2024 Keynote Speakers 

Kara D. Freeman
President & CEO, NACUBO

A nationally-known higher education leader with more than three decades of leadership experience, Kara D. Freeman became the president and CEO of the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) in June 2023. Prior to joining NACUBO, she served as senior vice president and chief operating officer at the American Council on Education (ACE), where she was responsible for setting the strategic direction of the administrative and operational areas of the organization. Kara was ACE’s vice president of administration and chief information officer from 2009 through 2019.

Before joining ACE in 2006, Kara held management and technical positions with Lockheed Martin Information Technology, AT&T, and MCI, among others. As NACUBO president and CEO, Kara leads a team of professionals who support the economic vitality and business practices of higher education institutions by providing tools, resources, and advocacy for college and university finance and administration leaders.

Kara holds an MBA from The George Washington University and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She has been a board member of EDUCAUSE, The Training Source, and the Technology Advisory Council for the American Society of Association Executives. She recently served as board vice chair of AMHIC, a self-governing insurance company for nonprofit organizations. She currently sits on the boards of DiscoverE and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Information Systems department. 

Keynote Session: A Conversation with NACUBO President Kara D. Freeman
April 15 | 8:30 AM – 10:00 AM

Session Description

NACUBO’s strategic goals focus on supporting higher education business officers so that they can undertake necessary transformations, serve as strategic leaders, and rely on the association to be an indispensable national advocate. In this session, Kara will share findings from NACUBO’s latest research, discuss the challenges reshaping the higher education sector and confronting business officers and their teams, and discuss the skills necessary to thrive as a 21st-century business officer.

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand key trends from NACUBO’s latest research
  2. Identify the role business officers have in responding to current higher education challenges
  3. Recognize the resources available to elevate the impact of college and university business offices

Sara Ross
Founder and Chief Vitality Officer, BrainAmped

Sara Ross is an international keynote speaker, the founder and Chief Vitality Officer at BrainAmped—a leadership research firm—as well as the author of the book, Dear Work: Something Has to Change.

Sara is on a mission to help organizations and their leaders reignite a sense of aliveness in both their work and at home. She and her company do this by using brain science-based strategies to teach people how to amplify their emotional intelligence, resilience, and well-being.

As a leadership expert, Sara's ideas and research have earned her a reputation as a fresh and thought-provoking voice in discussions focused on the future of work. As such, Sara is called on to work with clients such as Microsoft, PepsiCo., Cisco, Wells Fargo, T-Mobile, Rogers, Allstate, United Health, Fidelity, BMO, Stanford University, and as diversely as the U.S. Navy SEALs and the leadership team of the NBA’s Orlando Magic, among others. In addition, Sara has worked with numerous government agencies, foundations, and associations as well as guest lecturing in the executive leadership program at Smith College. This broad perspective and diverse experience help explain why Sara is called on to work with some of the most senior, technically sophisticated, and skeptical audiences.

You can count on Sara to bring her trademark energy with the integration of relevant, cutting-edge science and relatable stories of success and failures. Her approach is guaranteed to challenge the status quo, provide new insights and inspiration, and most importantly, leave audiences with a blueprint of actionable strategies.

Before founding BrainAmped, Sara spent a decade immersed in the neuroscience of Emotional Intelligence and Performance at a leadership development company where she served as their Vice President and Global Head of Leadership Innovation, Research and Education. As head of faculty, Sara and her team led the development and delivery of award-winning leadership programs, assessments, coaching and accreditation programs that helped leaders from across the globe to be their best, even in the most complex and stress-filled moments.

Sara has a Master of Science (MSc.) from the University of Waterloo. Outside of work, she is a coffee loving, meditation rookie who can’t help but slip in the occasional Canadian “eh” at the end of a sentence. Her husband describes her career as professional eavesdropping-people-watching. She argues that she is merely a dedicated street scientist doing her professional duty to better understand why people do what they do and why they don’t do what they know they should!

Keynote Session: Dear Work, something has to change! 
April 16 | 8:30 AM – 10:00 AM


We all want to put the last few years behind us. Unfortunately, with stress spiking, energy dropping, and challenges around quiet quitting, hybrid work, retention, and recruitment lingering, we can’t ignore the toll things have had on people and organizations.
Sara Ross, the founder and chief vitality officer at BrainAmped, believes that addressing these challenges and navigating the changing world of work requires starting with a new question. Instead of asking how to help leaders feel less tired, stretched, and stressed, Sara transforms the traditional approach by asking how we can help leaders and their people feel more ALIVE – more energized, capable, and purposeful.
In this keynote, based on the research and principles shared in her bestselling book, “Dear Work, something has to change,” Sara will show that the solution begins by helping audiences boost their Work Vitality Factor by focusing on four core ideas:

•  Beliefs can be the biggest barriers. Sara will identify three common misconceptions audiences hold regarding success, stress, and rest that keep them and their teams stuck in the survival zone and how to shift them into vitality ignitors.

•  Surviving the day is not a strategy. Audiences will learn a mindset to work better with stress and how to use it to fuel the energy needed to pursue bold, meaningful goals, invest in important relationships, and live a full, energized life.

•  Standing out shouldn’t mean burning out. Sara will challenge audiences to break the cycle of over-working and under-living by incorporating three simple yet empowering questions that amplify vitality and performance across an organization—particularly in hybrid environments.

•  Boosting vitality requires intentionality. Audiences will learn how to practice more strategic self-care at work and outside of it while creating environments that allow others to do the same.

Learning Objectives

Coming soon!