2017 SUNY New Paltz Women's Leadership Summit

2017 SUNY New Paltz Women's Leadership Summit
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School of Fine & Performing Arts

Janus Adams '67

Host and Executive Producer, The Janus Adams Show

Major: Theatre


Emmy Award-winning journalist, historian, and bestselling author of eleven books, Dr. Janus Adams is host ofJanus Adams,” the New Public Radio (NPR) show and podcast.


As NPR’s first National Arts Correspondent, she opened the New York News Bureau, covering stories from the funeral of legendary performer and human rights activist, Paul Robeson, and the landmark Andrew Wyeth exhibit at the Met, to Buckminster Fuller’s “geodesic dome,” and Native Canadian-American Inuit art.


A news commentator and pioneer of issue-oriented African American and women’s programming, she has hosted her own radio and television talk shows for more than ten years. Her series, “Milestones in African-American Business History,” ran on public radio's Marketplace. For her World of Women’s 100th show, she interviewed Helen Gahagan Douglas—California's first elected Democratic congresswoman—made infamous as the "Pink Lady" by Richard Nixon's red-baiting smear.


A frequent on-air guest, she has appeared on ABC, BET, CBS, CNN, FoxNews, NBC’s Today Show, and WLIB. Her 2016 political debate for the Comedy Cellar featuring Ann Coulter, Sally Kohn, Kathleen Parker and Carol Swain can be seen on CSPAN.org.


With more than 500 articles, essays and columns to her credit, her work has been featured in Essence and Ms. Magazines, The New York Times, Newsday, USA Today and The Washington Post. Her syndicated column ran in Hearst Newspapers for sixteen years. She currently contributes commentary to CBS News and The Huffington Post.


A dynamic speaker, Janus lectures widely on topics rooted in business, social justice, women’s rights and her signature theme: History, Heritage, Hope and Home.™


Building on her success as an author and historian, McDonald’s® licensed her book “Glory Days: 365 Inspired Moments in African-American History” for its Black History Month campaigns. McDonald’s Presents Glory Dayshas reached more than 3.1 million readers.


Janus continues to inspire new audiences with the soaring message of “Glory Days” by performing “Glory Days-in-Concert” with church and college choirs nationwide. Sponsored by Warner Music Group in cooperation with Grammy Award-winning producer Gail Hamilton, “Glory Days-in-Concert” premiered on Nashville’s Music Square with actors Phylicia Rashad, Hattie Winston and Joel Kibble of Take Six.


Janus has been engaged by history and culture since childhood. A northern school desegregation pioneer at eight, she was one of four children selected to break New York’s de facto segregated school bar in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. A classically-trained pianist, she is a graduate New York’s famed High School of Performing Arts, now known as Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School. Her master’s degree is the nation’s first graduate degree in black studies. Her doctoral chair was author/composer Shirley Graham DuBois—widow of NAACP cofounder and “Father of Pan-Africanism,” Dr. W.E.B. DuBois. She holds a Doctor of Humane Letters from Shaw University.


Founding board member of AmistadAmerica (historic replica schooner) and founding member of the Women’s Media Center Advisory Board, Janus volunteers as a mentor and editor for the OpEd Project, which heightens under-represented voices in the public debate.


As a parent of twin daughters with husband, percussionist-composer, Max Roach, Janus founded BackPax—publisher and producer of children’s media—when negative images of race and gender began to taint the lives of her children and their friends. Engaging adventurous young minds™ in history and culture through travel and adventure, BackPax—the first black-owned company featured by the Children’s Book-of-the-Month Club—has been awarded the Parent’s Choice “Gold Seal” Award, lauded a “Best of the Best” by the American Library Association, and is considered “100 Best Products Ever!” by curriculum specialists.

As founder of BackPax and Harambee—the first national book club for African American literature and culture—she has changed the publishing landscape for authors and audiences as a “first” in education, business and broadcasting, Janus has committed her life to human rights and social justice.


Madison Berry '08

Art Teacher, Whittier Elementary School

Major: Visual Arts Education

Madison Berry is a visual artist and art teacher. Madison has dedicated her life to the process of creating art and teaching others the benefits of expression. She graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a Bachelor of Science degree in arts education. She went on to receive her master’s in arts and cultural management from Pratt Institute in 2012.

