The artist celebrated for her pioneering role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) will be the keynote speaker at Hollins University’s third annual Leading Equity, Diversity and Justice (Leading EDJ) Conference, February 23-24.
Featuring the theme “Barriers and Bridges to Access,” the Leading EDJ Conference will bring together Hollins students, faculty, staff, and alumnae/i for 30 sessions across three time periods.
“Leading EDJ aims to create an intentional and meaningful space for all of us to reflect, learn, and facilitate action toward making Hollins a more equitable and just community,” said Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton. “This event brings together members of our community and prominent local and national figures to learn from one another in various formats, both face-to-face and online.”
Lauren Ridloff will deliver the conference’s keynote address on Friday morning, February 24. A former Miss Deaf America, Ridloff performed on Broadway as Sarah Norman in Children of a Lesser God and in 2018 was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play, the Drama League Award for Distinguished Performance, and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play. She subsequently appeared as Connie on the AMC series The Walking Dead and was honored in 2020 with the SAG-AFTRA Harold Russell Award at the Media Access Awards, which highlight and promote disability and its representation in film, television, and new media. That same year, she was chosen by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts as a 2020 Breakthrough performer.
In 2021, Ridloff was cast in the movie Eternals as Makkari, the MCU’s first deaf superhero. “It felt like it was a lifetime of waiting,” Ridloff shared with Variety after the film’s release. “I didn’t really see anyone like myself ever represented on the screen. It was definitely life changing. And I hope that this has the same impact on different communities, people who have been marginalized or are underrepresented in this industry. From the deaf and hard of hearing community, the response has been very positive. I feel like a lot of people are thrilled just to see a deaf person of color in the movie.”
Guest speaker Dev Cuny ’02 will kick off this year’s event with a special session for students and alumnae/i on Thursday evening, February 23, entitled “Asserting Identity in the Workplace.” Cuny (they/them) is a nonbinary speaker, educator, chaplain, and restorative justice facilitator who works in multiple capacities to support young people at the intersection of oppression, trauma, and mental health.