2017 Speaker Bio's
Dr. Lorenza Lockett grew up in impoverished circumstances in a 1950s small town in Oklahoma with nine siblings and parents with less than a high school education. But, thanks to a God that supplies, a mom who wouldn’t quit, a determined spirit to go further and do better, and an opportunity to participate in the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program at Kansas State University, Dr. Lockett persevered and has achieved great success.
Dr. Lockett first thought of going to college while in high school; however, a high school guidance counselor politely informed him that he didn’t need to take college prep courses to be a janitor. In addition to this disheartening news, Dr. Lockett’s parents could not offer him any guidance on the college application process as they nor had any of his family members attained an education beyond high school. Undeterred, Dr. Lockett joined the United States Army where he served from 1974 -1994.
Shortly after retiring from the military, Dr. Lockett started college in 1995 – on the GI Bill, as a non-traditional student at the ripe old age of forty-four at Kansas State. “It was there that I encountered one of the most significant experiences that has impacted my life to date – The Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program. It changed my life. It is here that I gained the inspiration and developed the tools that launched and undergirded me through a Masters of Social Work degree in 2006 (Arizona State University) and a Ph.D. in Family Studies and Human Services in 2015 (Kansas State University) and continued research challenges.”
Dr. Lockett is currently an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Kansas State. As a faculty member, Dr. Lockett uses the motto “People Matter” for all the classes he teaches. In addition to his very busy schedule, Dr. Lockett finds the time to mentor McNair Scholars and serve as a panelist for McNair Scholar seminars on graduate education.
Chris Beggs is the Director of Student Support Services at the University of Central Missouri where he helps mentor students. Chris is a first-generation, low-income student, and a proud GED recipient. He earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Central Missouri. Most importantly, Chris is a husband and father.
Michael Heppler worked in Oklahoma State University’s graduate school from 1997 to 2011. In 2004 he was promoted to Director of McNair Relations as a direct result of his work with McNair Research Scholars across the country. He has traveled throughout the United States speaking to students about successful graduate school application strategies.
He is a nationally recognized speaker on Successful Graduate/Professional School Admission Strategies. The National Society of Black Engineers, Ronald E. McNair Research Scholars, and Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation program are among the list of organizations to which he has presented these strategies.
Mr. Heppler has presented at many regional and national conferences. A few of his prior appearances are the National Society of Black Engineers Region V Conference, the University of Tennessee McNair Scholars Research Conference at the Knoxville, Tennessee, and Heartland McNair Scholars Research Conference in Kansas City, Missouri.
Leticia Gradington is a graduate and former athlete of the University of Kansas. Leticia graduated from KU with a Bachelor in Communications and Bachelors in Political Science with a minor in Law. Between the two degrees, Leticia then joined the United States military and served a 5 year tour of active duty during desert storm as a Communications Specialist under a military intelligence command. After her tour of duty, she worked 6 years as a Legal Specialist with the JAG (Judge Advocate Generals) unit at the State Defense building in Topeka with a total of 11 years of service.
After graduation, Leticia went on to work in corporate America as a senior executive for fortune five hundred companies such as Salle Mae, Sprint, Disney, NCS Pearson and Government solution. She was then recruited by the President of United States via executive order and the Transportation Security Administration to federalize the workforce of all 429 plus airports in the United States after 9/11. While federalizing the airports, Leticia completed a Master’s in Business Administration with a concentration in Human Resource Management from Baker University. Currently, Leticia is an Adjunct Professor at Baker University in the Professional and Graduate studies for nine years. She currently teaches Communication, Human Resource Management and Political Science.
Leticia has been in the financial service for more than 13 years; she is committed to helping people get out of debt quickly and becoming financially independent. She specializes in debt reduction, retirement planning, saving, and investments.
In August 2010, Leticia was recruited by the University of Kansas to fill the position of Program Director to lead and develop KU’s financial literacy program.
The Latino Writers Collective (LWC) is a group of Latino writers living and working in the Kansas City metropolitan area and throughout the Midwest. Through bi-weekly meetings and critiques, the LWC helps hone and polish the work of its members for publication.In addition to creative support, the LWC organizes and coordinates projects for the larger community to showcase national and local Latino writers and provide role models and instruction to Latino youth. The LWC’s mission as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization is to foster an environment where the voices of Latino students, blue collar workers, professionals, and homemakers can be heard, contributing their experience and vision to the larger community.