Breakout Sessions

The 4th Annual 2019 Uplifting Black Men Conference will feature breakout sessions on a number of topics that are essential pieces to Black male success. These sessions will be facilitated by a combination of Virginia Tech faculty, staff, alumni, students, and community members. Learn more about our presenters and their sessions below.

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Dr. Justin Grimes

Session Topic: The History of the Jordan Brand

Dr. Justin Grimes, from Little Rock, Arkansas, is the Assistant Director for the Office of Recruitment, Diversity, and Inclusion (known as ORDI).  Dr. Grimes is the husband of Dr. Tameka Grimes, an assistant professor in the Counselor Education. Dr. Grimes holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems, Minor in African American Studies, and Master’s degree in Workforce Development Education with an Emphasis on Human Resource Education, all from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He also holds a Ph.D. in Counseling and Student Personnel Services from the University of Georgia. Dr. Grimes is passionate about the issues of marginalization among graduate students, mentorship opportunities for staff members and students of color, and motivation. 

His session connects the history of the Jordan Brand to goal setting and success.

Dr. Dwayne Pinkney

Session Title: Black Male Leadership

Dwayne Pinkney is the senior vice president for operations and administration at Virginia Tech. He is responsible for the leadership and coordination of Virginia Tech’s business and administrative operations, manages the financial and operational resources necessary to support Virginia Tech’s current and developing initiatives and vision. Dr. Pinkney received his Ph.D. in political science at UNC-Chapel Hill and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Pittsburgh. He has a bachelor’s degree in English and journalism from North Carolina A&T State University. Dr. Pinkney is joined at Virginia Tech by his wife, Sandra Pinkney, a senior executive in the pharmaceutical industry and UNC Chapel Hill alumna, and they have two sons.

His session will focus on how to leverage your skills and abilities in being an effective leader.


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Karneshia Wolfe

Session Title: Money Moves

Karneisha Wolfe is a first-year accounting PhD student at Virginia Tech. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Human Resource Management from the University of South Carolina and her Master of Science in Accountancy from Wake Forest University. Prior to becoming a PhD student, she worked as a Controller at a logistics company and Auditor at a public accounting firm. She is a Certified Public Accountant in the state of North Carolina. Karneisha is a native of Charleston, South Carolina.

Her session focuses on making beneficial financial decisions.

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Dr. Walter Lee

Session Title: Black Men in STEM Panel, Facilitator

Dr. Walter Lee is an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, where he also serves as Assistant Director for Research in the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity. Dr Lee received his Ph.D. in Engineering Education and his M.S. in Industrial System Engineering from Virginia Tech; and his B.S. in Industrial Engineering from Clemson University.

Dr. Lee will serve as the panel facilitator. This panel will feature Black men in various areas of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and at different points of their respective careers. The purpose of this panel is to dive into the lived experiences of the panelist, focusing on their past, present, and futures.

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Jabari Byrd

Jabari Byrd is an industrial hemp researcher here in Virginia. He is from the inner city of Richmond, VA. He started working with hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) in 2016 with his advisor Dr. John Fike following completing his degree in Biochemistry. He is the first African American male to with an advance degree in the cannabis field. As a M.A.O.P. and George Washington Carver scholar, Mr. Byrd learned how to grow and process industrial hemp for fiber, seed oil, and medicinal purposes. Mr. Byrd is an advocate of hemp as he has witnessed people have relief from issues such as chronic pain, childhood epilepsy, and overall discomfort to a variety of health conditions. Mr. Byrd currently serves as a cannabis consultant helping bring farms back to life through CBD production. He is also co-owner of Rise and Shine Botanicals that sells a variety of herbal and CBD-based products.

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Larhonda Johnson

Session Title: It All Begins and Ends with Me… Ally, Advocate, Nurturer!

In a lot of the conversations surrounding diversity we tend to take an “us against them” approach. We Are the Village, explores allyship and advocacy through the lense of the African proverb “It Takes a Village to Raise a child” because many have asked what I, as a person in the ethnic and/or gender majority, can do to help minority males.  Allyship is honed over time.  It is an active, consistent, and arduous practice of unlearning and re-evaluating, in which a person in the position of privilege and power seeks to operate in solidarity with a marginalized group. This interactive session we explore concepts like getting comfortable with discomfort and knowing that allyship is not a one-size-fits-all model, but rather a framework to apply to your own communities and circle of influence.


