Keynote Speakers

Discover the frontiers of resilience at the Pathways to Resilience Conference, where we are proud to present an unparalleled lineup of keynote speakers, each bringing a unique perspective to the resilience narrative. No need to register for a specific keynote or breakout session – guests are invited to attend the presentations that resonate with them the most. 

Dr. Machelle Madsen Thompson

Florida State University College of Social Work

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Machelle Madsen Thompson

Leading the charge is Dr. Machelle Madsen Thompson, a titan in the field of resilience. Known for her groundbreaking work on the Trauma Resilience Scale, Dr. Madsen Thompson is not just a researcher; she is a pioneer, pushing the boundaries of what we understand about resilience. Her insights have shaped the field, offering profound implications for both theory and practice. Attendees will have the rare opportunity to hear firsthand from a luminary whose work continues to inspire and drive forward the science of resilience.

Dr. Machelle Madsen Thompson is a research and teaching faculty member with expertise in trauma, resilience, and child welfare. She is a Licensed Clinical Social worker and Qualified Supervisor for CSW and MFT. She has 12 years of non-accidental trauma intervention experience at Primary Children’s Hospital affiliated with the University of Utah serving the intermountain region. She earned her Ph.D. from FSU from the College of Social Work with an Educational Psychology Statistics & Measurement certification. She became a U.S. Fulbright Scholar in 2018, collaborating with faculty at Hong Kong Polytechnic University and medical & social work professionals at Shanghai Children’s Medical Center. Dr. Madsen Thompson runs trauma resilience intervention, measurement, and outcome research with underserved communities and individuals. She presents nationally and internationally on resilience implementation following severe childhood trauma. She is a lifetime member of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children and a board member of the International Academy of Violence and Abuse.

Father Paul Abernathy

Neighborhood Resilience Project

Keynote Speaker: Father Paul Abernathy

In the realm of putting theory into practice, Father Paul Abernathy stands as a beacon of hope and transformation. As the founding pastor of St. Moses the Black Orthodox Church and CEO of the Neighborhood Resilience Project, Father Abernathy embodies resilience in action. His approach to Trauma-Informed Community Development has catalyzed change in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Hill District, showcasing how resilience can be woven into the fabric of communities to foster healing and growth. Father Abernathy’s journey from U.S. Army veteran to community leader offers a compelling narrative on the power of resilience as a force for social change.

Fr. Paul Abernathy is an African American Orthodox Christian priest and founding pastor of St. Moses the Black Orthodox Church in the Hill District, a predominantly Black neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is the founder and CEO of the Neighborhood Resilience Project, an Orthodox Christian nonprofit focusing on building resilient, healing, and healthy communities through Trauma Informed Community Development. He is a nationally renowned speaker whose work has been featured on NBC, ABC, CBS, BBC, Ard (German) TV, and NPR. Fr. Paul is a U.S. Army Iraq War veteran and holds master’s degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. He and his beloved wife Kristina have two beautiful children.

Lauren Sisler

Sports Broadcaster and Motivational Speaker

Keynote Speaker: Lauren Sisler

Complementing these perspectives is the compelling story of Lauren Sisler, a two-time Emmy-winning sports broadcaster with an extraordinary personal journey. Lauren’s life is a testament to the power of story in developing resilience. Having faced and overcome immense personal tragedy, she has turned her pain into a platform for inspiration, encouraging others to find strength in their stories. Her authentic and impactful storytelling not only resonates with audiences but also serves as a vivid reminder that our stories are the bedrock of our resilience.

Lauren Sisler is a two-time Emmy award-winning sports broadcaster who joined ESPN and SEC Network in 2016 as a sideline reporter for both college football and gymnastics. As a sportscaster and former collegiate gymnast, Lauren is passionate about sports, but even more passionate about telling the stories of the coaches, athletes, and fans who make it more than a game.

Her life was not always defined by victories. In 2003 as a freshman at Rutgers University, tragedy struck her world when she unexpectedly lost both parents within hours of each other to their concealed battle with prescription drug addiction. On her journey through grief, Lauren bravely emerged from the shadows of shame, embraced her story, and found hope again.

“I carried that shame until I finally realized I wouldn’t let the pain I harbored define me, just like it didn’t define my parents.” Lauren realized that embracing her story and making peace with it had the power to heal, and she could inspire others to do the same. Through her authenticity and vivid storytelling, Lauren’s presentations take listeners on an emotional passage that ignites gratitude and a reimagined purpose in their lives.

“Your story is significant. Learn to love it, then do something with it.”

This year’s Pathways to Resilience Conference is set to be an unforgettable convergence of knowledge, experience, and inspiration. Register now for an enriching journey that promises to redefine your understanding of resilience and equip you with the insights to weave it into the tapestry of your life and work.

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