Humanities Festival Biographies

The Black 14

The Black 14 set the foundation for political activism and sports decades ago in Wyoming. At the 1968 Olympics, Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in solidarity with oppressed Blacks. Forty-eight years later, Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem protesting police brutality & racism. The Black 14 has been featured for their courage and call to action displays against discrimination by CBS Sports, CNN, ESPN, Public Broadcasting Service, Sports Center, Sports Illustrated, USA Today, The Washington Post, and many more. In 2017, Spike Lee executive produced a Black 14 Documentary.

Dena Bravata

Dr. Dena Bravata, a Casper native and proud graduate of Kelly Walsh High School, is an adviser/consultant to numerous digital health and public health organizations. Bravata is the co-founder of Lyra Health, a mental health technology and services company, where she also served as the chief medical officer from 2015 to 2016. She was the chief medical officer and head of products at Castlight Health from 2009-2014. Bravata was a practicing internist for 16 years in her own private practice and as an attending physician at Stanford University and the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs.

“Casper Freedom Trail,” ServeWyoming

The Governor’s Commission on Service and Volunteerism. By Executive Order, ServeWyoming exists to award and monitor federal AmeriCorps funding in Wyoming and provide a statewide volunteer center. ServeWyoming’s mission is to improve lives and strengthen Wyoming communities through volunteerism. We bring people together through service. MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a National Day of Service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities. AmeriCorps and ServeWyoming have been charged with leading this effort for the past quarter century. For more information about serving in your community or attending National Service Day events, please go to or

Connie Coca, Radio Station Co-Founder

KOCA is the only nonprofit, bilingual radio station in Wyoming, and it’s the only Spanish-English station in Wyoming. Initiated in 1998 to serve a growing Spanish-speaking population in Albany County, La Radio was formed to serve up educational, musical, artistic and informational programming geared toward promoting an understanding of different ethnic groups and soon added multilingual programming. Granted 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in 2000, La Radio was awarded an operating license from the Federal Communications Commission in 2001 and began broadcasting its first test transmission on Christmas Eve 2002.

Nicole M. Crawford

Nicole M. Crawford joined the University of Wyoming Art Museum in 2009 as the new curator of collections and is currently director and chief curator. Formerly the vice president of gallery operations and director at the Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, she supervised staff, conducted research, and worked with numerous collectors during her eight years with the gallery. In her role as chief curator for the Wyoming Art Museum, she leads the curatorial team to oversee, plan, manage and implement the exhibition schedule, supervises curatorial staff, oversees the development of the museum’s collection, serves as the curatorial lead and content authority for all exhibitions, enables internship opportunities in collections research and scholarship, teaches museum studies courses, leads museum-based study abroad courses, and chairs the museum’s collections advisory committee.

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz is a historian, writer, and professor emeritus at California State University and longtime social justice activist. She is the author of 15 books including, including “Roots of Resistance: A History of Land Tenure in New Mexico,” her American Book Award-winning 2014 book, “An Indigenous People’s History of the United States,” “Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment,” and “Not ‘A Nation of Immigrants’: Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy, and A History of Erasure and Exclusion.” She received the 2015 American Book Award and the 2017 Lannan Cultural Freedom Prize.

Darrell D. Jackson, JD, Ph.D.

Darrell D. Jackson, Ph.D., joined the University of Wyoming College of Law in 2012. He was a scholar-in-residence and fellow at the University of Colorado Law School. He earned his Ph.D. in educational foundations, policy, and practice from the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. Jackson practiced law as an assistant United States attorney in the District of Columbia and as an assistant county attorney in Fairfax County, Virginia. He received his JD from George Mason University School of Law, where he was editor-in-chief and co-founded the George Mason University Civil Rights Law Journal. Jackson’s research interests surround supporting historically marginalized communities as they struggle to obtain an equitable share of power within truly democratic societies.

Todd Guenther

Todd Guenther is an archaeologist and historian at Central Wyoming College in Riverton, Wyoming. His fascination with the West has deep roots: his family settled on the Dakota prairies in 1871 and lives on a ranch near Lander, Wyoming. Guenther has worked for the Office of the Wyoming State Archaeologist, as curator at South Pass City State Historic Site, and director of the Lander Pioneer Museum. His research on race and gender during the westward migrations, including the experiences of African Americans on the agricultural frontier, has received awards from the States of Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, and the Oregon-California Trail Association.

Nina McConigley

Nina McConigley is the author of the story collection “Cowboys and East Indians,” which won the 2014 PEN Open Book Award and a High Plains Book Award. She was born in Singapore and grew up in Casper, Wyoming. She holds an MFA from the University of Houston and an MA from the University of Wyoming. She was named by Glamour magazine as one of “50 Phenomenal Women Making a Difference” in 2014, and her book was named one of 2014’s Best Prize-Winning books by O The Oprah Magazine. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Orion, Salon, Virginia Quarterly Review, American Short Fiction, and The Asian American Literary Review.

