The Center for First-generation Student Success serves as the leading resource for those seeking keynote speakers, presenters, and facilitators for higher education engagements and conferences across the nation and through virtual platforms.

CatalystFIRST is central to the Center’s Thought Leadership & Advocacy strategic priority to advance critical first-generation student success conversations through national convenings, advocacy, and policy influence. We provide talented speakers to elevate your event, big or small, while remaining an affordable option for all institution types, sizes, and geographic locations.


CatalystFirst Logo


We understand that institutions are having to change course with campus events and conferences in response to these challenging times. Given the uncertainty with travel and funding, our speakers are open to virtual engagements so you may continue to offer important professional development. Please contact the Center to discuss possibilities.


CatalystFIRST is your one-stop resource for access to the nation’s premier scholars and practitioners who can offer expert insights on first-generation student success topics designed for the specific needs of your audience. Through CatalystFIRST, you are supported by the Center and NASPA brands and guaranteed the highest quality experience.

CatalystFIRST guarantees that our speakers:

  • are carefully selected and vetted first-generation student success national scholars and thought leaders;
  • design unique presentations and talks specific to the goals of your event;
  • are equipped to speak with audiences of all sizes and levels of leadership and for events of any format (in-person or virtual);
  • all possess a strong record of academic scholarship, professional experience, and public speaking in higher education;
  • are represented by the Center for First-generation Student Success who manages and coordinates all logistics for the requested speaking engagements.


Through CatalystFIRST, you will find an outstanding team of scholars, researchers, and practitioners who can shape the first-generation landscape through expert presentations and addresses, both in-person and virtually, while working within your budgetary needs.

Secure a Speaker

Interested in securing a CatalystFIRST speaker for your next event?

Visit the Speakers section to meet our experts. After reviewing, click on the Request a Speaker button to be redirected to the Speaker Request Form.

If you are not sure which speaker to choose for your engagement, the Center will assist you in choosing the best option for your engagement. To the best of your ability, please provide as much detail as possible in the Speaker Request Form, so we may consider your needs and budget.

The Center for First-generation Student Success will be in touch with the primary contact on the form to discuss the engagement details shortly after receiving the form submission.

Request a Speaker


Sonja Ardoin, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Higher Education and Student Affairs, Clemson University

Angela Batista headshot 2023
Angela E. Batista, Ed.D.

Founder and CEO, Batista Consulting Services, LLC

Bio: Brett Bruner
Brett Bruner, Ed.D.

Assistant Vice President for Student Success & Persistence, Wichita State University

Nancy P. Crimmin, Ed.D.

Senior Fellow, Center for First-generation Student Success, NASPA

Bio: Stephanie Gordon
Stephanie A. Gordon, Ed.D.

Vice President of Professional Development, NASPA

Bio: Rashne Jehangir
Rashné Jehangir, Ph.D.

Professor of Higher Education and Assistant Dean of Education Opportunity Program; Robert H. Beck Chair of Ideas, University of Minnesota—Twin Cities

Bio: Melinda M. Karp
Melinda Mechur Karp, Ph.D.

Founder + Principal, Phase Two Advisory

Bio: Georgianna L. Martin
Georgianna L. Martin, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Counseling & Human Development Services, University of Georgia

T. Mark Montoya Headshot
T. Mark Montoya, Ph.D.

Associate Dean for Curriculum & Student Affairs, College of Social & Behavioral Sciences; Associate Professor, Ethnic Studies, Northern Arizona University

Cynthia Mosqueda:Bio
Cynthia Mosqueda, Ed.D.

Faculty Coordinator, El Camino College

Darris R. Means Headshot
Darris R. Means, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, University of Pittsburgh

Bio: La'Tonya Rease Miles
La'Tonya Rease Miles, Ph.D.

Director of University Partnerships, ReUp Education

Bio: Matt Newlin
Matt Newlin, Ed.D.

Founder and Principal, Matt Newlin Consulting

Bio: Annemieke Rice
Annemieke Rice, M.S.

Vice President, Campus Strategy, Campus Labs (now Anthology)

Bio: Lindsay Romasanta
Lindsay Romasanta, Ed.D.

