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Oakland University to welcome Sophia A. Nelson for Varner Vitality Lecture

For its 2024 Varner Vitality Lecture, Oakland University will welcome Sophia A. Nelson, an  award-winning author, journalist and corporate diversity, equity and inclusion trainer.   

Free and open to the public, the event will take place from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., on Monday, April 1, in Oakland Center Founders Ballroom A, with a book signing included. Register for the event using this Google Form.  

A renowned inspirational speaker, Nelson has worked almost exclusively with women corporate employee resource groups for the past 15 years. She is a highly sought after conference keynote speaker on issues of work-life balance, wellness and mental self-care in the workplace, emotional intelligence skill building, collaboration vs. competition, and equity for women of color in the C-suite. 

Nelson is a national columnist for several major outlets, including The Washington Post, Politico Magazine, USA TODAY and CNN OPINION. She can be seen regularly on CNN, as a legal and political analyst, as well as other national outlets like “Morning Joe,” “The Today Show,” and “PBS NewsHour.” 

Nelson has served as an adjunct professor of Philosophy and Religion in Virginia and as a scholar, lecturer, and panelist at elite Ivy League schools such as Harvard and JFK School of Government, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities such as Grambling University, Hampton University, Philander Smith College and Southern University. 

She has helped medical students at Louisiana State University Health Shreveport Medical School and conducted campus leadership building at Butler University and DePauw University, to name a few. Nelson is a Pulitzer prize-nominated author in letters, and she is a Member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.  

In addition, Nelson is a retired Attorney admitted to the prestigious bar of the United States Supreme Court, among other U.S. District Courts. She is a former, historic first, black female Investigative Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Majority staff for the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight in 1997; a former senior lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and a former senior counsel with the international law firm of Holland & Knight, LLP.

Nelson received her juris doctorate degree from American University Washington College of Law in 1994 and her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from San Diego State University in 1990. Nelson is the author of four nonfiction books: “Black Woman Redefined,” “The Woman Code,” “ePluribus One” and her newest release, “Be the One You Need: 21 Life Lessons I Learned While Taking Care of Everyone But Me” (June 2022).

The Varner Vitality Lecture Series is named in honor of Oakland’s first chancellor, Durward “Woody” Varner. The series aims to energize and sustain the highest academic and scholarly aspirations of the university community. This year's event is sponsored by the Office of the Provost, in conjunction with the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine (OUWB).

Along with the Varner Vitality Lecture, Nelson will be on campus for a weeklong residency of lectures, dialogues and group discussions to provide a platform for students, faculty, staff and the public to share their thoughts on leadership, health equity, diversity, empowerment and the creation of an inclusive and supportive environment.  

Another highlight of the week will see Nelson moderate a discussion on Thursday, April 4 at 6 p.m. titled “How Do We Care for Our Health and Wellness in a Changing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Environment.” This event is open and free of charge for everyone.

See Nelson’s full schedule of events.

Chamber Trustees