LAD23 KEYNOTE &
First Chief, United Nations Academic Impact
Ramu Damodaran joined the United Nations Department of Global Communications in 1996; his responsibilities in the Department have included oversight of relationships with civil society, the creative community and celebrity advocates, publications (including as Chief Editor of the UN Chronicle), the Dag Hammarskjöld Library and the United Nations Academic Impact which he was asked by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to devise and lead. He has also been secretary of the United Nations General Assembly’s Committee on Information since 2011. He completed his career with the United Nations in May 2021.
Dr. Sydnee Dickson, Ed.D.
Utah State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Dr. Sydnee Dickson has been serving the children of Utah as a proud educator for the past 41 years. She joined the Utah State Office of Education in 2007 and was named as State Superintendent of Public Instruction on June 23, 2016. Prior to joining the Utah State Office of Education, Sydnee served in Utah public schools in roles including teaching, school counseling, school and district administration.
Superintendent Dickson began her education in a two-room schoolhouse in rural Utah and went on to earn two master’s degrees in School Counseling and School Administration as well as a doctorate in Education Leadership and Policy at the University of Utah.
Dr. Dickson is a frequent participant on state and national committees, task forces, and boards, including currently serving on the Board of Trustees for the Council of Chief State School Officers and West Ed Board of Directors. Her professional expertise is grounded in engaging community partners, providing educators with evidence-based professional learning, and developing student centered school leadership. Sydnee is passionate about developing education ecosystems of support to ensure all students are able to succeed and lead.
Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.
Cherokee Nation Principal
Chuck Hoskin Jr. serves as the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, the largest tribe in the United States with more than 440,000 citizens. Prior to being elected in 2019, he was Cherokee Nation’s Secretary of State and also served as a member of the Council of the Cherokee Nation. As Principal Chief, he increased minimum wage at Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses and secured the largest language investment in the tribe's history to expand Cherokee cultural preservation. He appointed the tribe's first delegate to the U.S. Congress. He prioritized health and wellness initiatives, including record investments in behavioral health and addiction treatment. Chief Hoskin has also expanded tribal workforce training programs, sustainable housing, protections for natural resources, and educational opportunities for Cherokees of all ages. He, along with First Lady January Hoskin, has elevated the voices of women and children, and their safety, within the Cherokee Nation Reservation.
U.S. Representative Mary Peltola
First Alaska Native to Serve in Congress
First Woman to Serve Alaska's House Seat
Rep. Mary Sattler Peltola was born in Alaska and raised on the Kuskokwim River in Kwethluk, Tuntutuliak, Platinum, and Bethel. She was just six years old when she began fishing commercially with her father.
At age 24 years old she won her first state election and represented the Bethel region in the Alaska State Legislature.
During her ten years in office she built consensus around budgets that improved lives in rural Alaska. Since then she has worked as Manager of Community Development and Sustainability for the Donlin gold mine project. More recently, she was Executive Director of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. She helped mobilize 118 Tribes and rural Alaskans to advocate for the protection of salmon runs in Western Alaska.
Rep. Peltola also served on the Orutsararmiut Native Council Tribal Court and the Bethel City Council, and on the boards of the Nature Conservancy, the Alaska Humanities Forum, the Alaska Children’s Trust, and the Russian Orthodox Sacred Sites in Alaska.
Assistant Secretary Roberto Rodriguez
Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Education
Roberto J. Rodríguez currently serves as Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Education, where he leads the development and review of the Department’s budget and advises the Secretary on all matters related to policy development, implementation, and review. Roberto’s distinguished career in public service includes senior government roles in the White House, as Deputy Assistant for Education to President Barack Obama, and in the U.S. Senate, as Chief Counsel to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
Most recently, Rodríguez served as President and CEO of Teach Plus where he built an equity-driven teacher leadership movement that engaged thousands of teachers to shape public policy and instructional practice to deliver greater opportunity for students.
A Michigan native, Rodríguez holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor and a Master of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
U.S. Senator Brian Schatz
Chair of Senate Indian Affairs Committee
America's Languages Caucus Senate Co-Chair
Since joining the Senate, he has focused his work on helping workers, veterans, and families and has led key legislation on health care, climate change, and technology.
Senator Schatz chairs the Indian Affairs Committee, and serves on the Appropriations Committee; the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee; the Foreign Relations Committee; and the Select Committee on Ethics. He also serves on the Senate Democratic Caucus's leadership team as Deputy Conference Secretary and Chief Deputy Whip.
Prior to his service in Congress, Senator Schatz was Hawai‘i’s Lieutenant Governor and served for eight years in the Hawai‘i State House of Representatives.
Senator Schatz grew up in Honolulu, and received his bachelor’s degree from Pomona College. He is married to Linda Schatz, an architect. They have a son and a daughter.