EDIFY Speaker Series Mission

To unleash and enlighten the intellectual curiosity of St. Michael’s students so that they may form the habits of mind and heart
that will enable them to courageously contribute to the common good.

About EDIFY: A Speaker Series

A St. Michael's family donated $500,000 over five years for the express purpose of inviting compelling, contemporary leaders and visionaries to the St. Michael’s campus to address students in a series of stimulating talks. The series is titled EDIFY.

In accordance with EDIFY’s mission, presentations will be directed to “unleash and enlighten the intellectual curiosity of St. Michael’s students so that they may form the habits of mind and heart that will enable them to courageously contribute to the common good.”

The donor, who prefers to remain anonymous, proposed the idea based on his experience of a similar program at his boarding school. Decades later, he recalls how many of the speakers he encountered made a profound impression on him, and said he believes such a program has tremendous value.

“I am primarily interested in practical, non-academic subjects to expand the students' critical-thinking skills and their view of the world. They already receive academic information in school, and improved critical thinking is a skill they can and will use throughout their lives,” he said.

Meet Our EDIFY Speakers

List of 7 items.

  • Dr. Kristin Neff

    On April 22, 2021, we welcomed Dr. Neff to our EDIFY Speaker Series.  

    Dr. Neff received her doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley, studying moral development and is currently an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.

    Dr. Neff is a pioneer in the field of self-compassion research, creating a scale to measure the construct over fifteen years ago. In addition to writing numerous academic articles and book chapters on the topic, she is author of the book "Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself," released by William Morrow.

    In conjunction with her colleague Dr. Chris Germer, she has developed an empirically supported training program called Mindful Self-Compassion, which is taught by thousands of teachers worldwide. They co-authored The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook as well as Teaching the Mindful Self-Compassion Program: A Guide for Professionals, both published by Guilford. She is also co-founder and board president of the nonprofit Center for Mindful Self-Compassion.
  • Jonathan Evans

    On March 3, 2021, we welcome Jonathan Evans to our EDIFY Speaker Series 

    Jonathan Evans, a mentor, author, speaker, and former NFL fullback, treasures his relationship with Christ along with the opportunity to use his life to glorify God. Jonathan seeks to impact today’s athletes, men, and young adults by equipping and encouraging them in their faith. Jonathan serves with his pastor, friend, and father, Dr. Tony Evans, both in the local church and their national ministry. They also teamed up together to write "Get in the Game," a practical guidebook filled with sports analogies and spiritual truths aimed at strengthening readers with the skills they need for living victoriously. Jonathan is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary with a master's degree in Christian Leadership. 

    Jonathan also serves as the chaplain of the Dallas Cowboys and co-chaplain of the Dallas Mavericks. 
  • Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar

    On March 5, 2020, we welcomed Dr. Ben-Shahar to our EDIFY Speaker Series.  

    Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D., is an author and lecturer who taught the most popular course at Harvard University on “Positive Psychology,” and the university’s third most popular course on “The Psychology of Leadership”—with a total of more than 1,400 students.

    Dr. Ben-Shahar consults and lectures around the world to executives in multi-national corporations, the general public, and at-risk populations.

    Topics include leadership, ethics, happiness, self-esteem, resilience, goal setting, and mindfulness. His latest book is Short Cuts to Happiness: Life-Changing Lessons from My Barber. He is also the author of The Joy of Leadership: How Positive Psychology Can Maximize Your Impact (and Make You Happier) in a Challenging World, The New York Times bestseller Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment, and others.

    Ben-Shahar is a serial entrepreneur and is the co-founder and chief learning officer of the Happiness Studies Academy (HSA), Potentialife, Maytiv, and Happier TV.

    An avid sportsman, Ben-Shahar won the U.S. Intercollegiate and Israeli National squash championships. He earned his Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and B.A. in Philosophy and Psychology from Harvard.
  • Katlyn Grasso

    On November 15, 2019 we welcomed Katlyn Grasso to our EDIFY Speaker Series.  

    Katlyn Grasso is the founder and CEO of GenHERation. GenHERation is a network for connecting young women and companies. It is the go-to source for inspiration and access for high school and college women. The event will take place in the Gloria Delgado Performing Arts Theatre.

