Verbena Askew

Principal Attorney, The Verbena Askew Law Firm, P.C.

Legal Panel Discussion

Verbena Askew is the Principal Attorney at The Verbena Askew Law Firm, P.C. Her current areas of practice include zoning, commercial, business law, and litigation. She is the former Circuit Court Judge and former Newport News City Attorney. She has served on numerous legal boards and civic organization committees as well as received numerous awards and honors including Outstanding Service by Peninsula ASAP and the Conference of Minority Public Administrators (COMPA).


As a Hampton native, she attended Hampton public schools, completed requirements for her under-graduate degree at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and received her law degree from the University of Richmond in Richmond, Virginia.


Jessica Bowman

Deputy Commissioner,

Virginia Department of Elections

2020 Election Panel

Jessica Bowman was appointed as the Chief Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Elections in 2018. Previous to joining the Virginia Department of Elections, Jessica worked as a Government Relations Manager at Williams Mullen Law Firm in Richmond. Before joining Williams Mullen, Jessica served as a Chief of Staff in the House of Delegates. Previously to that, she served as a campaign consultant in the Hampton Roads region.

Jessica grew up in Carroll County, VA and earned her B.A. in Political Science from Christopher Newport University, where she graduated cum laude.


James W. Dyke, Jr.

Senior Advisor, McGuire Woods Consulting

Legal Panel Discussion

Jim Dyke's broad practice covers corporate, legislative, education, governmental relations, and municipal law. He previously served as Virginia's Secretary of Education under former Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder, and as domestic policy advisor to former Vice President Walter Mondale. Jim has established a significant regional presence in the business,

education and government arenas.


Jim has earned honorary degrees from the University of Richmond, Virginia State University, St. Paul’s College, Randolph Macon College and Northern Virginia Community College. He served as law clerk to the Honorable Spottswood W. Robinson III of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.


Susan Gooden, Ph. D.

Dean, L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at VCU

Welcome Remarks

Susan Tinsley Gooden is dean and professor of public administration and policy at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University, past president of the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) and fellow of the congressional chartered National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA). In 2020, she was appointed by Governor Northam to the Board of Trustees of the Virginia Retirement System. 


A native of Martinsville and Henry County, Virginia, she received her Ph.D. from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in 1996.


Roger L. Gregory

Chief Judge,

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Legal Panel Discussion

Roger L. Gregory, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, formerly a partner in the law firm of Wilder & Gregory, grew up in Petersburg, Virginia and graduated from Virginia State College and the University of Michigan Law School. He is the first African-American to sit on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which includes the states of Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.


He holds honorary degrees from Virginia Union University, Virginia State University, Virginia
Commonwealth University, Widener University, Saint Paul’s College, and The American University.


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Wilmer Leon

Author, Political Scientist, Radio Host

2020 Election Panel

Wilmer J. Leon III, Ph.D. is the author of Politics Another Perspective. He is a Political Scientist who earned a BS degree in Political Science from Hampton Institute, a Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) from Howard University, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Howard University. For 11 years he was a Lecturer in the Political Science Department at Howard University.


Currently, Dr. Leon is a nationally broadcast radio talk show host on SiriusXM and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Trice Edney News Wire. He is a regular contributor to over 200 newspapers and web sites across the country.  He can also be seen as a regular contributor and analyst on international television news programs such as Press-TV and RT TV.


Hakim J. Lucas, Ph. D.

President, Virginia Union University

Welcome Remarks

Hakim J. Lucas, Ph.D., is the 13th President of Virginia Union University. He is strategically focused on student success, academic excellence, entrepreneurial enterprise, and brand prestige. Dr. Lucas has nearly two decades of progressive leadership experience in higher education. His career successes include fundraising, government relations, public/private partnerships, strategic planning, and the engagement and retention of students in challenging educational experiences which empower them to reach their career goals. In addition, he is an avid proponent of civic engagement, through involvement with city and state leaders and non-profit organizations.

Dr. Lucas earned a bachelor’s degree from Morehouse College, a master’s degree in teaching (History) from Tufts University, an Executive MBA from Stetson University, and a Master of Divinity (Church History) from Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University. He earned his doctoral degree in education from Fordham University.


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Walter "Mac" McFarlane

Former Chief Counsel

Legal Panel Discussion

Walter Alexander McFarlane served at the Attorney General's Office for 21 years. He was appointed by Governor Wilder to serve as his Chief Counsel and Director of Policy which he served until Governor Wilder left Office. He was then appointed as the Director of the Virginia Department of Correctional Education under four Governors and at the same time as a consulting attorney to three of those Governors. 

McFarlane graduated from Emory and Henry where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts Degree and from the University of Richmond with a Juris Doctor.  He was admitted to the Virginia Bar in 1966. He is a member of the bars of the U.S.  4th Circuit Court of Appeals, the D.C. Circuit Court, the U.S. District Court for Eastern Virginia, the Virginia Supreme Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court. He is a member of the Richmond Bar Association, where he has served on its Board of Directors, and the Chesterfield Bar Association.



