Featured Speakers

We are honored to have three wonderful speakers join our program for this year’s AGS Symposium. Their bios and the organizations they represent are described below.

UCI Institute for Innovation – 10:00am to 10:45am | Crystal Cove Auditorium | Please RSVP

The Institute for Innovation was created by UCI to transform the partnership between the business community and the University, fundamentally impacting the innovation ecosystem in Orange County. Located in the University Research Park, the Institute is facilitating a world-class culture of entrepreneurship and innovation resulting in demonstrable and sustainable impacts on the Orange County region.

Our Vision is that Orange County will become a national and global leader in scalable innovation known for a thriving culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, hosting a high velocity and density of startups that are transforming groundbreaking and life-enhancing discoveries into practices and products that benefit society.

The Mission of the Institute is that UCI will be the catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship in Orange County, accelerating the commercialization of discoveries. We will do this by integrating the Orange County business community needs with UCI capabilities and resources; facilitating collaboration among inventors, investors, accelerators, incubators, entrepreneurs, and the various UCI constituencies including faculty, students, staff, and alumni.

We will create a safe harbor for collaborative venturing, The Cove, and a world-class entrepreneurship ecosystem. The Cove will house UCI’s Office of Technology Alliances, UCI student and faculty incubators, UCI startups, investors, community incubators and accelerators, mentors, industry organizations, prototyping/maker space, event and meeting space, and a screening room. It will be designed and implemented to provide a place for innovators, inventors, investors and entrepreneurs to thrive.


Featured speaker: Richard Sudek — Executive Director of UC Irvine’s Institute of Innovation
Bio: Richard has extensive experience in industry and academia. Universities and businesses throughout the world have benefited from his expertise in entrepreneurial finance, strategy and leadership, as well as angel investing, executive coaching and business partnerships. As the Executive Director of UCI’s Institute of Innovation, he aids in the design, acceleration and the transfer of technology and other groundbreaking discoveries to the marketplace. The campus-wide center integrates research and academic disciplines, while coordinating successful school-based entrepreneurial programs, to create real-world applications that spur business breakthroughs, enhance economic activity and introduce life-enhancing discoveries to society.

Blackstone LaunchPad Program – 10:45am to 11:15am | Crystal Cove Auditorium

The Blackstone LaunchPad seeks to empower student entrepreneurs with knowledge and skills necessary to become entrepreneurial leaders, and support students working toward creating new ventures. Our efforts to achieve this vision are directed toward three goals: 1) Create an entrepreneurial community and culture at UCI that regards entrepreneurship as a viable and fulfilling career path relevant to all disciplines; 2) Enhance students’ entrepreneurial leadership skills; 3) Facilitate student efforts to launch ventures.


Guest Speaker: David Ochi — Executive Director of Blackstone LaunchPad
Bio: David has over 20 years’ experience in early-stage companies, having started his first enterprise – a tutoring company called A’s Unlimited – at the age of 13. David entered the world of technology in 2000, successfully securing investment funding for nine projects. He lived in Vietnam for nearly two years while consulting for Disney Consumer Products and other companies in a variety of industries including mining, energy, education, and mobile technology. As Executive Director of the Antrepreneur Center at the University of California Irvine, David operates the Blackstone LaunchPad program.

KEYNOTE SPEAKER – 4pm to 5pm | Doheny Beach


Keynote speaker: Erin Gruwell — Educator and Founder of the Freedom Writers Foundation, www.freedomwritersfoundation.org

Bio: Erin Gruwell has earned an award-winning reputation for her steadfast commitment to the future of education. Her impact as a change agent resulted in “Freedom Writers”, starring two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank as Erin. The film is based on The Freedom Writers Diary, the New York Times bestseller that chronicled Erin’s extraordinary journey with 150 high school students who had been written off by the education system. By fostering an educational philosophy that valued and promoted diversity, she transformed her students’ lives. She encouraged them to re-think rigid beliefs about themselves and others, reconsider daily decisions, and ultimately re-chart their futures. With Erin’s support, they chose to forego teenage pregnancy, drugs, and violence to become aspiring college students, published writers, and citizens for change. They dubbed themselves the “Freedom Writers” –in homage to civil rights activists The Freedom Riders—and published a book.

Inspired by Anne Frank, Erin and her students captured their collective journey in The Freedom Writers Diary. Through poignant student entries and Erin’s narrative text, the book records their “eye-opening, spirit-raising odyssey against intolerance and misunderstanding.” In early 2007, Teach With Your Heart, Erin’s powerful memoir and call to arms was published. While Erin has been credited with giving her students a “second chance”, it was perhaps she who changed the most during her tenure at Wilson High School. She decided to channel her classroom experiences toward a broader cause, and today her impact as a teacher extends well beyond Room 203. Erin founded the Freedom Writers Foundation where she currently teaches teachers around the country how to implement her innovative lesson plans into their own classrooms. Recently, Erin’s teaching methods from her time in Room 203 have been published in the Freedom Writers Diary Teacher’s Guide.

Erin and her students have appeared on numerous television shows, including Oprah, Prime Time Live with Connie Chung, Barbara Walters’ The View, and Good Morning America, to name a few. Their story has earned them dozens of awards, including the Spirit of Anne Frank Award.

Erin is a graduate of the University of California Irvine, where she received the Lauds and Laurels Distinguished Alumni Award. She earned her Master’s Degree and teaching credentials from California State University Long Beach, where she was honored as Distinguished Alumna by the School of Education.