Madison is in her fourth year as an art teacher at Whittier Elementary School in Teaneck, NJ, teaching students to explore their creativity and building knowledge through experience. She is also a ceramic instructor at Madison Mud Clay Studio in Madison, NJ. Madison's artistic inspiration comes from the beauty and whimsy of life. She has a background in painting and printmaking and has recently expanded into ceramics and beaded embroidery. She currently lives and works in New Jersey.


Susan Brennan '88

Poet, Writer, Actress, and Producer

Major: Theatre


Susan Brennan is a poet, screen writer, and activist. Her poems can be found in the upcoming chapbook, Blue Sirens (Dancing Girl Press), numinous, (Finishing Line Press), and Drunken Oasis, (Rattapallax Press). She curated poetry programming at Wilco’s Solid Sound Music Festival at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, and is staging her poem about Georges Seurat’s last days with a circus arts company. She has written film scripts, a one million hit, plus award winning web-series and pitched film stories, premiering at Venice and Tribeca Film Festivals. See what she’s up to at www.tinycubesofice.com.

Susan studied acting and theatre arts at her beloved alma mater, SUNY New Paltz. She enjoyed lighting design and shop work, as well as performing with a local improv troupe and appearing in departmental main stage and student productions. She supported herself by working at various local businesses, from Bacchus to refinishing and delivering furniture. Her passion to connect with nature deepened, taking long hikes in the Gunks and swimming at Split Rock.


Haden Minifie '12

Co-Founder, Sing Out! International

Major: Music Therapy


Haden Minifie, MS, MT-BC, is a board-certified music therapist with a master's degree in music therapy from SUNY New Paltz. She is the co-founder of a nonprofit organization called Sing Out! International, a music therapy organization which serves communities worldwide that have been affected by trauma. Haden recently returned from Uganda where she co-led Sing Out! International's first program at Hope North, a school and vocational center for former child soldiers, abductees and orphans of Uganda's civil war. Haden also co-trained the teachers at the school to continue the program and adapt it to fit the needs of the students. 


Haden is living in India for six months to assist in a research study using music therapy to help women scheduled for breast cancer surgery. She plans to do more work with Sing Out!


Helaine Posner

Chief Curator, Neuberger Museum of Art

Major: Art History *


Helaine Posner is the chief curator at the Neuberger Museum of Art at SUNY Purchase.  Her exhibitions at the Neuberger Museum include Louise Fishman: A Retrospective (2016), Robin Rhode: Animating the Everyday (2014), Dana Schutz: If the Face Had Wheels (2011), and Tania Bruguera: On the Political Imaginary (2010), each accompanied by a monographic catalogue. From 1991-1998, she was curator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Mass., where she curated such exhibitions as Mirror Images: Women, Surrealism, and Self-Representation (1998); Glenn Ligon: Skin Tight (1995); and Leon Golub and Nancy Spero: War and Memory (1994); among other projects. Previously, she was the director of the University Gallery, University of Massachusetts Amherst.


Helaine is the author of a monograph on the artist Kiki Smith (Monacelli, 2005) and was the United States co-commissioner for the 48th Venice Biennale where she organized Ann Hamilton: Myein. She is the co-author of the award winning book After the Revolution: Women Who Transformed Contemporary Art and of The Reckoning: Women Artists of the New Millennium (Prestel, 2007 and 2013). She was curator of a mid-career survey of the work of Lorna Simpson which traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Miami Art Museum; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2006-7). Helaine is the recipient of three International Association of Art Critics (AICA) Awards. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in art history at Georgetown University and a Master of Arts degree from George Washington University, both in Washington, D.C.



*Non-SUNY New Paltz alumna


Iza Trapani '81

Author and Illustrator for Children’s Books

Major: Contract


Iza Trapani immigrated to America from Poland when she was seven years old. Upon arrival, her relatives gave her a Mother Goose collection. Little did she know, as she was learning English through the rhymes, that someday she would be retelling them in picture books. Iza is the author and illustrator of a best-selling series of nursery rhyme extensions, in which she starts with the traditional verses, then adds new stanzas to create a story. Among her titles are “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” (which was featured on PBS Storytime), “Row Row Row Your Boat,” “Froggie Went A-Courtin’,” “The Bear Went Over the Mountain” and many more. 


Her books have received the International Reading Association’s and Children’s Book Council’s Children’s Choice Awards, Bank Street Best Books of the Year, the American Booksellers Association Pick of the Lists and the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Book Awards. Most importantly, her books are widely used in schools and libraries to help children learn to read. Iza’s 25th book, “Gabe and Goon” was released in July 2016, and she is currently at work on two more picture books for 2017 and 2019 publication.