Nancy Vogl Speakers Bureau

Jessica Pettitt

February 9, 2014
Jessica Pettitt

Jessica Pettitt

Expertise:   Diversity, LBGT Competencies, Humorist

Speaking Style:  Humorous. High Content. Interactive.

Travels From:  San Francisco, California

Nancy Says:  “When I encountered Jessica at a speaker’s conference, I was instantly struck by how articulate she is, with a high level of intellect and passion. The more I get to know her, the more I’m impressed with her understanding of humanity and her desire to make a difference. She’s a very special human being.”

A Catalyst for Creating Difficult Conversations 

Jessica Pettitt is a diversity speaker with “SheBango!” What’s Shebango, you ask?  It’s means Jessica delivers with a bang and laugh! With a background in standup comedy, coupled with a new perspective that inspires change, her presentations keep audiences tuned in, entertained, and applying real learning. When it comes to social justice issues, Jessica works with organizations using humor, history, and self reflection to add a sense of “SheBango” and joy to their relationships.

Specifically designed events, whether it be a Social Justice/Diversity Competency Workshop, or a program that includes LGBT Advocacy, Ally Development and/or Transgender Inclusion, Jessica knows how to bring the “elephant in the room” to the forefront with ease and humor.  People relax, discovering they needn’t ignore or fear addressing the issues. Stereotypes, labels and assumptions are explored and reframed. More harmony and cooperation between people is the result.

Learn more about Jessica Pettitt..

Jessica Pettitt is the “diversity educator” your family warned you about. She is easy to work with, accessible, and brings VERY simple concepts that are really hard to incorporate into our lives.

Nominated for two years by Campus Activities Magazine for Best Diversity Artist, Jessica’s programs are direct, customized, and highly interactive. Her workshops, seminars, and keynotes take participants on a journey weaving together politics, theory, current events, and story telling with large doses of humor reminiscent of Bob Newhart, George Carlin, and Paula Poundstone. This is by no means your average diversity program!  Though participants will be laughing, she promises no drum circles, guilty tears, or finger pointing.  This will be a HIGHLY interactive program that will leave participants with actual action steps to make REAL change in their lives.

Jessica takes 10+ years in Student Affairs, 5+ years of national consulting work, and 2+ years of stand up comedy stage to stage as part of her mission to inspire change, dismantle oppression, and recognize our privilege.  Through teaching, writing, and facilitating tough conversations, Jessica has figured out how to BE the change she wants to BE.  Now it is your turn!



Presentation Topics

Be the Change You Want to Be


Keynote Presentation

Often, student groups ask a speaker to come in and make the group feel good, laugh, and learn something. This keynote does two of the three, at least at first. Using an interactive and conversational style, this keynote encourages participants to play with their cell phones, raise their hands, and laugh out loud. The laughter comes from well orchestrated humor as well as a slowly developing feeling of discomfort. In order to really make change, a person must realize what they are oblivious to and come to understand how this lack of consciousness guides his or her actions and assumptions. Collectively, the group begins to break down behaviors, actions, assumptions, and stereotypes that limit their organizations, friends, and most importantly, themselves. Before you know, the participants are creating tangible goals and realistic action steps to do as soon as I get off the stage.

Learning Outcomes:
  • To understand the difference between Diversity and Social Justice
  • To remove excuses that stand in one’s way from doing social justice work
  • To utilize three basic tools of self reflection: tracking, triggers, and listening
  • To motivate and inspire audiences to become participants in their own change

Living Well: Sustainability for the Non-Environmentalists 


Keynote Presentation

Blending basic principles of social justice with life changes that make an actual difference in our ecological footprint, this program clearly identifies 5 simple steps that can immediately be incorporated into our lives. Learning more about our ecological footprint vs. just our carbon footprint will have participants thinking about their purchases, intentions, aspirations, and goals in a way that doesn’t drum up guilt or shame. This mind shift is about doing less with less inside of a system that is dependent on growth and more consumption. Join in for conversation about where our self worth really comes from and how we can build community without harming it.

If Not Us, Then Who? Let's Rise.


Keynote Presentation

WARNING: There will be no hand holding, silver spoons, or excuses permitted during this keynote.  It was President Johnson that first looked to higher education to be the “great equalizer” for civil rights.  The idea was that once everyone had access to a college education, there would be no need for a privileged class. Where this might have seemed true at one point, 50 years later, I continue to wonder when things are going to change, get better, or equal out while admissions standards tighten, tuition prices increase, and students fight to enroll in ever more limited classes.  As a sorority member and community leader, I have decided to claim my responsibility and utilize my elite membership status to dismantle oppression and leave the world a better place.