PJ Haynie III

Session Title: Black Men In STEM Panel, Panelist

Philip J. Haynie, III, more commonly known as P.J., graduated from Northumberland High School, Heathsville, Va., in June 1995. While in high school, Haynie served as vice

president of his Future Farmers of America chapter and actively worked on his family farm in Reedville, Va. Haynie graduated from Virginia Tech with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural and Applied Economics in May 1999. While attending Virginia Tech, he served as president of the Virginia Tech MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture Natural Resources and Related Sciences) chapter. During his senior year at Virginia Tech, Haynie was initiated into Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated.

After graduating from Virginia Tech, he chose to pursue his childhood dream and continue the family tradition of farming. Haynie, a fifth-generation farmer, currently owns and operates Haynie Farms, LLC, a grain farming business, producing corn, wheat, soybeans and canola throughout all four counties of the Northern Neck of Virginia. Haynie and his family also own and operate a transportation company specializing in food grade liquid bulk and dry bulk transportation, a timber harvesting company as well as a landscaping & excavating company. Haynie currently serves as Chairman of the National Black Growers’ Council.

Haynie and his wife, Lisa, reside in Reedville, Va., with their three children, Colette, age 16; Philip, IV, age 15; and Trevor, age 10.

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Kojo Akrong

Session Title: Black Men in STEM Panel, Panelist

Kojo S. Akrong is a freshman from Richmond, Virginia. He is currently a general engineering student but plans to transfer to Electrical Engineering, he is also pursuing a minor in Business Leadership. He is involved with multiple organizations here at Virginia Tech including Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences, National Society of Black Engineers, Galileo Living Learning Community and others. His major goal is to develop power systems for less fortunate communities around the globe. 

Christopher Rosser

Session Title: Black Men in STEM Panel, Panelist

Christopher Rosser is a sophomore at Virginia Tech studying Chemistry. He is currently on the pre-med track with aspirations to study pathology in the future.

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Andrae Hash

Session Title: Building Power, Changing Lives: Community Organizing Workshop

Andrae Hash serves as a community organizer with Virginia Organizing in in the New River Valley. A native of Southwest Virginia and lifelong Virginia resident, Andrae has deep interests in grassroots organizing in his community.

He received a Bachelor of Science degree in communication studies from James Madison University a Master of Arts degree in communication from Virginia Tech. His communication studies focused on community engagement, political involvement, and civic efficacy. This academic experience provided Andrae with perspective on community capacity building and grassroots social change.

Before community organizing, Andrae served as an AmeriCorps VISTA through the Virginia Tech VISTA network in a project aimed at increasing higher education opportunities and accessibility to low-income students in the New River Valley. He became familiar with Virginia Organizing as a result of his thesis research and interest in statewide organizations that build power locally.

Today, he lives with his wife and newborn son in Christiansburg. Andrae and his wife are active in different community organizations and they volunteer at their local church.

In this participatory workshop, participants will learn about the fundamentals of direct action organizing. We will discuss power, strategy, and develop action plans for dismantling racism on issues important to our communities. This workshop is for anyone interested in developing community organizing skills in order to create grassroots social change.


Danielle Jeffers

Session Title: How to Graduate College Debt Free

Danielle Jeffers is a student, entrepreneur,and thought leader. She is a native of Danville, VA, known for her high-energy,passionate speaking style, and love of learning. In the Spring of 2019, she will graduate with her Bachelor of Arts inMultimedia Journalism from Virginia Tech with a minor in entrepreneurship. After graduation, she will relocate to Northern Virginia to continue to develop her first company, Dough 4 Degrees, LLC and other business ventures. On January 14, 2016, Danielle founded Dough 4 Degrees, LLC. Dough 4 Degrees is a scholarship coaching company that teaches students how to earn scholarships to graduate debt-free. To date, Dough 4 Degrees has helped more than 50 students and their families earn over $160,000 in scholarships. She established the company after earning over $100,000 in scholarships during her senior year of high school.

In addition to Dough 4 Degrees, she is also the founder of Danielle Jeffers Enterprises, LLC and co-founder of Elite Entrepreneurs Inc. Danielle Jeffers Enterprises is her personal brand where she publishes books, speaks, and creates content. Elite Entrepreneurs Inc. is a training platform that teaches entrepreneurs from all backgrounds how to be elite to increase their bottom line and impact.