Chief of Staff for the Division of Student Affairs, University of California, Davis

Bio: Deborah Suder
Deborah Suder

Director and Co-Founder, The Suder Foundation

Bio: Eric Suder
Eric Suder

President and Founder, The Suder Foundation

Bio: James K. Winfield
James K. Winfield, Ed.D.

Associate Dean for First Year Experience, General Education, & Retention Strategies, Southern New Hampshire University

Bio: Sarah Whitley
Sarah E. Whitley, Ph.D.

Vice President, Center for First-generation Student Success, NASPA

Cost & Fees

Speaking engagement fees will vary depending on the engagement request. The Center will work with you and your institution to find a speaker that best fits your budget.

In addition to the speaker’s fee, the engagement site host should be prepared to cover the speaker’s travel (including local travel), accommodations, and meals for in-person or place-based engagements. Please do not hesitate to ask questions should you have specific needs or parameters.

Please complete the Speaker Request Form to inquire about a speaker’s fees regarding your event or engagement.

Frequently Asked Questions

To learn more about CatalystFIRST, check out the frequently asked questions!

If you have additional questions regarding CatalystFIRST, please contact us via email [email protected].

  • How far out can I submit a request for a speaker for my particular event or engagement?

    As soon as you realize you may need a first-generation student success speaker! We encourage you to reserve a speaker as soon as possible and, if possible, no later than 30 days before your event.

  • Can the speaker participate in a multi-day engagement?

    Yes! Please indicate these details in the form

  • What topics are the speakers able to cover?

    Review the speaker profile and learn about the speaker’s topics. Feel free to fill out the form and let us help you choose the right speaker! If you are looking for something specific, speakers may also be available to develop a new session tailored just for you.

  • How do I find the appropriate speaker for my audience?

    Check out the speaker’s profile to learn about their area of expertise. On the speaker profile, the speaker's topics and presentations describe the intended audience.

  • What types of engagements can the speakers participate in?

    Our speakers are flexible and experienced in a variety of different types of engagements, even virtual ones!

    Keynotes, workshops, and divisional meetings are common but all speakers are open to considering what may work best for your event. Speakers are also willing to consider engagements with students, too.

  • Will I be able to meet with the speaker before the engagement?

    Yes, as part of CatalystFIRST, our speakers enjoy learning more from their host site and the engagement. A virtual meeting between the speaker(s) and the engagement’s planning committee or primary contact will be scheduled. This is a great opportunity for both parties to learn about each other and what is expected of them during the engagement.

  • Can I hire the speaker directly rather than going through CatalystFIRST?

    Our speakers are contractually obligated to schedule any first-generation student success speaking engagements through the Center.  For any engagement request that is not first-generation specific, you may contact the speaker directly.

  • Can I use CatalystFIRST to book a speaker for virtual engagements?

    Yes, we understand the benefit of being able to provide professional development on a virtual platform. All of our speakers are open to virtual engagement opportunities. Let us know in the Speaker Request Form if your event is going to be hosted virtually!

  • Are the speaker fees negotiable?

    Let’s talk! Speaking engagement fees are negotiable depending upon travel requirements , size and budget of the institution, and engagement needs. We know budgets can be challenging so we are here to help!

  • What is the payment process like through CatalystFIRST?

    You will work with the Center to process the check for the speaker’s fee as well as the travel reimbursement. This means a one-stop shop for all planning logistics as well as payment. You will receive a NASPA-issued invoice for the speaker’s fee and travel-associated costs (if applicable). You may request to have the invoice issued before the speaking engagement in which case, per diem estimates will be used for meals and local travel (if applicable). Payment will be issued to NASPA.

    Please note, we understand that some entities have very specific policies and procedures for contracts and payment. Let’s talk. We are flexible and want to make this work for you.

  • How do I become a CatalystFIRST speaker?

    Thank you for your interest in CatalystFIRST! We are currently not accepting applications or interest for new speakers as CatalystFIRST is in a launch phase. However, should need arise, additional speakers may be included in the future.