Please join me in what I have found to be a highly motivating, yet reality and social justice based action-oriented message where no excuses or limitations are needed.  In the words of James Larkin, “The great appear great because we are on our knees.  Let’s rise!” Not only do we have access to a college education which many do not, we have gained access to the elite of the elite and with this comes the individual responsibility to serve. If access to a higher education is truly about leadership, moral development, and service – then we have a lot of catching up to do. Imagine a world not of t-shirt committees or P-C police, but of service that actually means something. If not us, then who?

Learning Outcomes:
  • To understand the difference between subordinated and dominant identities
  • To remove excuses that stand in one’s way of doing social justice work
  • To deconstruct stories and history to find the true power of an individual’s action connected to a network of support
  • To motivate and inspire audiences to become participants in their own change

Mean It: The Meaning of Everyday Actions 


Keynote Presentation

One in ten people have not experienced bullying. 1 in 10!!

It is time that we talk about the range of behaviors that we engage in and experience, from unintentional micro aggressions to actual targeted hate crimes. Once we understand the difference between bias and hate, we can learn to interrupt our own actions, and inactions, as well as those of others, before a crime takes place. Even well intentioned people often have an invalidating or aggressive impact on others. When a clear understanding is established about the impact of words and actions as well as silence and inaction, we, as a society, can begin to develop an inclusive community. This conversation includes the bullied and the bullies within all of us in an effort to reconnect to our hearts and begin a healing process.

Learning Outcomes:
  • Identify and distinguish between positive or negative bias and a hate crime.
  • Understand elements of bystander behavior.
  • Foster a community of respect and awareness of all members.

Facing Trans: Inclusion, Advocacy and Empowerment 


Half or Full Day Program

As we become comfortable with the Lesbian and Gay plight on our college campuses and in the workplace, we continue to overlook Bisexuals and silence Transgender populations. Trans folks are courageously coming forward and identifying as such more and more often. This day-long training is designed to help college human resource administrators strategically plan to provide a safe and supportive climate for all and to prepare participants to become better advocates for the trans community. Be a leader by identifying the needs, (including invisible populations), advocating effectively for trans people, and empowering all community members to take action.

Currently fewer than 100 colleges and universities , and even fewer Fortune 500 companies, protect transgender employees, students, faculty, staff, alumni, and visitors in their non-discrimination policies, yet more and more people are coming forward with trans or gender variant identities that directly challenge existing policies, procedures, and services.

This in-depth interactive training aims to:

Increase awareness of the existence of the trans/gender variant populations
Transfer this knowledge to proactively identify campus actions steps
Create more higher education administrator advocates for trans needs
Elevate home campus as a leader in serving trans populations

As a participant in this training, individuals will benefit from:

Professional Development and on-going education about diverse populations on campus
Hands on resources to take back to campus to be more inclusive for trans/gender variant students, faculty, and staff, alumni, and other community members
Personal education and training to raise awareness of trans issues
Safe space to asks questions, check assumptions, and learn about this invisible population

Just Rescue


Interactive Workshop

Who has the power to choose who lives or dies? Who writes the moral code we live by? Who “unwrites” this code? Even with limited information, we are socialized to make quick decisions about another person. This directly relates to how we work with, talk to, and support other people. When given an opportunity to examine “back stories” and assumptions, participants learn the positives and negatives of stereotypes. Participants can use this knowledge to make informed decisions in the future.

Learning Outcomes:
  • To identify default decision-making processes with regards to logical, relational, creative, and emotional connection.
  • To recognize and challenge three stereotypes or assumptions they hold about others
  • To identify three stereotypes/assumptions participants have about others
  • To name one to three intersecting visible/invisible identities

Social Justic: When Diversity Isn't Enough 


Interactive Workshop

What is the difference between Social Justice and Diversity? As a leader, change agent and person working and living with other people — this difference is imperative. Learn the difference, stretch from your comfort zone, sit in your privilege, power, and place of dominance within institutional and systematic forms of oppression in this highly interactive program.

Learning Outcomes:
  • To understand how pre-existing assumptions affect an individual’s ability to recognize and value diversity
  • To recognize and give examples of difference in both a singular and plural context

Preferred room arrangment: Participants in large circle; fewer than 25 participants; possible with fewer than 40

Sticks and Stones: LBGT 101


Interactive Workshop

What better way to learn about sexual identities than to list out social norms, stereotypes, media images, rumors, jokes, and slang! This is a safe space for any and all kinds of interactive discussions regarding Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Heterosexual identities. By then comparing themes of these messages learned for these different groups, we can then have a much deeper conversation about class, race, educational access, citizenship, ability assumptions, etc. By understanding our language we can hold ourselves accountable to building an inclusive environment for all (regardless of sexual identity).

