‘The Nation Skate’: Diplomacy, diversity, and global engagement through skateboarding

Monday, October 23, 2017 - 4:00pm Wallis Annenberg Hall (ANN)


Admission is free. Reservations required. Reception to follow.

USC Students, Staff, and Faculty: RSVP
USC Alumni: RSVP
General Public: RSVP


Look at the world — and maybe even change it for the better — from the vantage of a skateboard. In two panels covering topics from science to diplomacy, philanthropy to business, skate luminaries will discuss the intersectional and inspirational nature of skateboarding as a bastion of global youth culture. Explore the vast influence and world-changing potential of skate culture with skateboarding legends Rodney MullenVanessa TorresElement founder Johnny Schillereff, and Stereo co-founder Chris “Dune” Pastras; Garth Ross, vice president for community engagement at The Kennedy CenterRenata Simril from the youth-sports foundation LA84; program officer of the Sports Diplomacy Division with the U.S. Department of State Trina Bolton; USC professor and renowned science writer K.C. Cole; and Neftalie Williams, winner of the USC Black Alumni Award for his pioneering work using skateboarding as a tool for cultural diplomacy. A concurrent photo exhibition, The Nation Skate: What You Can Do for Your Country, will offer a visual representation of the universal language of skateboarding.

Panel Schedule

4 to 5:30 p.m.: Creating a Global Community: Business, the Academy, and Philanthropy in Action Sports
Featuring Johnny Schillereff, Garth Ross, Renata Simril, and Trina Bolton. Moderated by K.C. Cole and Neftalie Williams.

6 to 7:30 p.m.: Public Diplomacy and Globalization through Skateboarding, Media, Science, and the Arts
Featuring Rodney Mullen, Chris “Dune” Pastras and Vanessa Torres. Moderated by K.C. Cole and Neftalie Williams.

About the Participants

K.C. Cole is a professor at the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism. A former science writer for the L.A. Times, she has been described as “the Leonardo da Vinci of science writing.” Cole is the author of eight books, most recently Something Incredibly Wonderful Happens: Frank Oppenheimer and the World He Made Up. (Twitter)

Rodney Mullen is one of the most influential skateboarders of all time. Most of the tricks done in the modern era—the street ollie, kickflip, 360-flip, impossible, and countless others—evolved from his techniques. He has appeared in more than 20 skate videos, co-authored The Mutt: How to Skateboard and Not Kill Yourself, and won 35 world titles. He is co-founder of the original World Industries, Almost Skateboards, and Dwindle Distribution. (FacebookInstagram)

Chris “Dune” Pastras is an established artist, broadcast host, and skateboarding legend whose career has spanned three decades. He gained worldwide notoriety and turned professional with the breakthrough brand World Industries. Pastras then went on to co-found Stereo Skateboards with actor and skateboarding legend Jason Lee. As a broadcast personality and skateboard analyst, Pastras has appeared on Fox Sports 1, ESPN, CBS, and NBC. He is currently the brand director at Prime Wood. (Instagram)

Garth Ross is vice president of community engagement at The Kennedy Center, where he has produced over 7,000 performances featuring artists from all 50 states and over 50 countries.  He is responsible for many notable projects, including Look Both Ways: Street Arts Across America and Finding a Line: Skateboarding, Music, and Media.  

Johnny Schillereff is a founder of the international skateboarding brand Element. He found solace during a troubled childhood in skate culture. Working at the intersections of art, punk rock, hip hop, and skateboarding, he created Element to make a positive difference through the culture that saved him. Element is home to skateboarding legends Ray Barbee and Nyjah Houston, and its alumni include Stevie Williams and MTV’s Bam Margera. (Instagram, Element Instagram)

Renata Simril is president and CEO of LA84, a foundation that supports youth sports organizations in Southern California, touting the important role of sports in teaching valuable life skills. She was previously senior vice president and chief of staff to the publisher at the L.A. Times and senior vice president of external affairs for the Dodgers. (Twitter)

Vanessa Torres is often referred to as the “reason why they started skating” by female skaters around the world. Vanessa was the first female skateboarder to win a gold medal at X Games in 2003 and was one of the first females to have a pro model board. She is still dominating the pro contest scene with podium finishes at X Games and Street League in 2015 and 2016. Vanessa is passionate about giving back to the skate and LGBTQ communities and inspiring the next generation of skaters. (IMDbVideo interview: The Skate GirlsWikipediaX Games profile)

Neftalie Williams is the first lecturer of skateboarding business, media, and culture in the United States, and the first academic and skateboarding envoy to the U.S. Embassy in the Netherlands. He is an adjunct professor in the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and a PhD candidate at the University of Waikato in New Zealand. (InstagramTwitterYouTube)

Presented by USC Visions and Voices: The Arts and Humanities Initiative. Organized by K.C. Cole, Neftalie Williams, and the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.