Comedian, writer Rick Najera presents at Sept. 26-27 World Affairs Conference

World Affairs Conference Poster 2

UNK Communications

KEARNEY – Writer and guest star of Hulu’s Emmy-nominated original series East Los High, Rick Najera, will speak at the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s World Affairs Conference.

Experts from across the world will discuss migration at the James E. Smith Midwest Conference on World Affairs Sept. 26-27 in the Nebraskan Student Union Ponderosa Room.

Speakers representing Germany, Netherlands, Mexico, India, Pakistan, Slovenia, Cameroon, Fiji, Dominican Republic, Antigua, United States and Europe are among those presenting at the conference, which is free and open to the public.

“Migration, Borders and Identity: Building Bridges or Walls” is the theme for this year’s event.

“This conference truly brings the world to Kearney. We have speakers and sessions you’d usually find only in a world capitol like Washington, D.C., or Brussels,” said Michael Stopford, assistant vice chancellor for International Affairs. “It’s a unique opportunity for our UNK students and the wider community to engage on global themes.”

Rick Najera
Rick Najera

At 7:30 p.m. Sept. 26, comedian and speaker Najera will present “Growing Up in the Shadow of the Border.”

The conference also features writer and photojournalist David Bacon, who will present “Justice for Migrants and All Working People” at 9:10 a.m. Sept. 26 in the student union Ponderosa room.

Najera is a comedian and nationally-acclaimed speaker, award-winning screenwriter, performer, director and author. He also directs the CBS “Diversity Sketch Comedy Showcase.”

“Rick Najera’s entire career has been built around bridges and borders. He is a phenomenal multi-media representation of someone who lives on the proverbial hyphen between Mexican-American,” said Michelle Warren, professor of modern languages.

“Najera advocates for greater Latino representation in the media and politics, and encourages others to take the pen into their own hand, so to speak, and tell their stories. His talk will make us laugh, but also make us think about breaking down barriers and ‘borders’ built of stereotypes and prejudices.”

Najera recently filmed a television pilot, “Color Correct News,” addressing current news and issues. He also developed and hosts the Latino Thought Makers Series for Oxnard College Performing Arts Center, interviewing top industry leaders and community heroes in the industry such as Edward James Olmos and Esai Morales.

As a national speaker, Najera addresses topics such as diversity, entertainment, media, politics and more through comedy. His fourth book, “Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood,” has garnered national attention and critical acclaim. In his memoir, Najera explores what it means to be Latino within the ever-changing backdrop of life as a Hollywood creative.

The world affairs conference began in 1964 to discuss global importance. The name of the conference was changed in 1988 to honor Professor James E. Smith.

James E. Smith World Affairs Conference – Full Agenda
Monday, Sept. 26
9:05 a.m. – Opening remarks by Michael Stopford, assistant vice chancellor for international affairs, Office of International Education. Ponderosa E.
9:10 – 9:55 a.m. – “Justice for Migrants and all Working People.” David Bacon, writer and photojournalist, Berkeley, California. Ponderosa E.
10:10 – 11 a.m. – “Refugee Focus: The Palestinian Diaspora.” Tarek Abuata, director, Friends of Sabeel North America, Portland. Ponderosa A/B.
10:10 – 11 a.m. – “The Impact of the Refugee Crisis in Europe.” Herbert Quelle, consul general German Consulate General, Chicago. Ponderosa E.
11:15 a.m. – 12:05 p.m. – “Getting to Know Our Muslim Neighbors.” Batoul Rabaa, member, Nebraskans for Peace, Omaha; Izdehar Qaud, member, Nebraskans for Peace, Omaha. Ponderosa A/B.
11:15 a.m. – 12:05 p.m. – “Migration and Cultural Conflict: Minority and Majority Rights.” Tom Farer, professor, University of Denver. Ponderosa E.
12:20 – 1:10 p.m. – Take a Delegate to Lunch. Nebraskan Atrium.
Rick-Najera-Almost-White-Book-web1:25 – 2:15 p.m. – “Refugee Stories from Nebraska: A Local Perspective.” Speakers to be announced. Ponderosa A/B.
1:25 – 2:15 p.m. – “The Public Health Dimension: Challenges & Opportunities for Global and U.S. Underserved Communities.” Dr. Amr Soliman, MD, PhD, assistant dean for International Cooperation, professor of Epidemiology, University of Nebraska Medical Center. Ponderosa E.
2:30 – 3:20 p.m. – “Climate Change and Migration: An Existential Threat.” Solo Mara, ambassador, Embassy of Fiji, Washington, D.C. Ponderosa A/B.
2:30 – 3:20 p.m. – “Abuse, Trafficking and Violence: The Gender Impact.” Hanny Megally, senior fellow, Center on International Cooperation, New York University. Ponderosa E.
3:35- 4:25 p.m. – “Church and Community Outreach: Goals, Hopes and Questions.” A Roundtable Discussion. Ponderosa A/B.
7:30 p.m. – “Growing up in the Shadow of the Border.” Rick Najera, comedian, speaker, screenwriter, actor, director, author, Los Angeles. Ponderosa E.

Tuesday, Sept. 27
9:30 – 10:45 a.m. – “A World in Motion.” Guadalupe Sánchez-Salazar, consul, Consulate of Mexico, Omaha; Faisal Niaz Tirmizi, consul general, Consulate of Pakistan, Chicago. Ponderosa A/B.
9:30 – 10:45 a.m. – “Europe and its Migration Challenge: What’s Next?” A presentation and discussion. Antoine Ripoll, director, European Parliamentary Liaison Office to U.S. Congress, Washington, D.C. Ponderosa E.
11 – 11:45 a.m. – “Building Bridges AND Walls: The Power of Open Source Design.” Brian M. Kelly, RA, NCARB, associate professor, 2014-16 Killinger Professor of Urban Design, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Ponderosa A/B.
11 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. – “European Perspectives.” Božo Cerar, ambassador. Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia. Washington, D.C. Heleen Bakker, deputy head Political Department, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Washington, D.C. Ponderosa E.
11:50 a.m. – 1:50 p.m. – Documentary “Journey into Europe.” Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, a world-renowned anthropologist, Islamic scholar and filmmaker, explores Islam in Europe and the place of Islam in European history and civilization in this unprecedented film shot across the continent in countries such as Germany, France, the U.K., Spain and Bosnia. Along the way, we hear from some of Europe’s most prominent figures, including presidents and prime ministers, archbishops, chief rabbis, grand muftis, heads of right-wing parties, and every-day Europeans from a variety of backgrounds. Ponderosa A/B.
2 – 3:15 p.m. – “Belonging in a New World: A Home for Refugees.” Christa Yoakum, coordinator, Nebraska is Home, Nebraska Appleseed, Lincoln; Tiffani Luethke, doctoral student, College of Education and Human Sciences, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Ponderosa A/B.
2 – 3:15 p.m. – “The Roots and Results of Migration: Views from Africa.” Marjorie Heier, MD, Medical Director, Missions Clinic, Rufunsa District, Zambia; Athanasius Ako Ayuk, cultural counselor, Embassy of Cameroon, Washington, D.C. Ponderosa E.
3:30 – 4:45 p.m. – “Between Encampment and Integration: Germany’s Response to Europe’s ‘Refugee Crisis.’” Nell Gabiam, Assistant Professor, Department of World Languages and Cultures, Department of Political Science, Iowa State University. Ponderosa A/B.
3:30 – 4:45 p.m. – “Immigration: Crisis or Opportunity? Regional Perspectives.” Ronald Sanders, Ambassador, Embassy of Antigua and Barbuda, Washington, DC; Anupam Ray, consul general, Consulate of India, Houston; Gisselle Castillo-Veremis, consul general, Consulate General of the Dominican Republic, Chicago. Ponderosa E.


Writer: Sara Giboney, 308.865.8529,
Source: Bonnie Payne, 308.746.8939,