Virtual SEVEN Speaker Series addresses current challenges

For several weeks this spring, hundreds of Morehead-Cain Alumni and Scholars embraced an opportunity to learn from each other like never before. Seven alumni—representing classes across four decades—took part in the first-ever Virtual SEVEN Alumni Speaker Series.

The idea grew from Morehead-Cains’ desire to hear from and connect with each other in an era of physical distancing. The series began with a talk by novelist Shilpi Somaya Gowda ’92 on April 29 and wrapped up on June 10 with Emma Din ’11. A bonus wrap-up talk with renowned philosopher, author, and speaker Tom Morris ’74 took place on June 17.

Alumni speakers shared advice about starting a writing career, overcoming self-doubt, confronting prejudice, and navigating the uncontrollable. Videos of each talk are below. And if you’d like to continue the conversation with any of these alumni, you can find them here on the Morehead-Cain Network.

Wednesday, April 29, 7:00 p.m.
Shilpi Somaya Gowda ’92, New York Times Bestselling Author

Shilpi offered advice and encouragement about getting started as a writer.

Wednesday, May 6, 7:00 p.m.
Tom Thriveni ’10, Staff Writer for The Late Late Show with James Corden on CBS

Tom talked about overcoming self-doubt.

Wednesday, May 13, 4:00 p.m.
George Hodgin ’09, Former Navy SEAL officer and now an entrepreneur in the global federally compliant cannabis medical research space

George talked about charting a non-traditional path to pursue your passions.

Wednesday, May 20, 4:00 p.m.
Angela Liu ’04, Partner at Dechert LLP, a global specialist law firm

Angela spoke about some of the obstacles she has faced as an Asian American woman on her journey to becoming a partner at a top global law firm.

Given the personal nature of this conversation, in which participants shared stories related to race-based issues, we are not posting Angela’s talk out of respect for the privacy of alumni and scholars.

Wednesday, May 27, 2:00 p.m.
James Ellsmoor ’16, Founder and Director of Island Innovation, a sustainable development and renewable energy consultancy

James provided a mini-workshop on holding awesome virtual events and conferences.

Wednesday, June 3, 4:00 p.m.
Brian Strong ’00, Senior Vice President, Brand Communications, FOX Sports

Brian kicked off a conversation about the “uncontrollable” in life and ideas for creating an action framework to address it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2:00 p.m.
Emma Din ’11, USAID Foreign Service Health Officer, currently in Dakar, Senegal, leading the mobilization of USAID funding for Senegal’s COVID-19 response

Emma reported from the front lines of the international battle against COVID-19.


Wednesday, June 17, 4:00 p.m.
Tom Morris ’74, Philosopher, Author, Novelist, and Renowned Business and Leadership Speaker

Tom Morris—our very own Morehead-Cain philosopher-in-residence—highlighted the top takeaways from our seven alumni talks. Tom facilitated a conversation about how to survive—and even thrive—during uncertain times.



What is a SEVEN Talk?

As early admirers of TED Talks, we adopted a TED-like format for the Sunday-morning session of the 2009 Morehead-Cain Alumni Forum. While the TED Conference originally featured a few dozen people who each had 18 minutes to talk about whatever they’d like, the theme of our 2009 Forum was SEVEN (see below for more about the SEVEN concept), so we asked seven of our alumni to speak for seven minutes each. The SEVEN Talks were such a big hit, we’ve featured them at every Forum since then, and we’re featuring them at the Symposium in October, too.

Our idea for the SEVEN Talks is to invite our alumni speakers to talk about whatever they’d like—what’s new in their industry, an issue they’re working on right now, a life lesson, a cautionary tale—whatever they feel they’d like to share with their fellow Morehead-Cain Alumni. For our current SEVEN series, we’ve asked the speakers to tie their message somehow to the current stay-at-home/pandemic situation we find ourselves in together.


In the fall of 2008, the Morehead-Cain Foundation introduced SEVEN, a program that fosters the network of Morehead-Cain Alumni and Scholars and that honors the memory of one of its dearest members. Here’s the premise. While on campus, every Morehead-Cain Scholar has the opportunity to get to know scholars from seven classes: the three classes that enter before theirs, their own class, and the three classes that enter after theirs. In a larger sense, the idea of SEVEN is to promote the interaction and networking of Morehead-Cains across generations.

No one enjoyed or encouraged this kind of interaction more than Eve Carson ’08. At its heart, SEVEN captures not only Eve's name, but her insatiable enthusiasm for getting to know other members of her larger Morehead-Cain family—and helping them get to know each other.

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