Brené Brown, an internationally acclaimed researcher, author and speaker, will return to the University of Texas this spring to deliver the keynote address at the class of 2020 commencement.


Brown, who is now a research professor at the University of Houston, graduated from UT with a degree in social work in 1995 and went on to become one of the foremost experts in courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy. She is the author of five New York Times bestsellers and her 2010 TED talk, "The Power of Vulnerability," is one of the top five most viewed TED talks, garnering more than 45 million views.


In May, she will address thousands of students and guests at the commencement ceremony on the Main Mall. When UT President Gregory L. Fenves called to give her the good news, Brown was surprised.


"I wasn’t sure why he was calling," she said in a statement. "When I heard, ‘Please hold for President Fenves,’ I got scared. It was like I was being called into the principal’s office. I thought, Oh, here we go. He’s probably going to say something like, ‘We found out you did not correctly cite APA on one of your papers in 1994. We’re revoking your social work degree.’"


When Fenves explained why he was calling, Brown said she was overcome with emotion.


"I just started crying because my path to UT was long and hard," Brown said. "The fact that I’ll be giving the commencement address in front of the Tower — at a school that I love and one that I fought to be a part of — is amazing. I’m deeply honored to be asked to share my story and to be a part of this incredibly important day for the Class of 2020."


Approximately 9,000 UT students are eligible to receive their degrees this spring. Fenves said the university is honored to have Brown as the keynote speaker.


"Brené Brown is an extraordinary scholar, educator and author, but more than anything, she connects with others on a deeply human level," Fenves said in a statement. "It is a great honor that Dr. Brown has agreed to speak to the Class of 2020 — many of whom have already been inspired and enlightened by reading her bestselling books and watching her acclaimed lectures."