ungifted and Wired to Create, Scott Barry Kaufman challenges the conventions that surround—and inhibit—personal creative potential. Fusing original research with firsthand experience, Kaufman speaks to those interested in cultivating a keener sense of individual intelligence.

Scott Barry Kaufman is a cognitive psychologist who studies the development of intelligence, creativity, and personality. In his book Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, he takes a look at why our society is so obsessed with measuring intelligence instead of using the test results to inform tailored interventions to help all people succeed. He is the scientific director of The Imagination Institute and a researcher in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, where he investigates the measurement and development of imagination. His new book about creativity and imagination is Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind (co-authored with Carolyn Gregoire).

Kaufman was formerly an adjunct assistant professor of psychology at New York University. He is a co-founder of the popular nonprofit website The Creativity Post, writes the blog “Beautiful Minds” for Scientific American Mind, and is co-editor of the book The Philosophy of Creativity: New Essays. Kaufman is on the editorial board of journals BioMed Central Psychology, Journal of BioMed Central Psychology, and Journal of Intelligence. He has a doctorate in cognitive psychology from Yale University and a master’s degree in experimental psychology from Cambridge University, where he was a Gates Cambridge Scholar.

Josh Coates

CEO, Instructure

Speaking: July 25, 6 p.m.

Josh Coates has built a career the way he builds a business—by reimagining the way things can be done (even if it requires doing some major surgery with an acetylene torch). After his start in distributed systems research at the University of California, Berkeley, and Microsoft’s Bay Area Research Center, he founded Scale Eight, which developed a new approach to scalable storage software and attracted customers like Microsoft, Viacom, and Fujitsu. Upon closing operations and selling Scale Eight’s intellectual property to Intel in 2003, Josh went on to found Berkeley Data Systems (Mozy.com) in 2005, which reshaped the world of data storage with a ubiquitous remote backup solution. Two years later, EMC Corp acquired Mozy for $76 million.

Josh now brings this imagination to the LMS world with Instructure. After seeing the opportunity to disrupt the current landscape, and in doing so facilitate a better educational experience, he became an early investor before joining the board and becoming CEO in 2010.

Special skills:

Building businesses, hand-to-hand combat


Chief Executive Optimist


Triple digits and then some


Coates has a double 0 number, giving him license to wither enemies with well-timed jokes.

Jared Stein

VP of Higher Education Strategy, Instructure

Speaking: July 27, 1:30 p.m.

Jared Stein works to help teachers design effective blended and online learning so that all students can have great experiences in education. He believes in applying research to design, and encourages real-world practice, openness, and simplicity. Jared has also helped institutions plan for education challenges through grassroots, faculty-driven initiatives (such as open education projects), and top-level leadership plans (such as the growth of online and hybrid offerings).

As vice president of higher education strategy for Canvas by Instructure, Jared and his team uncover the impact technology can have on teaching and learning, often in collaboration with colleges and universities. The research team shares what it learns both internally and with the larger educational community at canvaslms.com/research.

Special skills:

Designing e-learning, evasive driving, tango-dancing


Above yours


Above yours


Stein has a double 0 number, giving him license to dress to kill.

Special skills:

Ed-tech strategy, espionage strategy


Super-duper spy




Benson has a double 0 number, authorizing him to talk the talk AND walk the walk.

Mitch Benson

VP of Canvas Product Management, Strategy, and Research, Instructure

Speaking: July 26, 1:30 p.m.

Mitch is the vice president responsible for Canvas product management, strategy, and research at Instructure. In this role, he is primarily responsible for the ongoing development of Canvas, ensuring its position as the most modern, scalable, secure, accessible, and easy-to-use learning platform available. Prior to Instructure, Mitch served in executive roles at Microsoft, Pearson, and the not-for-profit and public sectors in Washington State.

public disclosure notice

see the 2016 keynote speech archive here.

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