D80—Prosperity by Design

The Intersection of Public Service and Community Engagement

Saturday, October 12, 2019


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D80 Conference

80% of the Earth's inhabitants are not considered by designers of infrastructure, goods, and services.

The D80 Conference is a dialog and celebration of our efforts to solve issues that confront the world's poorest 80%. Together we are creating a better future.

The Michigan Tech campus hosts this annual conference every fall to give a platform to the voices of university students serving communities-in-need, both domestically and abroad. Our conferences highlight service and research work done by students from Michigan Tech and elsewhere, and are open to anybody interested in development, design, and discovery for the poorest 80% of humanity. The public is always welcome.

Keynote Speaker 

Photo of Otha ThorntonOtha Thornton is the owner and Principal Consultant for the Thornton Consulting Group. Previously he taught at Athens Technical College in Athens, Georgia. He was a former Senior Operations Analyst with General Dynamics Information Technology at Fort Stewart, Georgia and the 53rd President of National PTA. He was the first and only African-American male in the National PTA’s 121-year history. He is a retired United States Army Lieutenant Colonel and his last two assignments were with the White House Communications Agency and United States Forces-Iraq in Baghdad. Thornton earned the Bronze Star Medal for exceptional performance in combat operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom 2009-2010. He also earned the Knowlton Award for his distinguished service as an Army Intelligence Officer. He recently was a state party’s nominee for Georgia’s State School Superintendent where he earned 1.8 million votes in the 2018 general election.

Thornton is active in his community and around the nation. Otha currently serves as a Director on the Michigan Tech University Honors College External Advisory Board and an Advisory Group member for Georgia’s Partnership for Excellence in Education. He is also active with his church and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. He is a life member of the National Eagle Scout Association and has more than 25 years of active service in the United States and around the world. He has won numerous awards to include: the 2018 National PTA Lifetime Achievement Award, 2017 National 4-H Luminary Award, Ebony’s 2013 Power 100 List, 2010 Morehouse College Alumnus of the Year, 2010 D.C. Morehouse Man of the Year, Michigan Technological University Outstanding Young Alumni Award, Kentucky Colonel award recipient and over a dozen lifetime achievement membership awards from State PTAs across the country.

Previously, Thornton served on National PTA’s Board of Directors, Legislative, Membership, Organizational Effectiveness, Communications, and Executive Search Committees. Thornton served as a member of Anne Arundel County’s Superintendent High Performing High School Task Force. In addition, he was appointed by the governor of Maryland to serve on a Maryland Education Task Force.

Thornton received his bachelor’s degree in urban studies from Morehouse College and a master’s degree in communications from Michigan Technological University. He was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Michigan Technological University.

Sample Schedule

The 2019 theme is "The Intersection of Public Service and Community Engagement," and a schedule will be available soon. Please see the 2018 schedule below for a sample of programming at the D80 Conference. Photos of the 2018 D80 Conference can be viewed and downloaded here


The D80 Conference and Otha Thornton's visit are partially sponsored/funded by the Pavlis Honors College, the Sustainable Futures Institute, and the Visiting Women & Minority Lecturer/Scholar Series (VWMLSS) which is funded by a grant to the Office of Institutional Equity and Inclusion from the State of Michigan's King-Chavez-Parks Initiative. 

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