D80—Prosperity by Design

The Intersection of Public Service and Community Engagement

Saturday, October 12, 2019
9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Memorial Union Building
Registration is free. Lunch is provided.


Register now

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.


The 2019 theme is "The Intersection of Public Service and Community Engagement."

Time Event Location
8:30 a.m. Registration Opens MUB Ballroom
Second floor
9 a.m.


Dr. Lorelle Meadows

Dean, Pavlis Honors College

Ballroom A2
Second floor

9:15 a.m.

Breakout Sessions

The Father's Day Flood: Service, CommUNITY, and Preventative Measures - panel discussion

Alumni lounge, first floor

Facilitator: Briana Tucker - Pavlis Honors College

  • Dr. Stephen Patchin, Family displaced during the flood
  • Kevin Store, Portage Health Foundation
  • Dr. David Watkins, Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Melissa Davis, New Power Tour, Inc.
  • Jon Stone, Director of Michigan Tech's EMS program 


Energy and Climate Justice - Panel

Ballroom B1, second floor
Facilitator: Chris Morgan - Pavlis Honors College


  • Dr. Sarah Green - Chemistry
  • Lexi Steve - Green Campus Enterprise student and Sustainability House resident


Service as a Lifestyle: Practical Tools for the Engaged Citizen

Ballroom A1, second floor


  • Melissa Michaelson - Career Services
  • Chris Hohnholt - Career Services 
  • Deanna Seil - Peace Corps Masters International Student

Various, see individual session descriptions

10:20 a.m. Break  
10:30 a.m.

World Cafe Conversations

  • Water Distribution System: La Peñita Panamá - iDesign
  • Peru Pilot Team: Global Leadership - Global Leadership
  • Service Learning in Ghana - Peace Corps Prep
  • EWB- Bolivia Project Update - Engineers Without Borders
  • Global Leadership- Tanzania 2019 - Global Leadership
  • IT Oxygen: Smart Community-Driven Medical Mobility - Enterprise


Ballrooms B2 and B3

Second floor

11:20 a.m. Break  
11:30 a.m. 



Keynote Introduction

Dr. Patricia Sotrin, Interim Humanities Department Chair

Keynote Address

Otha Thornton, Thornton Consulting Group

Ballroom A2
Second floor
12:45 p.m.

Breakout Sessions

Food Insecurities, Food Sovereignty, and Community Health - panel discussion

Alumni Lounge, first floor

Facilitator: Dr. Laura Fiss - Pavlis Honors College

  • Dr. Michelle Seguin - Portage Health Foundation
  • Dr. Angie Carter - Social Sciences
  • Karen Oppliger - Wadsworth Hall Community Garden
  • Whitney Boroski - Manager, Student Health and Wellness

Michigan Voting and Redistricting

Ballroom B1, second floor


  • Dr. Kari Henquinet - Social Sciences and Pavlis Honors College
  • Elizabeth Benyi - League of Women Voters

The Importance of Understanding Local History Before Engagement - panel discussion

Ballroom A1, second floor


  • Allison Neely - Michigan Tech Archives
  • Dr. Melissa Baird - Social Sciences
  • Dr. Sarah Scarlett - Social Sciences and Keweenaw Time Traveler Project
Various, see individual session descriptions
1:35 p.m. Break  
1:50 p.m.

World Cafe Conversations 

  • Water System in Valle Risco, Panama - iDesign
  • Ghana 2019: Global Leadership - Global Leadership
  • Embera Peru Water Supply Project - iDesign
  • Community Driven Biological Monitoring and it’s Implication on Environmental Conservation Tehuacan Cuicatlan Biosphere Reserve - Peace Corps Masters International
  • Community Engagements Goes to the Science Fair - Community Engagement/ Custom Pathway
  • Peru: Study Abroad and Homestay - Study Abroad
  • Engineers Without Borders: Guatemala Team


Ballrooms B2 and B3
Second floor
2:55 p.m.

Closing Remarks

  • I Like, I Wish, I Wonder Activity
  • Ideas for Next Year
  • Upcoming Events
Ballrooms B2 and B3
Second floor


The D80 Conference and Otha Thornton's visit are partially sponsored/funded by the Pavlis Honors College, the Sustainable Futures Institute, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan Tech, 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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