Our program is subject to change. Speakers have confirmed their intent to participate; however, scheduling conflicts may arise.


Thomas B. Edsall

Vanda Felbab-Brown, Ph.D.

Stephen Ressler, Ph.D.

Ginger Thompson

Thomas B. Edsall has been writing a weekly op-ed column for the New York Times opinion pages since 2011 covering strategic and demographic trends in American politics. He held the Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Chair at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism from 2006 to 2014. He currently holds an appointment at Columbia as a Senior Research Scholar. From 1981 to 2006 he reported on American politics for The Washington Post. Prior to that he was a political reporter at the Baltimore Sun and the Providence Journal. He has published widely in national magazines including the New York Review of Books, the New Republic and the Atlantic. He is the author of five books: The Age of Austerity, Building Red America, Chain Reaction: The Impact of Race, Rights, and Taxes on American Politics — a Pulitzer finalist in General NonFiction; Power and Money: Writing About Politics and The New Politics of Inequality. Edsall is the recipient of the Carey McWilliams award of the American Political Science Association; the Front Page Award and the Bill Pryor Award of the Newspaper Guild; and the Noel Markwell Media Award of the International Society of Political Psychology. He has been a Fellow at the the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; a Shapiro Fellow at the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University; and a media scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife, Mary.

Vanda Felbab-Brown, Ph.D. is a senior fellow in the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings. She is also the director of the Brookings project, “Improving Global Drug Policy: Comparative Perspectives Beyond UNGASS 2016,” and co-director of another Brookings project, “Reconstituting Local Orders.” Dr. Felbab-Brown is an expert on international and internal conflicts and nontraditional security threats, including insurgency, organized crime, urban violence, and illicit economies. Her fieldwork and research have covered, among others, Afghanistan, South Asia, Burma, Indonesia, the Andean region, Mexico, Morocco, Somalia, and eastern Africa.
      Dr. Felbab-Brown is the author of The Extinction Market: Wildlife Trafficking and How to Counter It (Hurst, 2018); Narco Noir: Mexico’s Cartels, Cops, and Corruption (The Brookings Institution Press, 2019, forthcoming); Militants, Criminals, and Outsiders: The Challenge of Local Governance in an Age of Disorder (The Brookings Institution Press, Fall 2017; co-authored with Shadi Hamid and Harold Trinkunas); Aspiration and Ambivalence: Strategies and Realities of Counterinsurgency and State-Building in Afghanistan (Brookings Institution Press, 2013); and Shooting Up: Counterinsurgency and the War on Drugs (Brookings Institution Press, 2010). She is also the author of numerous policy reports, academic articles, and opinion pieces. A frequent commentator in U.S. and international media, Dr. Felbab-Brown regularly provides congressional testimony on these issues. She has also been the recipient of numerous awards in recognition of her scholarly and policy contributions. She is a co-recipient of the Department of Defense’s Minerva grant, to conduct work on non-state actor governance. Dr. Felbab-Brown received her Ph.D. in political science from MIT and her B.A. in government from Harvard University.

Stephen Ressler, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus at the United States Military Academy at West Point and a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). A registered Professional Engineer in Virginia, he earned a B.S. from West Point, M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Civil Engineering from Lehigh University, and a Master of Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College. He served for 34 years as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and retired at the rank of Brigadier General in 2013. While on active duty, he served in a variety of military engineering assignments around the world. In 2007, he deployed to Afghanistan to create a civil engineering program for the newly created National Military Academy of Afghanistan in Kabul.
      Dr. Ressler is passionate about communicating the joys of engineering to inquiring minds of all ages. His three video lecture series — Understanding the World’s Greatest Structures, Understanding Greek and Roman Technology, and Everyday Engineering — are among the most highly-rated offerings in The Great Courses’ 600-course catalog. He served as an on-screen expert for the Discovery Channel documentary Superweapons of the Ancient World: The Ram and Blink Films’ The Real Trojan Horse, which aired on PBS in 2015. His award-winning Bridge Designer software has been used by over two million middle-school and high-school students worldwide. He is also a developer and principal instructor for the ASCE Excellence in Civil Engineering Education Teaching Workshop, which has provided teacher training to more than 500 civil engineering faculty members from over 200 colleges and universities.
      Dr. Ressler has received numerous national-level awards from the ASCE and the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), including the 2011 ASCE Outstanding Projects and Leaders Award — the society’s highest honor.

Ginger Thompson is a senior reporter at ProPublica. A Pulitzer Prize winner, she previously spent 15 years at The New York Times, including time as a Washington correspondent and as an investigative reporter whose stories revealed Washington’s secret role in Mexico’s fight against drug traffickers.
      Thompson served as the Mexico City bureau chief for both the Times and The Baltimore Sun. While at the Times, she covered Mexico’s transformation from a one-party state to a fledgling multi-party democracy and parachuted into breaking news events across the region, including Cuba, Haiti and Venezuela.
      For her work in the region, she was a finalist for the Pulitzer’s Gold Medal for Public Service. She won the Maria Moors Cabot Prize, the Selden Ring Award for investigative reporting, an InterAmerican Press Association Award, and an Overseas Press Club Award. Thompson was also part of a team of national reporters at The Times that was awarded a 2000 Pulitzer Prize for the series “How Race is Lived in America.”
      Thompson graduated from Purdue University, where she was managing editor of the campus newspaper, The Exponent. She earned a Master of Public Policy from George Washington University, with a focus on human rights law.