General Session Speakers

Charlie Cook – The Current Political and Legislative Environment

Charles Cook

Charlie Cook is the Editor and Publisher of The Cook Political Report and a political analyst for the National Journal Group.

In 1984, Cook founded the independent, non-partisan Cook Political Report. Now, with a staff of six, it is a publication that The New York Times once said was “a newsletter that both parties regard as authoritative” while CBS News’ Bob Schieffer called it “the bible of the political community.” In The Wall Street Journal, Al Hunt has referred to Cook as “the Picasso of election analysis.” The late David Broder of The Washington Post, long considered “the Dean” of the Washington press corps, once wrote that Charlie Cook is “perhaps the best non-partisan tracker of Congressional races.”

Cook has appeared frequently on ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, and ABC’s This Week. Since the 1990s, he has appeared over a dozen times on NBC’s Meet the Press. Over the years, Cook has served as an Election Night analyst for CBS, CNN and NBC and, since 1996, on NBC News Election Night Decision Desk in New York.

In 2010, Cook was the co-recipient of the American Political Science Association’s prestigious Carey McWilliams Award to honor “a major journalistic contribution to our understanding of politics.” In 2013, Cook served as a Resident Fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Andrea Weiss – From Mall Rat to Vice Chairman of a Board of Trustees

Andrea Weiss

Andrea Weiss has had a thirty-year career in senior leadership with some of the world’s foremost retailers. She is the founder of The O Alliance, LLC and CEO of Retail Consulting Inc., a global consulting practice focused on retail, digital, e-commerce, and the changing consumer sector. Prior to establishing her own consulting business, Weiss was President of the publically traded multi-channel teen retailer, dELiA*s (DLIA:NASDAQ), President of GUESS (GES:NYSE), and Executive Vice President, Chief Stores Officer of L Brands (LTD: NYSE), the parent of leading brands such as Victoria’s Secret, Bath and Body Works, and Abercrombie and Fitch. Previously, she was Senior Vice President of Ann Taylor and Director of Merchandising for The Walt Disney Company.

Weiss holds a Masters of Administrative Science from The Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Virginia Commonwealth University. She also completed post-graduate studies at Harvard Business School and The Kellogg School at Northwestern University.

Currently, Weiss is a member of several public company boards including: Chico’s (CHS:NYSE), Cracker Barrel (CBRL: NASDAQ), and Nutrisystem (NTRI:NASDAQ). She also serves on the Board of The Fischer Company, a private real estate services and technology firm. Weiss is an advisor to leading technology firms, such as SAP, Profitect and TYCO Retail Solutions. Previously, she served on the boards of Newgistics, Pep Boys, GSI Commerce, Brookstone and eDiets.

Weiss has opened many doors for women and minorities during her career and is proud to serve in the role as Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Hampton University and as a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board at the Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins University. She has been a frequent speaker for the National Retail Federation, World Retail Congress,, International Council of Shopping Centers, Internet Retailer Conference, ShopTalk, Retail Marketing Society, and at major consumer investment conferences. Weiss was honored by Crain’s New York as one of “40 Under 40” at age 37 and was named by the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) as one of America’s top public company Directors in 2017.

Weiss lives in Florida and Massachusetts with her husband, Richard, who is a thoroughbred horse breeder and CEO of Sorrento Oaks Farm.

Susan Whealler Johnston – Keynote Address

Susan Whealler Johnston

Dr. Susan Whealler Johnston has over 30 years of service in higher education as a faculty member, campus administrator, and national higher education association leader. In 2018, she was named president and CEO of the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). Prior to joining NACUBO, she served as executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB). Prior to joining AGB, she was professor of English and Dean of Academic Development at Rockford University. She also served as dean of Regent’s College, Rockford’s campus in London.

Johnston serves on the boards of Rollins College and Radford University, and she is immediate past chair of the board of the Southern Education Foundation. She is also a member of the academic affairs committee of the board of Rockford University. She is a member of the advisory committees of the National Institute on Learning Outcomes Assessment and the National Survey of Student Engagement.

Johnston earned her Ph.D. and M.A. from Purdue University in English and her B.A. summa cum laude in English from Rollins College. She has an honorary doctorate from Rockford University.