Learning Outcomes:
  • To articulate their own stereotypes, derogatory terms, and other assumptions for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and heterosexual people
  • To identify others’ stereotypes, derogatory terms, and other assumptions for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and heterosexual people
  • To recognize the U.S. cultural need for binaries when examining sexual identities and gender identities

Gender This! 


Interactive Workshop

his workshop is a very basic workshop introducing the concept of gender as a social construct and how gender expression changes through class, culture, and time. This workshop is very interactive and provides a safe place for all sorts of questions regarding identity, language, sex, sexuality, and gender perception.

Learning Outcomes:
  • To recognize three of their own stereotypes/assumptions about gender
  • To understand and evaluate three stereotypes about gender that are supported by US culture
  • To reorganize traditional gender perceptions based on the realities of judgments and assumptions

Additional Programs Available



After doing transgender education for a number of years, this program developed around the triangulation of sex, gender, and sexual identity and the connections between sexism and heterosexism. By clearly depicting the differences and dependence of these three words that are often used synonymously, we can then begin a deeper conversation regarding current policies and procedures on campus. Understanding these differences can be made very simple so that next steps can be planned for campuses and organizations that may not be easy to implement.

Learning Outcomes:

  • To define sexual identity, gender identity and sex
  • To recognize the difference between sex, sexual identity and gender identity
  • To describe how sexism and heterosexism are perpetuated by the conflation of sexual identity, gender identity, and sex


Interactive Workshop


Whether you are talking about working in groups, bureaucracies, or just getting the hang of new policies and procedures — everything is linked together. This is a frustrating, interactive, and relieving program that helps you see how you communicate and work with others while keeping focus on a bigger picture. Once you can step out of your own perspective, you can really being to lead and work with other. Energize a group of 15-63 after lunch, early in the morning, or just break up a long day of training by really working together.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Identify group dynamics regarding communication styles
  • Develop listening skills and a better understanding of one’s own communication patterns
  • Understand the pros and cons of strong leadership styles and extroverted personalities
  • Create a space for thinking outside of the box, other’s perspectives, and multiple agendas



It’s every administrator’s nightmare — your campus (primarily white, small/large, public/ private) on the nightly news for a racist party, hazing report, or other shocking incident. Suddenly, you’re in crisis mode, searching for a sense of perspective. Whether you’re in such a mode or trying to prevent an episode, there are things you can do to examine the gap between social responsibility and your campus code of conduct. By clearly identifying both the worse case scenarios with the many ideals it is easier to identify real obstacles. Once these obstacles can be clearly named, we will set realistic expectations , goals, policies, and bias response procedures to cultivate an inclusive campus culture steeped in community responsibility.

Learning Outcomes:

  • To learn to facilitate discussions around contingency plans for campus crises.
  • To clearly identify obstacles to an ideal campus climate and facilitate change in campus protocol to achieve meaningful change.
  • To understand how to effectively manage crises preparation on campus.
  • To clearly define the roles of campus members in proactively addressing campus situations.


Half or full day seminar


In Jessica’s own words…

My RA training (half day or full day) is called The Five Footed Elephant. I bring twice as much stuff to do than we have time to do. This way I can organically shift between personal reflection, group dynamics, personal relationships with incoming residents.

I know that this sounds super fluffy and is too airy to state exactly what I am going to be doing for RA training at 10:15 on a particular day — and I think it is important to be honest.

I generally start with an activity that levels the playing field in the room around judgements and assumptions and the difference between diversity and social justice. I think it is important to get everyone included in the conversations and not create targeted members within a group. For any kind of student leader or even professional training, some people get it, others think they get it, others know they don’t, and yet others don’t know what I am asking in the first place.

I cover bystander behaviors, power and privilege patterns (using Notice Notes as a self reflection tool as well as a small group discussion launch pad), LGBT stereotypes, systems of oppression, to actual action planning of programming ideas that can be collaborated on for the next academic year.

I call the program The Five Footed Elephant, because there is always an elephant (if not several) in the room, and those need to be addressed and resolved before authentic work can occur. Notice Notes provides a common language for everyone and keeps the Social Justice Conversations going over the year. The Five Footed part really uncovers how we write stories about what we feel or think is occurring without actually looking for the truth — this is GREAT for RAs because we can talk about incident reports, community standards, community damage, theme programming, etc.

As a former hall director and RA, and Student Affairs professional, I know that there is A LOT to cover in a very short period of time — so I try to build an agenda that you and your staff need during your training. I come with a skeleton of expected plans for the day and really let the conversation go where it needs to, while I also keep track of the purposeful discomfort, joy, and collaboration in the room.

I hope this helps!

Please tell your planning committee that if they in fact need more specifics, I am happy to talk about their learning outcomes, expectations, and needs assessments to make sure that those areas, philosophies, etc., are included. I actually have written a number of curricula that are used as half or full day social justice trainings and am happy to specialize one for your campus.



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