Speakers + Performers

Kirsten Baesler

Kirsten Baesler is the state superintendent of schools for the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction. Kristen and her 88-person team oversee the education of more than 121,000 students in nearly 500 buildings across the state. She was elected as state school superintendent in November 2012 and re-elected to her second term in 2016.

She serves on more than a dozen boards, including the Education Standards and Practices Board, the Career & Technical Education Board, the Teachers’ Fund for Retirement board, and the Board of University and School Lands, which manages state land holdings and oversees a $4.2 billion trust fund that benefits North Dakota’s public schools.

Before taking office in January 2013, Superintendent Baesler had a 24-year career in the Bismarck public school system – the state’s largest school district - as a vice principal, library media specialist, classroom teacher and instructional assistant.

Baesler earned two associates’ degrees from Bismarck State College, a bachelor’s degree in education from Minot State University, and a master’s degree in library and information technology integration from Valley City State University. She has earned the Valley City State University’s Distinguished Alumni Award, the Rising Star Award from Bismarck State College and has completed the Graduate School Educational Leadership Program at Harvard University.

Dr. Faith Ngunjiri

Dr. Faith Ngunjiri is an immigrant Black African woman, a professor of leadership and ethics, a single parent, a spiritual guide-in-training, and a leadership coach. She is active in the community, serving on the advisory board for TEDxFargo, the board of trustees for United Way Cass Clay, and the community board for Jeremiah Program. Recently, Dr Faith was gifted a mug by one of her students that reads: Empowered Women Empower Women. That truly captures Dr Faith’s purpose in life —participating in the empowerment of others, particularly those who exist at the intersections of marginalized identities. She is currently on sabbatical and writing a memoir on her experiences as a Black, female, academic living and working in predominantly white spaces.

Dr. Jack Russell Weinstein

Dr. Jack Russell Weinstein is a Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Dakota and the host of the public radio show Why? Philosophical discussions about everyday life (WHY? Radio for short). He is the author of three books and dozens of articles, and has edited five collections. He is the recipient of the 2007 UND Foundation/McDermott Award for Individual Excellence in Teaching, the top teaching award at his university. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Boston University in 1998. He is the author of three books On Adam Smith and On MacIntyre, both volumes in the Wadsworth Philosophers Series, and most recently Adam Smith's Pluralism: Rationality, Education, and the Moral Sentiments, from Yale University Press.

Weinstein was born and raised in Washington Heights, in New York City. He lived in upstate New York, Boston, New Jersey, Kentucky, California, and Vienna, Austria, before settling in Grand Forks, North Dakota. He is married to Kim Donehower, an English professor, with whom he has a daughter Adina, and a dog, Oscar. He is an avid bread baker and an amateur triathlete, plays guitar, and briefly aspired to be a photographer. He was, much to his students’ surprise, deeply involved in the 1980s punk and ska scenes in New York City and a ska D.J. during college, and still deejays "Ska and Waffles" events in Grand Forks. Weinstein has always loved the romance of radio.

Lenard Wells

Lenard was born in Chicago, IL, and was the middle child out of three sons. His biological father was an addict, leaving his mother to raise all three of the boys by herself. He was energetic and full of life, and his mother knew that she needed to move her family to help her sons have the best chance at success. Shortly after Lenard’s biological father went to prison, Lenard’s mother and stepfather moved the family to Minneapolis, hoping they could put the struggles of their past behind them. However, Lenard was not able to combat the trauma, and his life took a turn. He began to commit crimes in his early teenage years, eventually being sent to prison when he was 17 years old. It was difficult, but he was never quite able to stay away and would go back to prison five times, claiming almost 19 years of his life. However, Lenard’s story was far from over, and during his last stay, he found redemption and took ahold of his life, and was not letting it go anymore. He was given another chance, and he knew this blessing may not come again, so he did everything in his power to find the resources and people to stay moving forward, and not fall backward.

Lenard rekindled love with his fiancé Tina, and he has restored the relationship with his three children, Toni, Tyrell, & Trevon. Lenard serves as the Director of Housing Programs for the F5 Project, where he can provide unique, safe housing to those transitioning out of jail and prison, be able to have their sanctuary to heal and make a change. The great strides he has taken since being released has allowed him to speak in prison and jail institutions all across North Dakota, doing his part to help to reduce the recidivism of the residents there. Lenard also knows the importance of prevention as well as response, so he also volunteers to mentor youth who are showing the same signs as he did, so he can help them make changes now, so they do not enter the criminal justice system.

He does not do this and so much more for recognition, but like anyone, Lenard is grateful when he can be acknowledged for his work. In 2020, he received the Martin Luther King Jr. award presented by the City of Fargo for his outstanding contributions in the area of human rights. Lenard’s story is unique and what could have been used for bad, but he uses it as the fuel to be an activist for change and build a better community here in Fargo.

Kelsey Joy Buell

Kelsey Joy Buell went to college at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota and majored in Public Relations. She is a risk-taking and motivating team builder, and owns her own speaking and talent optimization consulting business - Kelsey Joy LLC. She is an accomplished violinist and singer having performed in front of audiences as large as 20,000. Her personal mission is to positively encourage people using enthusiasm and music. Outside of work, Kelsey enjoys spending time with her husband Patrick, going to the lake, and traveling somewhere exciting as often as possible.

Kelsey will be performing at TEDxFargo Beyond: Episode 1.