Craig Pittman is a native Floridian and, according to the Florida Heritage Book Festival, a Florida literary legend. Born in Pensacola, he graduated from Troy State University in Alabama, where his muckraking work for the student paper prompted an agitated dean to label him "the most destructive force on campus." Since then he has covered a variety of newspaper beats and quite a few natural disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires and the Florida Legislature. Since 1998, he has covered environmental issues for Florida's largest newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times, winning state and national awards. He is the author of four books, including The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid, which is the only book ever classified as "True Crime/Gardening," and Oh, Florida! How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country, which won the gold medal for Florida non-fiction from the Florida Book Awards. His fifth book, Cat Tale: The Wild, Weird Battle to Save the Florida Panther will publish in January. He lives in St. Petersburg with his wife and two children.
Melike Eğilmezler Boylan is a Turkish sociologist specializing in contemporary satire. Her first book, Güldürme Beni! Mizah Üstüne Ciddi Söyleşiler (Don’t Make Me Laugh! Serious Conversations About Humor) is a collection of interviews with legendary Turkish writers, directors, actors, stand-up comedians and cartoonists, exploring their role in society. She has a PhD from Turkey’s Middle Eastern Technical University, an MA from Johns Hopkins School of International Studies and a BA from Marmara University in Istanbul. She has also worked for the World Bank and Turkish Government. Eğilmezler Boylan’s research interests include exploring the tension between repression and freedom of expression, humor traditions in Muslim societies and documenting creative social change.
Mary Shedden is news director at WUSF Public Media, where she oversees a team of broadcast and digital journalists covering 13 counties on Florida's west coast.
Laura Klein, jazz pianist and composer, was born in New York City and started playing piano as a child, studying at the Manhattan School of Music. After receiving a degree in classical music from SUNY Buffalo, she started playing in a soul band and never looked back. She went on to study jazz at Berklee School of Music, performing at clubs and venues in the Boston/New England area. Klein relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1984, where she has been actively performing and teaching ever since.
Christian Bréchot, MD, PhD joined the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine part time as Senior Associate Dean for Research in Global Affairs, Associate Vice President for International Partnerships and Innovation, and Professor in the Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Internal Medicine. He is also executive director of the Tampa-based Romark Laboratories Institute for Medical Research. Since 2017, Dr. Brechot has served as President of the Global Virus Network, a network of 48 research centers worldwide, headquartered in Baltimore.
Adam Smith Albion brings ten years of experience in the field of regional leadership organizations and twenty in the field of international relations and cross-cultural cooperation. He served as Director of the Central Eurasia Leadership Alliance (CELA) from its foundation in 2002 until the beginning of 2010. In 2010 he joined the effort to launch the Middle East Leadership Academy (MELA) and worked as its Regional Director until 2013. In the 1990s Adam was a Fellow of the Institute of Current World Affairs studying and writing about the Black Sea area and Central Eurasia. He subsequently worked as a journalist and analyst for Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Freedom House, Jane’s Intelligence review, and other publications. For four years he was a senior associate at the EastWest Institute (EWI). As a member of the top team of World Monitors, an international business consultancy, he led consulting projects for Newmont Mining, Rio Tinto, Symbion Power and other companies.Adam was educated at Harvard University and Oxford University (Christ Church). He is a member of the advisory board of the Museum of Islamic Art (Pergamon Museum) in Berlin.