Advocates for the neurodiverse, Dr. Temple Grandin and Tim Herbel, to keynote USAO’s 2024 Emerson-Wier Symposium

Dr. Temple Grandin, alongside Tim Herbel, will serve as the keynote speakers for the 2024 Emerson-Wier Liberal Arts Symposium, focusing on neurodiversity
Dr. Temple Grandin, alongside Tim Herbel, will serve as the keynote speakers for the 2024 Emerson-Wier Liberal Arts Symposium, focusing on neurodiversity

The University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma will host Dr. Temple Grandin, alongside Tim Herbel as the keynote speakers for the 2024 Emerson-Wier Liberal Arts Symposium, focusing on neurodiversity on Feb. 23.  

The day’s events will begin at 3:30 p.m. with special master classes taught by each speaker. The keynotes will begin at 6 p.m. in the Te Ata Memorial Auditorium. The events are free, but registration is required. View the full schedule and register online at 

"We are so excited to have speakers fostering a deeper understanding of neurodiversity,” said Cathy Perri, director of USAO’s Neill-Wint Center for Neurodiversity. “This event, hosted in collaboration with the Neill-Wint Center, marks a significant step in promoting awareness and appreciation for neurodiversity. We look forward to thought-provoking discussions.” 

The first program of its kind, the Neill-Wint Center supports students with autism spectrum disorder in the transition to college and helps ensure postsecondary success.  

Grandin is a well-known author, speaker, animal behavior scientist, and advocate for the neurodiverse and those on the autism spectrum. Her keynote will focus on autism. She will also be presenting a master class on animal welfare in agriculture at 4:15 p.m. in the Davis Hall Amphitheater.  

Grandin did not talk until she was three and a half years old. However, she was fortunate to get early speech therapy. Her teachers also taught her how to wait and take turns when playing board games. She was mainstreamed into a normal kindergarten at age five. Oliver Sacks wrote in the forward of “Thinking in Pictures” that her first book, “Emergence: Labeled Autistic,” was “unprecedented because there had never before been an inside narrative of autism.”  

Grandin became a prominent author and speaker on both autism and animal behavior. Today she is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. She also has a successful career consulting on both livestock handling equipment design and animal welfare. She has been featured on NPR and BBC, as well as numerous national television shows. Articles about Grandin have appeared in Time Magazine, New York Times, Discover Magazine, Forbes and USA Today. HBO made an Emmy Award winning movie about her life, and she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016. 

Herbel is the founder of the nonprofit Not Your Average Joe. His keynote will look at the work of NYAJ, including inclusive employment for the neurodiverse and its social and economic impact. He will also teach a master class at 3:30 p.m. in the Davis Hall Amphitheater focused on how to build a successful nonprofit and business in Oklahoma.  

NYAJ is an inspiring coffee shop and cafe with six locations in Oklahoma dedicated to reducing the unemployment of those with intellectual, developmental or physical disabilities. NYAJ employs over 100 students and adults with special needs in side by side inclusionary employment that is meaningful and customer facing while also providing opportunities for continuing education and social engagement. In 2022, NYAJ was named Oklahoma City’s Employer of the Year.  

Herbel is a graduate of Oklahoma Christian University with degrees in ministry. Most recently, he was selected for a Human Rights Award for his dedication to social justice in Oklahoma for those marginalized due to disabilities.  

For more information and to register, visit 

About the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma  

As Oklahoma’s liberal arts college, the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma provides a distinctive education in the liberal arts and sciences, supporting both its interdisciplinary core curriculum and major fields of study with superior teaching. USAO fosters diversity of thought and practice to help students realize meaningful, purposeful and productive lives as global citizens in a rapidly changing world.