Talithia Williams, Ph.D., big data expert, math professor and host of “NOVA Wonders,” will serve as featured speaker at the 39th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration on Sunday, Jan. 21, in the JMA Wireless Dome.

This year’s theme is “The Reach of the Dream.”

Tickets for the dinner and program are now available.

This annual event is the largest of its kind on any college campus. The program seeks to honor the message and mission of King and is a direct expression of the University’s commitment to advancing academic excellence at a university welcoming to all.

“We are honored and delighted to welcome Dr. Talithia Williams to Syracuse as our featured speaker for the 39th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr event. As we prepare to remember and honor the roots of a dream that continue to inform and inspire, Dr. Williams serves as a living reminder of how far the dream can reach,” says Dean Brian Konkol of Hendricks Chapel. “Through her groundbreaking research and steadfast commitment to community impact, Dr. Williams is transforming the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. At our upcoming event, I am confident that learners of all ages will be left inspired to dream big and strive to make such dreams come true.”

Williams, associate professor of mathematics and Mathematics Clinic director at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California, is an innovative statistician, co-host of the PBS series “NOVA Wonders” and a speaker whose popular TED Talk, “Own Your Body’s Data,” extols the value of statistics in quantifying personal health information. Williams demystifies the mathematical process in amusing and insightful ways to excite students, parents, educators and the larger community about STEM education and its possibilities.

Williams graduated from Spelman College and Howard University, and then later received a Ph.D. from Rice University. Her research involves developing statistical models that emphasize the spatial and temporal structure of data and applying them to problems in the environment. She’s worked at NASA, the National Security Agency and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and has partnered with the World Health Organization on research regarding cataract surgical rates in African countries.

At Syracuse University Williams’ topic will be “Becoming an Agent of Change for Inclusive Education.” By showing how educational systems are microcosms of our increasingly diverse society, Williams will address how to close achievement gaps and serve as inclusive agents of positive and profound change. In her keynote presentation, Williams hopes to inspire educators and learners or all ages by showing how data can be utilized to promote diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility.

“As a neurodivergent nontraditional student, I am excited to hear Dr. Williams speak about the importance of diversity and inclusion within education,” says Leondra Tyler ’24, co-chair of the 2024 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. “I believe it is important to shed light on how we can pave the way for future academics and leaders who will bring positive change to our world.”

The 2024 program will include an address from Williams, student and community group performances, and a presentation of this year’s Unsung Hero Awards.

The newly introduced art gallery that features works from local Black artists will open at 4:15 p.m. The traditional dinner will open at 5 p.m. Halal/Kosher, gluten-free and vegetarian options will be available. Dinner will be held near the JMA Dome’s west end zone, entry at Gate A. The main program with Williams and performers will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the east side. For program-only attendees, doors open at 6 p.m.

Ticket purchase options are as follows:

  • Syracuse University staff, faculty and the general public (dinner and program): $30
  • Students (dinner and program): $15
  • Main program only: Free

Registration is required for all ticket purchase options.

All dinner tickets will be assigned a table number at the time of purchase, which will be included in the mobile tickets. Guests interested in sitting with friends are recommended to purchase tickets together to ensure the same table assignment.

Guests may order up to 10 dinner and program tickets online. To purchase one full table (10 seats), select 10 total tickets and proceed to checkout. To purchase more than one table or more than 10 individual tickets, or if experiencing difficulties, please call the JMA Dome Box Office at 1.888.DOME.TIX (315.443.2121), option four.

All dinner guests will be seated in the 100 level of the stands for the program following dinner. All guests attending the program only will be seated in the 200 level. Seating is general admission in those areas for the program.

Buy tickets online at mlk.syr.edu, in person at the Dome Box Office inside Gate B at 900 Irving Ave. (Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) or by phone (888.DOME.TIX or 315.443.2121, option four). Tickets will be mobile and will be uploaded directly to your MyCuse account to manage upon purchase. View the step-by-step guide on mobile ticketing for more information.

Free parking is available in the Irving Avenue Garage and in lots west of the JMA Dome. Visit the University’s Parking and Transit Services website for maps and directions. American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation and Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) will be available at the event. Accessible seating is provided on the concourse level of the JMA Dome.

For more information about the MLK Celebration or to request accommodations, contact Hendricks Chapel at chapel@syr.edu or 315.443.2901. Learn more about this and other Hendricks Chapel events by visiting chapel.syracuse.edu.