Speakers for Your 2019 First-Year Experience® Program


We are so excited to be headed to Las Vegas, NV on February 16th for the 38th Annual Conference on the First-Year Experience®!

The Annual Conference on the First-Year Experience® focuses on supporting student learning, development, and success in the first college year. In addition to the numerous conference sessions that happen throughout the weekend, Penguin Random House will be hosting a series of author events to allow participants to hear from some of our best speakers for college audiences.

Penguin Random House Featured Speakers at the 38th Annual Conference on the First-Year Experience®

Casey Gerald

After a Yale football scholarship jump-started Casey Gerald’s educational career, he spent the next decade achieving countless hallmarks of success, from graduating from Harvard Business School and starting an acclaimed non-profit to having dinner with a former president and speaking at TED. In his talks, Gerald shares his powerful coming-of-age story, one that straddles the complex intersection of race, class, religion, queer sexuality, and masculinity. He explores the essential questions of our current moment: how do we succeed in a culture that is designed to silence us? How do we heal from trauma while retaining our identity? His talks are as a testament that every person deserves to define and hold on to their humanity, especially during times of collective anger and growing disillusionment. His new book, There Will Be No Miracles Here, is a meditative memoir turned incisive manifesto.

Casey Gerald

Author of There Will Be No Miracles Here

Scott Harrison

In 2004, Scott Harrison left his life as a nightclub promoter in New York City and signed up for volunteer service with a humanitarian organization offering free medical care to the world’s poorest nations. Astonished by the conditions in his new surroundings, Harrison founded the non-profit organization charity:water, which uses public installations and innovative online fundraising platforms to fund over 22,000 water projects in 24 countries. Harrison’s work with charity:water combines innovative thinking and radical transparency to implement projects and inspire further generosity, and he shares the forward-thinking strategies that have helped him as he continues to tackle a persistent problem facing the world today.

Scott Harrison

Founder and CEO of charity:water and social entrepreneur

Abdi Nor Iftin

In his book, Call Me American, Abdi Nor Iftin chronicles his incredible journey from Somali refugee to American resident. His work has been featured on the BBC and “This American Life,” and in The Washington Post.  A natural storyteller, he describes his numerous harrowing escapes after being first targeted in Somalia for his love of America, and then in Kenya for his refugee status. In his memoir, Iftin questions why the world stays silent in the face of atrocity, and what it means to be an American.

Abdi Nor Iftin

Former Somali refugee and author of Call Me American

Alex Wagner

Emmy-nominated journalist Alex Wagner covers American culture and politics in print, online and on television. A national correspondent for CBS News and an executive producer and co-host of the political documentary series The Circus on Showtime, she writes regularly as a contributing editor for The Atlantic and co-hosts their weekly podcast, Radio Atlantic. Her latest book, Futureface, examines questions about race, identity and immigration through the lens of her own family story. In her talks, Wagner shares what she discovered as she traveled the globe tracking down her family’s past, and the important truths that state-of-the-art research and ancient records alike revealed, leaving audiences with new ideas on what it means to be an American, and the ways that concepts of race, immigration, and politics have shaped our collective identity.

Alex Wagner

Journalist and author of Futureface

Clemantine Wamariya

Clemantine Wamariya  is a storyteller and  human rights advocate committed to inspiring others through the power and art of storytelling. Her personal account of her childhood in Rwanda, displacement throughout war-torn countries, and experiences in various refugee camps have encouraged myriads of people to persevere despite great odds. With no formal education before the age of 13, Clemantine went on to graduate from Yale University with a BA in Comparative Literature. In her book, The Girl Who Smiled Beads, Clemantine provokes us to look beyond the label of “victim” and recognize the power of the imagination to transcend even the most profound injuries and aftershocks. She now uses stories drawn from her experiences to catalyze change and create community.

Clemantine Wamariya

Human rights advocate and author of The Girl Who Smiled Beads

Tara Westover 

Tara Westover’s debut memoir, Educated, a #1 New York Times bestseller, is an unforgettable story of the power of higher education to enable self-creation. Born to survivalists in rural Idaho, Westover and her family lived without public schools, doctors, and birth certificates. As an abusive older brother became increasingly dangerous within her insular family, Westover fought to escape to college. There, she overcame her lack of formal education to eventually earn a Ph.D from Cambridge University. Westover’s story shows how education not only offered her a lifeline, but acted as a concrete route to finding her independence and true sense of self.

Private: Tara Westover

Author of the #1 New York Times-bestselling memoir Educated

Zachary Wood

Zachary R. Wood is known for his dynamic perspective on free speech, race, and dissenting opinions. An activist for free speech and a firm believer that civil debate is a crucial part of one’s education, he recently testified before the United States Senate on the necessity of ensuring that college campuses allow for a variety of viewpoints. Wood makes the case that in a divided time, it is more important than ever for people of all backgrounds to interact. Drawing on his experiences to assess the true state of anti-racist activism, Wood presents the resounding successes and opportunities for improvement of these movements and provides a blueprint for audiences wishing to productively discuss race going forward. In his latest book, Uncensored, Wood makes a compelling argument for a new way of interacting with others and presents a new outlook on society’s most difficult conversations.

Zachary R. Wood

Editor at The Guardian and former President of Uncomfortable Learning at Williams College and free speech advocate