    In her role as CEO, she has grown the GenHERation community to more than 250,000 members. A graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, she is one of the inaugural recipients of the President’s Engagement Prize created by Dr. Amy Gutmann at the University of Pennsylvania.

    Grasso was featured on the cover of Philly Biz Magazine as the youngest woman on the “Women to Watch” list. Katlyn is a frequent television and radio contributor and has appeared on CNBC, NBC New York, NBC Washington, D.C., SiriusXM Radio, CBS Radio Los Angeles, and Kiss 104.1. Originally from Hamburg, New York, Katlyn is now a bicoastal entrepreneur spending her time between New York City, Philadelphia, and California.
  • Dr. Kim Stanley Robinson

    On April 24, 2019, we welcomed Dr. Robinson to our EDIFY Speaker Series.  

    St. Michael's welcomes highly-acclaimed author and environmental speaker Dr. Kim Stanley Robinson to present a lecture to coincide with Earth Week. Robinson is one of the most well-known and respected science fiction writers in the world and was named a Time magazine “Hero of the Environment.”
    Through the science-fiction genre, Dr. Robinson reveals some possible solutions to the environmental challenges that humanity faces, and that topic will be the focus of his lecture. Additionally, Dr. Robinson will meet personally with students in AP Environmental Science and English classes to further discuss the environment and the life of a writer.
    According to an article in The New Yorker, Robinson is "generally acknowledged as one of the greatest living science-fiction writers.” His work has been translated into 24 languages. Robinson has won numerous awards, including the Hugo Award for Best Novel and the Nebula Award for Best Novel. Robinson's work has been labeled by The Atlantic as "the gold-standard of realistic, and highly literary, science-fiction writing."
    His articles and stories have been published in Nature, The New York Times, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, The Washington Post, The New Scientist, and Wired. He has written 19 novels, and his most recent novel, “2312,” is a New York Times bestseller. Robinson is best known for his landmark “Mars” trilogy.
    Robinson has a B.A. and a Ph.D. in literature from the University of California, San Diego, and an M.A. in English from Boston University.
  • Ana Homayoun

    Ana Homayoun is a noted teen and millennial expert, author, speaker and educator. Her latest book, Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World, discusses modern social media dilemmas and offers prescriptive solutions. Her first book, That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week: Helping Disorganized and Distracted Boys Succeed in School and Life, quickly became a classic among parents and educators for the pragmatic approach to executive functioning issues. Her next book, The Myth of the Perfect Girl: Helping Our Daughters Find Authentic Success and Happiness in School and Life, explores the real-life dilemmas of young women today and provides strategies for finding authentic success and happiness.

    Ana's work has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Atlantic Magazine, Fast Company, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Chicago Tribune, and ABC News, among others, and she is a frequent guest on NPR.

    Ana is the founder of Green Ivy Educational Consulting, a Silicon Valley-based educational consulting firm, and has spent the past seventeen years working with students, parents, and educators around the world. For more information, please visit: www.anahomayoun.com and www.greenivyed.com.
  • Erik Weihenmayer

    Pioneering Adventurer. In 2001, Erik Weihenmayer became the first blind person in history to reach the summit of Mount Everest. In 2008, he completed his quest to climb the Seven Summits—the highest mountain on each continent. 

    Celebrated Author. In addition to being a renowned adventurer and speaker, Erik is also the author of Touch the Top of the World, which has been published in 12 languages. Erik’s second book, The Adversity Advantage: Turning Everyday Struggles Into Everyday Greatness, shares hard-earned lessons and practical advice for using adversity as fuel for growth and innovation. His latest book No Barriers: A Blind Man's Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon was released in February 2017.

st. michael's catholic academy

3000 Barton Creek Boulevard   |   Austin, Texas 78735   |   (512) 328-2323   |   admissions@smca.com
St. Michael's Catholic Academy is mindful of its mission to prepare the student holistically for leadership, service, and decision making consistent with Catholic values; and admit students of any race, color, or national and/or ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to the school. St. Michael's Catholic Academy does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and/or ethnic origin, age, or gender in the administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, financial aid and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs. St. Michael's Catholic Academy does not discriminate against students with special needs; a full range of services might not be available.