Upcoming Guest Speakers


Justice Maria Araujo Kahn was born in Angola, Africa. She emigrated to the United States at ten years of age and is fluent in Portuguese and Spanish. She graduated from New York University cum laude with a B.A. in politics in 1986 and earned her Juris Doctor from Fordham University School of Law in 1989. Justice Kahn was the first recipient of the Noreen E. McNamara Scholarship at Fordham University School of Law. Following law school, she served as law clerk to the Honorable Peter C. Dorsey, U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Connecticut. She is a member of the United States Supreme Court, United States Federal District Court for the District of Connecticut, United States Court of Appeals Second Circuit, and the Connecticut and New York State Bars. 

Governor Dannel P. Malloy nominated Justice Kahn to the Supreme Court on October 4, 2017 and she was sworn in on November 1, 2017. Prior to this appointment, Justice Kahn served as a judge of the Appellate Court and as a judge of the Superior Court, where she primarily heard criminal matters. 

Before becoming a judge, Justice Kahn was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in New Haven. As a federal prosecutor, Justice Kahn was responsible for complex white collar investigations and prosecutions, both civil and criminal, in the areas of health care fraud, bank fraud, bankruptcy fraud and trade secrets. 

Justice Kahn has been honored on several occasions with awards including: the Department of Justice Special Achievement Awards in 1998 to 2006, and the Department of Health and Human Services, OIG, Integrity Awards. On November 3, 2017, the Portuguese Bar Association presented Justice Kahn with the “Americo Ventura Lifetime Achievement Award.” 

Justice Kahn is co-chair of the Judicial Branch’s Access to Justice Commission and the Limited English Proficiency Committee. She was also a member of the Judges’ Education Committee and has taught several courses at the Connecticut Judges’ Institute. Justice Kahn is a James W. Cooper Fellow with the Connecticut Bar Foundation. 


Richard Sugarman, President Richard Sugarman has a varied background including nonprofit leadership, corporate management, investment management, and extensive community engagement work. Richard is the President of Hartford Promise, a new large scale College Scholarship Fund and College Success Program. Prior to this he has been the Founding President of The Connecticut Forum for 23 years, an award winning non-profit organization that brings nationally renowned panelists to Hartford four times a year to discuss a variety of timely and important topics for audiences of 2800. Richard has served on many Boards including: CT Center for School Change, Conn CAN, The Learning Corridor, Police Athletic League, and Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. He has advised and consulted with many organizations including: Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, Melville Charitable Trust, Annie E. Casey Foundation, CT Mirror, Travelers, The Village for Families and Children, Partnership for Strong Communities, Children’s Trust Fund, CT Fair Housing Center, and Hartford Public Schools. He has received numerous awards including:

  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Hartford Business Journal

  • The Tapestry Award, from The Hartford Courant, in recognition for bringing diverse communities together

  • Community Leader of the Year, from Leadership Greater Hartford

  • The Renaissance Award for Education, from the Hartford Downtown Council

He and his wife Doris live in West Hartford, CT, have three sons, Skip, Jesse, and Scott….and they are all Buckeye fans.


Leslie Mayes is a reporter for NBC Connecticut. You can see her reports weeknights on the News at 11. Leslie joined NBC Connecticut in 2015 from Charlotte, North Carolina where she was a morning reporter at News 14 Carolina. Prior to her time in the south, Leslie covered national politics as the Washington Bureau producer for the Time Warner Cable News channels in New York, North Carolina, and Texas. During her time in Washington, D.C., Leslie covered both of President Barack Obama’s inaugurations and several State of the Union addresses.

Leslie began her career in TV behind the camera as a news assistant and photographer in New York City for NY1 News. While there, she traveled across the country on the campaign trail, where she followed the Hillary Clinton and Obama campaigns during the 2008 election cycle. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Leslie credits her roots in the nation’s capital for her early love of news and current events, particularly national politics. She earned a degree in Government from St. John’s University in New York City.

Leslie is an active member of the National Association of Black Journalists, enjoys working with children from under-served communities and telling stories that might often go unnoticed. When she’s not chasing Connecticut’s latest news, you can usually find her researching for her next international adventure or looking for a new local restaurant to enjoy a good meal.


