Packnett Cunningham, DeBaun to headline Ervin Scholars anniversary event

Brittany Packnett Cunningham (left) and Morgan DeBaun will give a talk, "Bridging Gaps: Hometown Ervin Scholars Changing the World," during the Ervin Scholars' 35th anniversary celebration.

Ervin Scholars alumnae Brittany Packnett Cunningham and Morgan DeBaun will give a talk, “Bridging Gaps: Hometown Ervin Scholars Changing the World,” as part of the 35th anniversary celebration of the John B. Ervin Scholars Program at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30, in Edison Theatre at Washington University in St. Louis.

In-person and virtual registration for the event, part of the university’s signature Assembly Series, is open to the public.

The John B. Ervin Scholars Program has afforded over 900 diverse Washington University graduates a top-tier education while also developing invaluable skills such as leadership and community service. In addition to receiving scholarships, Ervin Scholars participate in carefully created programming that addresses their broader interests and professional aspirations.

Packnett Cunningham, who earned a bachelor’s degree in African and African American studies from Arts & Sciences in 2006, is vice president of social impact at BET, an NBC News and MSNBC political analyst and host of “Undistracted,” a news and justice podcast. She is also the founder and principal at Love & Power Works, a full-service social impact firm.

DeBaun earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Arts & Sciences in 2012. She is a serial entrepreneur, corporate adviser and founder and CEO of Blavity, a platform for Black millennials. She also founded AfroTech, a network and conference for Black professionals. DeBaun served as Student Union president during her time at WashU.

Rafia Zafar, a professor of English, of African and African American studies and of American culture studies, all in Arts & Sciences, will moderate the discussion. Wilmetta Toliver-Diallo, an assistant dean in Arts & Sciences, and Laura Stephenson, a former assistant director of the Ervin program, will convene the event.

A reception will immediately follow in the Danforth University Center.

The John B. Ervin Scholars Program, the Office of the Provost, the Office of Scholar Programs, the WashU Black Alumni Council and the Power of Arts & Sciences are co-sponsoring the event. 

The 35th anniversary weekend will kick off with a volunteer opportunity Friday, Sept. 30, continue with networking sessions for undergraduate and alumni scholars and a gala celebration Saturday, Oct. 1, and conclude Sunday, Oct. 2, with a discussion with WashU administrators about the Ervin Scholars Program’s present and future.

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