We have not one, but FIVE, amazing speakers keynoting our 2020 Annual Luncheon taking place virtually on October 9. This year, we’ll explore the theme of POWER: what it means, who has it, and how we can spread it. Each of our speakers will touch on one of the five attributes that give them their P.O.W.E.R.—Perseverance, Opportunity, Wisdom, Efficacy, and Resiliency—and will leave us with parting words to feel more empowered in our own lives.

Don’t have your tickets yet? Get them here.

Meet the Speakers

Yessica Richardson – Representing Perseverance

Yessica Richardson, a single mom of three, is originally from St. Marten Island and came to the US from the Dominican Republic in 2012. After fleeing domestic violence, in 2017, a fire took her home along with everything she owned. With all paperwork, passport, and IDs gone, Yessica had no way to provide a living for her family and no local support system. In the face of the impossible, Yessica never gave up. Moving into the House of Hope program in Waterloo, Yessica worked hard to fight every obstacles in her path. Today, she and her children are leading happy, healthy lives. Yessica is a 2020 Ovation honoree and is proud to share her success story.

Jennifer Sherer – Representing Opportunity

Jennifer Sherer, PhD, is the Director of The University of Iowa Labor Center. She has two decades of experience teaching and coordinating research on workplace rights, labor history, union leadership, and labor policy subjects, with a special interest in leadership development programming for working women. She is currently working to launch a statewide network of Iowa Women in the Trades, and co-coordinated the 2019 Midwest School for Women Workers. She also directs the Iowa Labor History Oral Project, and has served on the boards of the UI Center for Human Rights, the Iowa Policy Project (now Common Good Iowa), the Labor Studies Journal, and as a volunteer at the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa. She believes strongly in the power of popular education to transform people’s lives.

Akwi Nji – Representing Wisdom

Akwi Nji is an award-winning writer, speaker, and communications leader. She was a 2016 Iowa Arts Council Artist Fellow and is the founder of The Hook, an organization which promotes creativity, literacy, and inclusivity by producing multidisciplinary artistic adaptations of true stories of our community. Her background in journalism, creative writing, theater, and education inform her approach to ignite trust and activate empathy through a creative and strategic use of storytelling. Choosing to write primarily for the stage rather than the page, her words have been delivered on stages from California to New York. Her collaborative partners include Emmy-award winning composers, nationally-renowned dancers and choreographers, and companies and organizations ready to think differently about the power of story.

Lyz Lenz Representing Efficacy

Lyz Lenz is an author, writer, and editor. She is the author of two published books: Belabored: A Vindication of the Rights of Pregnant Women and God Land. She has previously served as managing editor of the Rumpus. Her writing has been published in various publications including the Columbia Journalism Review, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Pacific Standard, and the Huffington Post, to name a few. Lyz resides in Cedar Rapids with her two young children.

Justice Dana Oxley – Representing Resilience

Justice Oxley was born in Neosho, Missouri and grew up on a farm near Greenfield, Iowa. She received her undergraduate degree in accounting from the University of Northern Iowa in 1990 and her J.D. from the University of Iowa, graduating Order of the Coif in 1998. She served as a law clerk for the Honorable David R. Hansen on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, and then practiced with Shuttleworth & Ingersoll PLC in Cedar Rapids until her appointment to the Iowa State Supreme Court in January of this year. 

At Shuttleworth, Justice Oxley focused on appellate work in state and federal court and chaired Shuttleworth’s appellate practice committee. She is a contributing author and an editor of the Eighth Circuit Appellate Practice Manual and has spoken on appellate topics at various CLEs. 

Justice Oxley teaches as an adjunct professor at the University of Iowa College of Law; is a member of the Eighth Circuit Bar Association, on which she previously served on its board and as its president; and is a member of the Iowa Bar Association and the Linn County Bar Association. She is a long-time member of the school board for Trinity Lutheran School in Cedar Rapids. She and her husband have two grown children, both of whom were born while she was in law school.