Jeremy Pressman, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Political Science, and Director of Middle East Studies, joined the University of Connecticut in 2003. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from MIT (2002) and his BA from Brandeis University.

Pressman has written two books, Warring Friends: Alliance Restraint in International Politics (Cornell University Press, 2008) and Point of No Return: The Deadly Struggle for Middle East Peace, with Geoffrey Kemp (Brookings Institution Press, 1997). Pressman is currently writing a third book, tentatively titled The Sword is Not Enough: Arabs, Israelis, and the Limits of Military Force. As Director of Middle East Studies at the University of Connecticut, he advises students in the Middle East Studies Minor and manages Mideast scholarly programming on campus. He is also co-director, with Prof. Erica Chenoweth, of the Crowd Counting Consortium


Abigail E. Adams, Ph.D., is a sociocultural anthropologist, professor at Central Connecticut State University and former journalist. She did her doctoral work at the University of Virginia, researching the role of U.S. and Maya evangelical Christians during Guatemala’s 36-years of civil war and counterinsurgency. She earned her master’s degree in Latin American Studies from Stanford University and undergraduate degree from Haverford College in biology and anthropology. She has worked in Guatemala since studying Spanish there as an undergraduate in the first of the years of acute genocidal violence. She continues research on Maya cultural revitalization (including spirit possession), U.S.-Central American relations and post-violence civic culture, including ethno historical research on Guatemala’s 1944-1954 decade of progressive democracy, indigenismo, Antonio Goubaud Carrera and the subsequent 1954 CIA-sponsored coup d’etat.

Among other publications, she co-edited the 2013 book with Katherine Borland, International Volunteer Tourism: Critical Reflection on Good Works in Central America (Palgrave MacMillan Publications). In 2011, she published the co-edited book, with Timothy Smith, After the Coup: An Ethnographic Reframing of Guatemala 1954 (Urbana, Ill: University of Illinois Press).

She is opening new research on the gendering of environmental sustainability, and food security. She enjoys a degree of fluency in English, Spanish, and (with two weeks’ re-immersion) Q’eqchi’ Maya, as well as reading French and Portuguese.

Dr. Adams is active with the Guatemala Scholars Network (GSN), including as a member of its steering committee. She served on the Executive Committee of the Friends Assocaition for Higher Education (FAHE) from 2007 to 2013, and remains involved on its annual programming committee.


Michael Shelby is President and CEO of Shall Be LLC. He is an EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Computer Hacking Forensics Investigator and a Licensed Penetration Tester. Michael has been involved in all aspects of Information Technology since 1981.

He is frequently featured on NBC, CNN and MSNBC – providing timely coverage of various technology and security-related issues. Michael has taught and lectured in Asia, Russia and North America. He is a dynamic speaker in high demand.

See Michael on the Today Show February 2008 | November 2008


Saquib Lakhani, MD, clinical director of Yale Medicine’s Pediatric Genomics Discovery Program (PGDP), specializes in caring for newborns and infants with undiagnosed birth defects. As a pediatrician, Dr. Lakhani treats young patients in critical condition and those with chronic health problems. In his role at the PGDP, Dr. Lakhani works with genetic researchers to understand and interpret the results of patients’ genetic sequencing tests. “The intellectual aspect of my job is incredible,” he says. “I’m constantly exploring, learning, and facing new challenges.” The improvements in genetic sequencing technology allow the team at PGDP to help families answer a haunting question: Why did this happen to my child?

Dr. Lakhani recalls helping a family whose first child was born with heterotaxy, a rare birth defect in which the heart, stomach, intestines, and other organs are located in abnormal places. While mutated genes are suspected to cause heterotaxy, the family did not know which gene might be responsible in their particular case. After sequencing the genome of the parents and child, he discovered a possible culprit. “If the parents want to have another child, then we could, through in vitro fertilization, possibly choose eggs from the mother and sperm from the father without this mutation,” Dr. Lakhani says. 

In addition to his work in genetics, Dr. Lakhani is also very interested in exploring new ways to utilize good nutrition as a tool for improving health in children with chronic illnesses, such as asthma. He is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine.