Distinguished Speaker Series returns to UNCP

PEMBROKE — The Distinguished Speaker Series has returned to The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

The popular series, which brought notable celebrities and prominent lecturers to the campus, ran from 2000 to 2013 and featured the likes of Spike Lee, Dick Vitale, Gabby Douglas, James Earl Jones and Henry Winkler. A record 2,600 people came to hear Maya Angelou speak in 2002.

The 2018-2019 series returns Sept. 27 with American Indian actor and activist Martin Sensmeier as its first guest at Givens Performing Arts Center.

This year’s lineup also features Wes Studi, who is famous for his roles in classics such as “Dances with Wolves” and “The Last of the Mohicans.” Studi will speak on Nov. 19.

Michael Eric Dyson, an award winning author and Georgetown University professor, will speak on Jan. 24, 2019.

Actress Diane Guerrero, best known for her roles on the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” and “Superior Donuts” on CBS, will wrap up the series on April 16, 2019.

Each presentation will begin at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free for UNCP students with valid ID, $5 for faculty and staff, and $10 for the public. Tickets will go on sale Aug. 31 and can be purchased at or by calling the GPAC Box Office at 910-521-6361.

“We are thrilled to welcome the Distinguished Speaker Series back to #BraveNation, with an array of speakers who will resonate with our diverse and energetic campus community,” said Lisa Schaeffer, vice chancellor for Student Affairs.

“We strive to offer accessible involvement opportunities to our students, those who live on campus or commute, which contribute to their overall well-being and campus life experience. This is a wonderful occasion where education is fused with entertainment,” she added.

The return of the speaker series has created a buzz across campus and the community, said Abdul Ghaffar, director of Campus Engagement and Leadership.

“Our Campus Engagement and Leadership team is excited to bring the series back to UNCP,” Ghaffar said. “It was a major program for the university for many years, drawing people to campus from all over the region.

“We look forward to providing our students and community the opportunity to enjoy top speakers who touch on the major topics of the day. We expect our speaker series to be among the very best in the country.”

Sensmeier, a native of Alaska, moved to Los Angeles in 2007 to pursue acting and modeling. He has appeared in “The Magnificent Seven,” alongside Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt, and “Wind River.” Sensmeier also stars in the HBO series “Westworld.” He is set to star in “Jim Thorpe in the Bright Path: The Jim Thorpe Story,” produced by Angelina Jolie.

Studi, a veteran actor, has enjoyed a career in movies spanning nearly 30 years. In his latest role, he plays Chief Yellow Hawk in “Hostiles,” co-starring Christian Bale. A member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, Studi has also appeared in “Street Fighter,” “Heat,” “Mystery Men,” “Avatar,” and the television series “Penny Dreadful.”

Dyson, a public intellectual and best-selling author, is a political analyst for MSNBC and a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times. Winner of two NAACP Image Awards, Dyson holds a doctorate in religion from Princeton and has taught at Brown, Columbia, The University of North Carolina, DePaul University and the University of Pennsylvania.

A Boston native, Guerrero is also known for her role on “Jane the Virgin.” She is the author of “In the Country We Love: My Family Divided,” a memoir about her parents being detained and deported to Colombia when she was 14.


Mark Locklear

Mark Locklear is a Public Communications specialist for UNCP. He can be reached at or by phone at 910-521-6351.