Larry Sabato

Political Analyst and Director, Center for
Politics at the University of Virginia

2020 Election Panel

Dr. Larry Sabato is the founder and director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, and has had visiting appointments at Oxford and Cambridge universities. Dr. Sabato is a New York Times bestselling author or editor of two dozen books on American politics. He has taught over 20,000 students in his 40-year career, and the University of Virginia has given him its highest honor, The Thomas Jefferson Award. In 2020, Sabato will celebrate his 50th year of association with the University of Virginia.


J. Lee Vogler

Member, Danville City Council

2020 Election Panel

J. Lee Vogler was elected to Danville City Council in May 2012, becoming the youngest person ever elected to that position, at age 24. He is currently employed as the Director of Sales & Marketing for Andrew Brooks Media Group. Mr. Vogler is involved in several community activities including serving on the Danville-Pittsylvania County Regional Industrial Facility Authority (RIFA), the Staunton River RIFA, the West Piedmont Planning District Commission, and is currently the Vice Chairman of the Danville-Pittsylvania Metropolitan Planning Organization. He is also a member of the Danville Kiwanis Club. In 2017, Vice Mayor Vogler was recognized by the Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association as Virginia Local Legislator of the Year. 

A native of Danville Virginia, Mr. Vogler graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2010 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science.


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Student speakers

Whitney Brown

VCU Wilder School

Student Panel Discussion

Whitney Brown, B.S. is a first-year graduate student and Wilder Fellow at Virginia Commonwealth University pursuing her Masters of Public Administration. She is a Richmond, VA native that holds a Bachelor of Science in Science (Legal Studies, Government Services, and Public Policy option) from The Pennsylvania State University (University Park). Whitney is a highly confident and methodical public servant with experience as a former 911 dispatcher, Richmond Police Officer, and Emergency Medical Technician.  She has a proven record in leadership and advocacy work and displays resilience with challenges and changes in complex environments. Whitney is passionate about creating a world of critical thinkers and is deeply committed to improving lives through social justice, grassroots organizing, and resource equity for our nation’s most underserved communities. 


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LaJuan Dotch

Virginia Union University

Student Panel Discussion

LaJuan Dotch is a senior majoring in Criminal Justice and hails from the P-Funk birthplace Plainfield, New Jersey. He is active in each community that he visits. On campus he is a member of the Pre-Law Institute, collegiate member of the Central Virginia Chapter of NOBLE (National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives), and tutor for Student Support Services. He is a mentor at Carver Elementary School as part of Community in Schools of Richmond, and tutor in his native Plainfield. He has had the opportunity to be an undergraduate scholar with the University of Miami School of Law for the summer and work for the United States Postal Service. In his spare time he enjoys reading, cooking, and practicing music. Remembering the lessons from his grandparents, his favorite quote is “Judge a man not by his possessions, but by his character”.

Bobbie Newell

Virginia Union University

Student Panel Discussion

Bobbie Newell, Jr., is a graduating senior Criminal Justice major from the “Worlds Borough” Queens, New York. He is the 22-year-old son of Vilma Johnson & Bobbie Newell, Sr. Bobbie currently serves as the 86th Student Governement Association President at Virginia Union as well as serving as the 2nd Vice President for Virginia Association of Chapters of Alpha Phi Alpha (VACAPAF). Bobbie’s community involvement includes being a volunteer at New York State Senators office LeRoy Comrie and being a youth pastor at Mt. Horeb Baptist Church. Bobbie’s hobbies include reading and working out. His favorite quote is Matthew 19:26 “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

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Jamon "J.K." Phenix

Virginia Union University

Student Panel Discussion

J.K. Phenix is an associate at Prism Group, a boutique-style public affairs and government relations firm based in Washington D.C. He assists Prism group in the legislative areas of workforce innovation, women & minority small business and entrepreneurship growth. His primary goal is to help corporations, profits and trade associations navigate complex legislative and regulatory environments. Before Prism Group, J.K. worked in communications at a political-style firm in Virginia, as well as a district and federal intern for two Virginia Members of Congress. As a public servant with a heart of grassroots engagement, he has worked on local and state electoral campaigns. Additionally, J.K. has left his mark on Virginia Union by serving as the 84th student body president, honors program ambassador, and a charter member of Virginia Union College for African American Men.


J.K. is a native of Atlanta, Georgia. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history & political science from Virginia Union University and a Research Certificate in political campaign management from the University of Richmond.

Hillary Small

VCU Wilder School

Student Panel Discussion

Hillary Small of Richmond, Va., a second-year master’s student in Public Administration, has been appointed to the Virginia State Board of Elections. Small holds a B.A. in Government & International Politics from George Mason University and enjoys traveling and exploring the outdoors.


Student scholarship recipients


Sombo Chunda

VCU Wilder School

Scholarship Winner

Sombo Chunda is a native Zambian and a doctoral candidate in public policy and administration at the Wilder School. Chunda has received numerous awards from the American Society for Public Administration and has a distinguished record in international development and studies corruption, accountability and gender issues.

Raekwon Carter

Virginia Union University

Scholarship Winner

Raekwon Carter is a native of Richmond, Virginia. He graduated with honors from Richmond Community High School and is now a graduating senior, majoring in Chemistry, at Virginia Union University. His favorite quote is from Frederick Douglas: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.