Patricia McInroy

Patricia McInroy, a filmmaker, is a former photojournalist who grew up in Wyoming and graduated from Casper College in 1989. After graduating from the University of Missouri, she returned to Wyoming to work as a photographer for the Casper Star-Tribune in the 1990s. She has screened her video work in more than 30 film festivals across the United States, Europe, and Latin America. In 2017, her documentary, “Clara: Angel of the Rockies,” aired nationally on Public Broadcasting Service after winning a contest through the show “To the Contrary.” Her recent documentary, “Invisible Wyoming” has been accepted to five film festivals. McInroy currently lives in Denver and teaches at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design.

Miguel Espinoza Flamenco Fusion

The duo from Miguel Espinoza Flamenco Fusion, with guitarist Miguel Espinoza and cellist Dianne Betkowski, will perform original music that exemplifies the confluence of myriad musical and cultural influences. Miguel Espinoza Flamenco Fusion’s musical backbone is flamenco, intertwined with Latin Jazz, classical Indian and European, Moroccan, African, Brazilian, Jazz, Salsa, etc. Their music is described as “colorful and vibrant,” “emotional,” “a stunning combination of flamenco, jazz, and subtle world music,” and is rhythmically complex and harmonically rich.

Michelle Nijhuis

Michelle Nijhuis is the author of the book “Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction” (W.W. Norton, 2021), a history of the modern conservation movement. The book is the winner of the Sierra Club’s 2021 Rachel Carson Award, one of Chicago Tribune’s “Ten Best Books of 2021,” and one of Smithsonian magazine’s “Ten Best Science Books of 2021.” A project editor at The Atlantic, she is also a longtime contributing editor at High Country News and an award-winning reporter whose work has been published in National Geographic and The New York Times Magazine. She lives in White Salmon, Washington.

Tracey Owens Patton, Ph.D.

Tracey Owens Patton, Ph.D., is a professor of communication in the Department of Communication and Journalism, adjunct professor in African American and Diaspora Studies in the School of Culture, Gender, and Social Justice, and affiliate faculty in the Creative Writing MFA Program in the Department of Visual and Literary Arts at the University of Wyoming. The courses she teaches involve cross-cultural communication, rhetoric, and social justice issues. Patton has published a co-authored book titled “Gender, Whiteness, and Power in Rodeo: Breaking Away from the Ties of Sexism and Racism (2012). Today, she is sharing a portion of her upcoming second book involving race, memory, rejection, and World War II.

Jennifer Pepple

Artist Jenn Pepple is a lifelong lover of the arts and a world traveler. Pepple holds an AA from Casper College, a BA in humanities and fine arts from the University of Wyoming, and an MST — Master of Sustainable Tourism degree — from Arizona State University. She is also a Casper Area Certified Tourism Ambassador. Her current body of artistic work, with drawings and photographic, sculptural, and other creative elements, speaks to her exploration of the globe, highlighting noteworthy moments in her travels. As a travel blogger, she can provide a narrative for these adventures and lessons from the road to an international audience.

 Matthew Spangler, Ph.D.

Matthew Spangler is an award-winning playwright, professor of performance studies, and interim chair of the Film and Theatre Department at San José State University in California. He is San José State’s President’s Scholar for 2021, an award given to a faculty member who has achieved widespread recognition in scholarship or creative work. He is a proud graduate of Natrona County High School, Northwestern University, Trinity College Dublin, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His plays have been produced throughout the world, and include “The Kite Runner,” adapted from the novel by Khaled Hosseini; “Albatross, The Story of Zahra,” from the novel by Hanan al-Shaykh; “Operation Ajax, Striking Back,” from the book by Mary Manning and Sinéad O’Brien; “The Forgotten Empress;” and “The Swimmer,” from John Cheever’s short story.

Alaina Stedillie Hall

Alaina Stedillie Hall is a near-native of Casper who is Senior Counsel in the Casper office of the law firm of Crowley Fleck PLLP.  For 14 years, Alaina has focused her practice in the areas of civil and commercial litigation, including civil rights claims, as well as natural resources litigation, and appellate work.  Upholding and protecting the Constitution is something she takes great pride in, both professionally and personally, and she is keenly aware of the important role the legal system and the rule of law play in the grand experiment that is democracy, both here at home and around the world.  Alaina also serves on the Wyoming State Bar’s Review and Oversight Committee, which concerns attorney ethics and discipline, as well as the Permanent Rules Advisory Committee for the Rules of Civil Procedure, helping to shape the rules that govern the civil side of the justice system in Wyoming.  Community involvement is extremely important to Alaina, and she is currently the President of the Board of Directors for CASA of Natrona County, as well as the President of the Board of Trustees for the Natrona County Public Library.