Skyline of Los Angeles

Change Can't Wait Los Angeles

Thank You, Los Angeles

On March 8, 2022, American University hosted an evening of connection and conversation with President Sylvia M. Burwell for our community of changemakers in Los Angeles to experience Change Can't Wait: The Campaign for American University.

Note: This event was held in accordance with AU COVID-related protocols for university gatherings. Visit our Event Protocols page for more information.

About the Speakers

Learn more about our distinguished guests below.

Deon Jones is a musician and artist with one of the most important voices of his generation. His powerful rendition of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” featuring Academy Award-winning composer Jon Batiste, has been hailed by Rolling Stone Magazine as “transformative” and by the Boston Globe as “a performance with clarifying power.” 

Jones was shot by police in the face with a rubber bullet during the 2020 summer protests. Redirecting this trauma into artistic energy, Jones extended his nearly decade-long collaboration with artist Glenn Kaino into a critically lauded, monumental exhibition at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art titled In The Light of A Shadow. Deon, a Harry S. Truman Scholar and 2022 Ebony Magazine Power 100 Honoree, is an artist that embodies the paradox and opportunity of our time.  

Some of his other notable cultural impactful moments spans from once managing projects at the Oprah Winfrey Network and exhibitions at the High Museum of Art, to associate producing the Emmy-nominated documentary, With Drawn Arms, and developing Webby Award-winning apps with actor Jesse Williams. 

Co-Founder and Associate Director, Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab 
Research Assistant Professor, School of Public Affairs

Brian Hughes is PERIL’s co-founder and associate director and a research assistant professor in the AU School of Public Affairs’ program of Justice, Law, and Criminology. He organizes PERIL’s work on digital media and online subcultures, inoculation messaging, and education. His scholarly research explores the impact of communication technology on political and religious extremism, terrorism, and fringe culture. This work seeks to identify the emotional and material commonalities between extremists of differing ideologies, cultures, times, and places. His writing has appeared in the Journal of Terrorism and Political Violence, Boundary 2, the CTC Sentinel at West Point, the International Journal of Communication, CNN, and Lawfare. 

Assistant Professor in Race, Media and Communication, School of Communication

Dr. Sherri Williams is at the intersection of social media, social justice, reality television, mass media, and how people of color use and are represented by these mediums. Williams is particularly interested in how Black people’s use of social media is changing social justice and the entertainment industry, especially television. Her research explores how social media images of police brutality against Black Americans trigger racial trauma among young Black social media users during their early years; how Black plus-sized influencers navigate fatphobia and misogynoir on social media and how Black scholars use social media to educate the public about racial violence in times of crisis. The Black television audience’s use of social media is the focus of her research now. National media outlets including CNN, USA Today, Smithsonian Magazine, and Vice interviewed Williams for her social media expertise. Williams, who was a newspaper reporter for a decade before entering academia, is passionate about diversifying journalism coverage and its workforce. She led journalism partnerships with The Nation, Teen Vogue, and ELLE in which her students wrote about social justice issues and they got professional development from top editors and bylines from national media outlets. That work led Williams to earn the National Association of Black Journalists Journalism Educator of the Year Award in 2021.  

Dan Schnur is a professor at the University of California – Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Public Policy, and the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communications, where he teaches courses in politics, communications, and leadership. Schnur has also taught at the John F. Kennedy School of Government’s Institute of Politics at Harvard University and George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.

He is the founder of the USC/LA Times statewide political poll and currently hosts a weekly webinar for the LA World Affairs Council Town Hall called “Politics in the Time of Coronavirus.” 

Previously, Schnur worked on four presidential and three gubernatorial campaigns as one of California’s leading political strategists. He served as the national director of communications for the 2000 presidential campaign of US Senator John McCain and was the chief media spokesman for California Governor Pete Wilson. 

In 2010, Schnur was appointed chairman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), where he implemented groundbreaking campaign finance disclosure requirements. Schnur also was a founder and cochairman of the Voices of Reform project, the bipartisan statewide effort whose work laid the foundation for California’s landmark redistricting reform. After completing his FPPC term, Schnur registered as a No Party Preference voter and launched Fixing California, an organization dedicated to campaign finance and political reform. In 2014, Schnur ran for statewide office as a non-partisan candidate for California Secretary of State. 

Schnur has been an advisor to the William & Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Broad Education Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the James Irvine Foundation, the Public Policy Institute of California and the Stuart Foundation on a variety of political reform, K-12 education and college and workforce preparedness efforts. 

Schnur is an active community volunteer as well, serving as a board member of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, Junior State of America, the Pacific Council on International Policy, the Center for Asians United for Self Empowerment (CAUSE) and as a senior advisor to the Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE) leadership training programs. He is the former Los Angeles director for the American Jewish Committee and serves as an advisor to the Los Angeles Jewish Federation. He is a member of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs Senior Fellows program, where he mentors UCLA graduate students and advises them on their academic and professional goals. 

Schnur’s commentaries have appeared in several newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Sacramento Bee, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. In addition, he has been an analyst and political commentator for CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and National Public Radio. 

Schnur is a graduate of the American University in Washington, DC. He and his wife Cecile Ablack, an international communications consultant and former deputy mayor of Los Angeles, live in LA. 

President, American University

Sylvia M. Burwell is American University’s 15th president and the first woman to serve as president. A visionary leader with experience in the public and private sectors, President Burwell brings to American University a commitment to education and research, the ability to manage large and complex organizations, and experience helping to advance solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. 

Burwell has held two cabinet positions in the United States government—serving as the 22nd secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services and as the director of the Office of Management and Budget. Her additional government experience is extensive and includes roles at the Treasury and the National Economic Council. Burwell has also held leadership positions at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walmart Foundation. Her private sector experience includes service on the Board of Directors of MetLife. 

She earned a bachelor’s degree in Government from Harvard University and a BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. 

Read her full biography here.  

Member, University Campaign Committee

Jill Black joined her family’s real estate business, Black Equities, in 2000. She is also a director of the Stanley and Joyce Black Family Foundation. Black continues the family tradition of giving back to those in need and improving the lives of those living in underserved communities. 

She serves on several philanthropic boards including Cedars Sinai Hospital Board of Governors, Children’s Hospital LA Foundation Board of Trustees, the Debbie Allen Dance Academy, the David Lynch Foundation, the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs (2017-2021), Temple of the Arts, and the UCLA Health System Advisory Board. 

Black is also on the Advisory Board of Delos/Well Living, an organization focused on enhancing health and well-being in the spaces where we live. 

Black received her BA in Public Communications in 1983 from American University in Washington, DC.