Keynote Speakers


Chriss Walther-Thomas, Ph.D. is Special Assistant to the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Provost and Chief Academic Officer and she holds the rank of Professor in the Department of Special Education and Disability Policy. She is the former dean of the VCU School of Education, one of the top 20 U.S. public education programs according to U.S. News & Work Report (USN&WR, 2016). Previously she chaired the University of Kansas (KU) Department of Special Education. USN&WR has ranked KU as the top public special education graduate program for more than 30 years. Prior to these appointments, she served as an award-winning professor at the College of William & Mary in Educational Policy, Planning, and Leadership. Her work has been instrumental in securing more than $100 million dollars in public and private funding for graduate education, school-based special education and school leadership research, and technical assistance in low-income schools. Dr. Walther-Thomas received her doctorate in special education leadership at the University of Kansas in 1990.

Her work focuses on policy and practice in diverse and economically-challenged schools and the critical role that effective school leadership plays in student outcomes, teacher retention, and inclusive learning community development. She has written and presented on these topics at more than 150 national and international conferences. Dr. Walther-Thomas has served on numerous state and federal advisory boards and she is the past president of three national professional organizations: Council for Exceptional Children Teacher Education Division, Council for Learning Disabilities, and The Higher Education Consortium for Special Education.