Danielle attributes all of her success and development to God, her family, and loving community. Connect with Danielle on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook at @djeffers. Learn more about her at and


Abraham Billy Hardee III DO/ PhD, ABOFP

Session Title: Owning Your Health Care: That’s Music to My Ears

Dr. Hardee D.O/ PhD received his B.S in Science of Food Nutrition with a minor in Chemistry from Virginia Tech in 2002. He was a member of our very own VT football team, were he played in the defensive backfield and is a three-year lettermen. He was a three time Academic All-American. He was also a one year lettermen on the Virginia Tech Baseball team. He received his Osteopathic Medical degree from the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2007, and PhD in International Health Education from Virginia Tech in 2008. He completed his Traditional Rotating Internship from Geisinger Medical Center in Danville Pennsylvania, and Family Medicine Residency at Montgomery Regional Hospital, Blacksburg. Dr. Hardee is a board-certified Family Physician who practices medicine at the Community Health Center of the New River Valley, and MedExpress Urgent Care. Dr. Hardee is the Associate Chair of Family Medicine and Rural Primary Care at the Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine. He is also very active in the community, with speaking engagements spanning from medical, motivational, educational, and enjoy studying Christian Apologetics. He is married to his best friend and they have 2 young children.

Dr. Hardee’s session will be cover mental and physical health.


Alphonso Garrett

Session Title: Tricks of the Trade:  Insider Tips to Navigating College Admissions

Alphonso Garrett serves as Director of Undergraduate Diversity Recruitment Initiatives in the Office of Enrollment Management at Virginia Tech.  In this capacity, he advises the Associate Vice Provost for Enrollment Management and Director of Undergraduate Admissions on matters regarding admission and recruitment for underrepresented and underserved students.  He also leads the Office of Undergraduate Admissions Diversity Recruitment Team and is a member of the admissions review committee.

He has more than 10 years in enrollment and admissions experience having spent time in undergraduate admissions and student services positions at multiple state universities, a private liberal arts college, and a proprietary institution. Currently, he is president of the Virginia Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

Alphonso a first-generation college student, Army Veteran, has earned a B.S. in Communication, a M.S.Ed and Graduate Certificate in Enrollment Management, and is currently pursuing an Ed.S. in Instructional Technology through Virginia Tech’s School of Education.

Join two seasoned admissions professionals as they will give advice on how to think strategically about the college admissions process.


James Pennix

Session Title: Tricks of the Trade:  Insider Tips to Navigating College Admissions

James has served as the Vice President of Enrollment Management at Ferrum College since August 2017. He oversees the Office of Admission and the Financial Aid office. His primary responsibility is the development and implementation of the strategic enrollment plan at Ferrum. Prior to joining Ferrum College, James served as the Dean of Admissions and the AVP for Enrollment Management at Radford University for seven years. He began his admissions career at his alma mater, Roanoke College, in 2001 and served as the Director of Admissions for 3 years before departing to Radford University in 2010.

James considers himself a very unique enrollment professional because he loves his job and the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young people. He has been a servant leader throughout his professional career and remains excited to serve students in the attainment of higher education. James has worked in higher education for 20 years. He worked as an assistant basketball coach for three years at Roanoke College prior to joining the admissions department in 2001.

James received his Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Roanoke College and his Masters in Social Work from Radford University. He is currently working on a Doctorate (EDD) in Higher Education Leadership at Walden University. James has been married to Lisa Belcher Pennix for 17 years. They have three sons: Damian (28 years old), Jamie (17 years old), and Jordan (15 years old). Those who know James would agree with his favorite description of himself, “I am blessed to be a blessing to young people.

Join two seasoned admissions professionals as they will give advice on how to think strategically about the college admissions process.

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Dr. Frederick “Freddy” Paige

Session Title: A Muddied View of a Man

Dr. Frederick (“Freddy”) Paige is the Assistant Director of the Virginia Center for Housing Research and an Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech in the Vecellio Construction Engineering and Management Program. Dr. Paige’s main scholarship goal is to create the knowledge needed to develop an informed public that lives in a sustainable built environment. His main area of research focuses on Affordable - Energy Efficient Housing. Outside of work, Freddy enjoys everything Black, especially basketball, hip hop, and stand up comedy.

Join a discussion on Black Male Identity! We will discuss the importance of understanding Black Male Identity, the process of constructing an identity, societal perspectives of Black Males, and identity-related implications on the life of Black Males. This interactive session will include historical and contemporary examples, an interactive exercise, and resources for post-session exploration of Black Male identity. To see a clear view of the Black Male which America has covered in mud, and an individual must make a deliberate effort to wash off the dirt.